The movement to shift public and philanthropic funding to support "what works" has made real gains in the last few years. Government and philanthropy are seeking to identify high-impact programs that have been tested in rigorous trials and found to deliver superior results for society. However, it is not enough to identify what works—we also have to identify how it works so that other organizations can replicate the implementation of the program and get similar results.
The federally funded Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program, which has awarded $75 million in competitive five-year grants to nonprofit and public agencies across the country, shows promise as a model for how to support implementation of evidence-based programs (EBPs). The TPP program is one of a small but growing number of federal programs that require grantees to choose from a list of interventions that have been shown in scientific studies to work.
We used a survey and interviews with 20 program grantees, technical assistance providers, and federal officials to study the TPP program, and came to believe that it is a model worth emulating. The article describes how the program selected the EBPs and grantees, ensured fidelity to the chosen EBPs, and provided implementation support to help local agencies find the right staff, train them on the model, and adapt their operating procedures and organizational culture to ensure that the programs were implemented as intended. It discusses six key elements in an “ecosystem” of support needed to scale the local use of EBPs. And it considers the vital question of how to sustain high-quality work after federal funding ends.
We believe in EBPs, done right. Nonprofits that believe the same should understand the costs and benefits, choose their EBPs carefully, and consider what it will take to deliver the programs in essentially the same way that produced the original promising research results. For their part, government and private funders who believe in the value of EBPs will need to help build the ecosystem and supply the funding that will support their implementation with high fidelity.