2 online tools from Minnesota help policymakers assess the effectiveness of social policy programs

Minnesota has created two public, innovative and interactive online tools to help decision makers determine how best to appropriate public funds: the Minnesota Inventory and the Evidence Base Demographics website.

Produced by Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), both resources provide clear, reliable, and evidence-based information for public officials making budget decisions. The Minnesota inventory, released in mid-2018, is modeled after Pew’s Results First Clearinghouse database. The regularly updated inventory lists nearly 700 state-funded social policy programs and services offered throughout Minnesota. The Evidence Base Demographics tool, launched at the end of 2020, provides information on the demographic compositionrace, ethnicity, socio-economic status or education, for examplepeople who use programs that have been reviewed by national research centers, regardless of their location.

The Minnesota Inventory

The inventory provides a description of each program and a color-coded evidence rating that describes its effectiveness (eg, green = proven effective, light green = promising, blue = theory-based, and gray = no effect). There are also links to research that offers the evidence base, often from a national evidence clearinghouse.

When users hover over an entry, the evidence rating reveals an assessment definition; the specific area of ​​interest of the program, such as keeping children in stable homes or housing and substance abuse policies; outcomes that were assessed, such as child abuse, homelessness, and opioid use; and whether the results were favorable or neutral. Users can also view and download the underlying data that contains the information, along with additional details such as the location of the service and the number of people participating in the program.

To make it easier and faster to find information, the inventory offers keyword searches and filtering based on rating, area of ​​interest, service population, result and service location. For example, the user in the attached screenshot found 35 programs rated as “proven effective” for children’s mental health services across all outcomes and service areas.







The Minnesota Inventory search function can help users find examples of proven programs and approaches. This search found 35 programs deemed “proven effective” for children’s mental health services across all outcomes and service areas. Source: Minnesota Inventory.

Minnesota Management and Budget




State agency staff can use the inventory when applying for funding, and service providers can refer to it when deciding which programs to implement. Any interested party can use this resource to create a snapshot of the range of services offered statewide.

Additionally, the benefits of the Minnesota Inventory Tool can extend beyond state lines. Officials across the country interested in capturing and displaying their own program data can use the Minnesota example to explain what a program inventory is. By using the site, they can show that it is possible to compile a similar list and then use the inventory as a template for presenting information. In fact, Tennessee recently released its own Interactive Program Inventory based on the Minnesota Inventory, focusing on criminal justice, mental health, and addictions programs.

Evidence Base Demographics Tool

The Evidence Base Demographics tool allows users to dig deeper into the Minnesota inventory, providing information such as race, ethnicity, education, income, and gender that is included in research on the program effectiveness. Access to this data can help illustrate who is reflected in the evidence base and whether specific groups and constituencies are represented.



Minnesota's Evidence Base Demographics tool helps policy makers assess how well programs are meeting the needs of participants within certain groups.




Minnesota’s Evidence Base Demographics tool helps policy makers assess how well programs are meeting the needs of participants within certain groups.

Minnesota Management and Budget




To collect the data, MMB first reviewed sources of evidence—primarily national clearinghouses—for the 205 programs in Minnesota’s inventory classified as “promising” or “proven effective.” The office then compiled a list of assessments referenced by these clearinghouses and conducted an in-depth demographic review of these studies. The analysts found that of the 856 studies available, 694 contained some form of demographic data; 88 had a study size, but no demographic information available; and the remaining 74 had no study size or demographics listed.

The Evidence Base Demographics site displays information collected by MMB by percentage of participants for each of the 205 interventions. The easy-to-use site features color-coded bar graphs and provides population type descriptions when users hover over the bars in the graph.

Users can also download a comprehensive list of studies reviewed by MMB by intervention type, as well as a variety of tables showing the number of studies by service area, demographics by service area, and demographics by service. individual.

Although data on ethnicity, income and education is lacking for many of the programs listed, the site still provides useful information on the demographics of the program database and how the programs reflect the demographics of the programs listed. participants in the state. MMB will update this resource as new data becomes available.

Since many states offer similar programs, such as Functional Family Therapy, Healthy Families America, and Nurse-Family Partnership, the Evidence Base Demographics Tool and Minnesota Inventory provides a valuable, easy-to-navigate, and free resource for a domestic audience.

Sara Dube is project director and Ronojoy Sen is responsible for the Results First initiative.

Melvin G. Rodriguez