Abt is getting ready to attend the Association for Public Policy & Management’s (APPAM) 2018 Fall Research Conference, which is November 8-10 in neighboring Washington, D.C. It’s APPAM’s 40th anniversary conference, and the event’s theme—Evidence for Action: Encouraging Innovation and Improvement—gets to the heart of what we do. Abt moves people from vulnerability to security every day, and we do it by developing solutions based on the evidence derived from our rigorous research. Many of our experts will be participating in panels throughout the conference, and I am thrilled to take part in the 40 Years of Evidence for Action at APPAM and the Field round table session on Thursday, November 8.
The panel plans on looking at the role evidence will play in the future of public policy. I realize not everyone reading this will be able to join us, and I want to share my thoughts on some of the important topics we’ll be covering during the session.
Like APPAM, we’ve been putting evidence into action for a long time. Fifty-three years ago, Clark Abt launched a mission to improve the quality of life and economic wellbeing of people worldwide. With that mission as our anchor, we’ve grown from a small band of social scientists based above a machine shop in Cambridge, Mass., to 3,600 employees worldwide, working in more than 40 countries on everything from preventing homelessness in the U.S. to controlling malaria in Brazil to increasing crop yields in Sudan.
As our firm has evolved, so have the vast array of data, new technologies and analytic tools we use to gather evidence. For example, we’re doing exciting work with machine learning to help technical colleges understand who might be at risk of early drop out. But there’s a lot to learn as we leverage these technologies. In this case, we’re combining machine processes with sound, scientific designs while checking for algorithm-based bias. The bottom line is new tools and approaches require new “rules of the game” and “science standards”—we need to ensure the evidence is accurate before we use it to inform policies that will affect people around the world.
As we look ahead to the next decade, we’re leaning into impact variation as an approach to evaluation: know what works for whom, under what conditions. We’re using human-centered design and community engagement to provide clients and stakeholders with greater detail about impacts to end users. That personalized understanding of data speaks to our clients’ growing need for culturally responsive evaluations. As we work to meet that need, we’re continually rewarded by our long-held belief that a person’s cultural background is one more benefit they bring to Abt. Our inclusive and diverse workplace means we bring more perspectives to bear on the challenges we tackle, and that means we have more opportunities to find the best solutions for our clients. It’s a philosophy that serves all of us.
I’m excited to discuss these topics with my colleagues on the panel—and throughout the conference—but I invite you to learn more about Abt’s approach to evidence and action. Visit our new website and dive into our Mission Impact Report. We’re continually building on our 50-plus-year commitment to quality, actionable data, which has never been more relevant. We’re looking forward to reaffirming its importance with APPAM in November.