We the Partnership

Why data matters: The case for evidence-based innovation

By Emily Benson
December 10, 2021

Data is essential to government. How agencies collect, interpret and share data informs how they make decisions, develop strategies and allocate resources—all of which are central to federal innovation.

But to innovate effectively, agencies need to collect and analyze data the right way and integrate data-driven practices into core programs and operations. The payoff will be a better government that more effectively serves the diverse needs of our country.

Barriers to effective data collection

Building a data-driven government

Budgetary incentives are critical to ensuring that agencies use data effectively and these incentives should be built into annual presidential budgets.

The Office of Management and Budget should also require agencies to use data and evidence to support their budget submissions. And even when agencies are using available data, OMB should help in-house staff apply it specifically to the agency’s mission.

In addition, experts from academia, nonprofit organizations and the tech industry can help agencies build data infrastructure, design and conduct studies, and train federal staff on data collection and analysis. These nongovernmental experts can also examine publicly available federal data to help agencies build more effective programs.

Driving innovation and a customer focus

Good data can help federal innovators make informed decisions about what strategies and processes to start, stop and continue. These data-based decisions enable agencies to demonstrate why their actions, programs and policies are effective to different stakeholders and audiences.

Unfortunately, agencies still have work to do. The Partnership’s “Government for the People” report cites an earlier survey conducted with Accenture showing that 35% of federal employees believe their agencies collect “none” or “only a little” relevant data. Furthermore, 36% of these respondents reported that when their agencies do use data, they “rarely” or “never” use it to redesign services to improve equity.

The report outlines several recommendations for agencies to reverse these trends, including:  

  • Using data to assess service gaps and opportunities for meeting the needs of eligible customers, not only existing ones.
  • Revising policies and regulations that restrict data-sharing or create duplicative data requirements.
  • Investing in a dedicated workforce skilled in data and evaluation to integrate equity into core processes and programs.

This post is part of our blog series on building a new innovation agenda for government, developed in coordination with the Partnership’s Federal Innovation Council. For an overview of this agenda, read our first post.

Emily Benson is an intern on the Partnership’s Government Effectiveness team. 


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