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Why we are Optimistic that Government Can Play Moneyball

MFG Archive, Opinion

Michele Jolin shares her belief that the time is right for the U.S. Government to adopt the data driven Moneyball philosophy.


To dramatically expand opportunity and improve the lives of young people, their families and communities, government policy and funding decisions must be informed by the best possible data and evidence about impact. In short, government at all levels must be committed to “investing in what works.”

To make this case, in 2013, Results for America launched the Moneyball for Government campaign. Named after the book and movie about Major League Baseball’s famous 2002 Oakland A’s team that succeeded against big-spending opponents by using a data-driven approach, Moneyball for Government seeks to bridge the gap between existing evidence and data about impact, and elected officials and policy makers using that information to make better choices. Late last year, we released Moneyball for Government, a book written by an experienced group of political and policy leaders from across the political spectrum, to provide policymakers a roadmap for investing in what works.


For a number of reasons, we are optimistic that the time is right for government to play Moneyball:


  • There is a strong and growing demand for solutions that bridge partisan divides. We believe Moneyball can be achieved in a bipartisan way. Republicans can support Moneyball because it helps ensure we aren’t spending on programs that don’t work. Democrats can support Moneyball because it shows government can work and reinforces public support for programs that are getting results. For proof, look no further than the great leaders and thinkers—from both sides of the aisle—who recently joined Results for America in writing Moneyball for Government. They include: Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire, and Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia; former Obama and George W. Bush administration Budget Directors Peter Orszag and Jim Nussle; former Obama and George W. Bush administration economic advisors Gene Sperling and Glenn Hubbard; former Obama and George W. Bush administration domestic policy advisors Melody Barnes and John Bridgeland; former spokesmen for the Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton Presidential campaigns Kevin Madden and Howard Wolfson; and former Obama and George W. Bush policy advisors Robert Gordon and Ron Haskins.


  • The body of evidence about what works for young people, their families, and communities is larger than ever before. Over the last several decades, there has been a significant growth in the number of randomized control trials and other kinds of more rigorous studies that provide strong evidence of the effectiveness of programs at the federal and local level.


  • Rapid advances in technology and data tools create enormous opportunities to understand the impact of government investments more quickly and at less cost.   And much of the potential of these technological advances is still unexplored. The revolution in big data, analytics, and rapid cycle evaluation that benefited the business sector can also transform the impact of government.


  • Demographic shifts and an aging population—on top of existing budget constraints—will create further pressure on the federal government “to do more with less.” The pressure to improve the efficiency of government should lead to improvements in the impact of government.


  • Public cynicism about the ability of government to solve problems is a powerful force animating the public and media dialogue about federal policy. Policymakers can use data and evidence to overcome this cynicism and restore confidence in our nation’s ability to tackle big challenges. Government must be part of the solution, working in partnership with the private and non-profit sectors, in making progress on the big issues of our day.


Shifting government toward a Moneyball approach will not be easy. The challenges facing communities are complex. And there will always be judgment calls about how to interpret and use data and evidence. But we believe that we can achieve something substantial for the American people if more and better information is used to guide the vital investments our nation makes in young people, their families, and communities.

Many thanks to Michele Jolin for explaining why Moneyball is more relevant to government now than ever before. Be sure to follow Results For America on Twitter for further updates and progress on the campaign.


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