Transformation to an Evidence-Based Organization – 3 Key Areas to Consider

14 Jul 2021
Karyn Pratt

Transformation to an Evidence-Based Organization – 3 Key Areas to Consider 

In the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) are programs, practices and policies that have been rigorously evaluated and shown to be effective at reducing youth crime.  While there is no universally accepted criteria to be considered evidence-based, experts generally consider factors such as evaluation studies performed in both research and real world settings, standardized practices that have scientifically been documented to consistently produce the intended positive result, and favorable critical peer review.  When programs meet these standards, they may be labeled evidence-based or endorsed by a research organization or federal agency.   

Evidence-Based Practices have demonstrated great success in the provision of services to youth in the child welfare, juvenile justice and healthcare arenas.  EBPs have shown multiple benefits to both the child and system, including improved public safety, community buy-in, reduced recidivism and overall cost-effectiveness.  Evidence-based reentry policies and programs implemented by several states in recent years show a decline in recidivism rates, according to a study from Pew Charitable Trusts.  

Evidence-Based Practices – The Complexity  

The process of Evidence-Based Practice integration involves careful planning and strategy in order to lay a solid foundation for adoption.  Because the implementation of an EBP requires a change in organizational operations, it can prove challenging for many providers. Organizations must consider what critical population is being served, what stakeholders need to be involved, and how the program will be sustained. Even when all that is accomplished, there are a few challenges that can impede an organization’s move towards evidence-based programming: 

One Size Fits All – It is critical that a provider find the right EBP to match its existing organizational construct.  Each agency is bound by local practices and regulations, which may run counter to a specific evidence-based program’s protocol or fidelity standards.  Fidelity to EBP requirements is foundational to the success of the program. If not thoroughly planned out, organizational constraints can undermine the program’s effectiveness.   

Culture – Organizational culture deeply rooted in historical treatment practices can often be resistant to change. When leadership doesn’t universally champion a significant modification in treatment practice, it becomes even more difficult to integrate throughout the system.  Getting past the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude is critical to successful implementation. 

Unique Resource Considerations –Replication of programs with a rigorous level of evidence, such as EBPs, are more likely to achieve significant results. However, these programs present some unique resource consideration, like investments in technology, staff training, supervision, and implementation and licensing costs. Implementation of some established EBPs may be cost-prohibitive for small organizations. 

3 Key Considerations 

The success of any new initiative depends on the organization’s resources, infrastructure, planning, and strategic guidance. Transformation to an evidence-based organization also requires all of these.  Because Evidence-Based Practices come with continuous learning cycles, evaluations, and adjustments, organizations need to be fully invested prior to diving in. 

A few things to consider: 

Strong Leadership with Clear Vision – As with every new initiative, having strong leadership is a critical differentiator. Stakeholders from all levels of the leadership team must demonstrate equal commitment to the success of the initiative. These stakeholders must not only direct, but champion the program in order to ensure staff buy-in and support.   

Well-Designed Data Infrastructure – Data is a critical asset to transformation into an evidence-based organization. Establishing a technology infrastructure to collect, process, apply and analyze data appropriately can help lead to a successful organizational transformation.  

Flexible Support and Collaboration–Support from different and experienced partners, such as research or educational organizations, can enhance the outcomes of any new initiative. An organization can improve their outcomes by involving external stakeholders that may offer resources otherwise not at their disposal. Collaboration creates an environment for both internal and external stakeholders to communicate and learn from each other, leading to a more successful transformation. 

An adequate investment in technology, staff training and education, and leadership support are foundations for effectively implementing evidence-based approaches. And while implementation of EBPs are a first step in improving outcomes, it’s important to remember that quality of programming is only one part of the success equation.  When youth are appropriately matched with the right EBP based upon their clinical record and an organization’s treatment history, they are more likely to successfully complete the program the first time, leading to less trauma from multiple placements and overall better outcomes.  FirstMatch® is a predictive analytics tool that helps organizations match youth with the most effective program for their unique, individual needs.  Want to learn more about FirstMatch?  Visit www.firstmatch.com for more information.