Are you Getting the Biggest Bang for Your CSBG Buck?

By Eric Stam & Gretchen Knowlton

These are uncertain times. Our country’s economic future is uncertain. The future of the CSBG is under harsh scrutiny and at risk of falling victim to deficit reduction. Policymakers and the American public want to know how to get the biggest bang for their federal dollars. In an effort to make a stronger case for the impact of the CSBG Network, NASCSP is launching a significant review of current research on anti-poverty interventions and what works. This includes an assessment of how best to explain the CSBG National Performance Indicators (NPIs). NASCSP hopes this important project will continue building on the collective knowledge of effective interventions for moving people and communities towards economic security as well as an understanding of tools that could help evaluate the impact of CSBG. The project will be led by Progress Resources Incorporated in conjunction with Temple University and Economic Opportunity Studies.

This is a two-phase project. Phase one is a review of the literature on anti-poverty interventions. The project will develop a rating system that can be used to categorize findings by scientific quality and level of scholarship as well as by level of impact on poverty.

The results of the literature review will inform phase two, which includes an evaluation of the NPIs and the types of information needed to truly understand the impact and effectiveness of CSBG. This review will also help the CSBG Network focus its efforts and resources on the highest impact interventions and policies.

The federal government’s commitment to evidence-based research and practice makes this type of research and evaluation critical for our network. While the CSBG Network has a robust and cutting-edge reporting and measurement system in Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA), this system is a management tool and not an empirical research model. The Network needs to communicate its accomplishments and impact, with increasing urgency. ROMA data forms the foundation for this effort to more fully understand existing research models for anti-poverty work. The findings will further strengthen the CSBG Network’s ability to tell its story. This review will not only identify promising practices and research, but will also provide a structure to support ROMA in the process.

Targeted, meaningful, and evidence-based investments in economic security are much easier to identify and implement when the right information is available. The results of this project and recommendations for application for the CSBG Network will help create a path to prosperity – for the nation and for those most often left behind – low-income Americans. This research will refine and target our efforts so that communities and the nation get the most bang for their CSBG buck.