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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of County Strategies to Scale Evidence-Informed Social Services

  • Author(s): Stuart, Marla J.
  • Advisor(s): Stone, Susan I
  • et al.

A persistent and seemingly intractable problem is the systemic failure to successfully scale evidence-informed social services to a level that achieves population-level improvements in well-being. There is a growing call for governments to enter the scaling environment as primary coordinators, trainers, and funders. Prior scholarship has identified four strategies governments may employ to enact these roles: convene and support high-level leadership teams, assess organizational readiness, provide technical assistance, and align funding. But it is unclear whether use of any or all of these government scaling strategies is sufficient to achieve desired outcomes. Moreover, prior scholarship largely focused on state and federal government roles, largely ignoring how these factors might operate in local government environments. Yet counties may hold the greatest scaling leverage because they often have well-established relationships with service providers through shared clients, contracts, and advocacy. The current study, thus, aimed to provide much needed insight into the relationship between these strategies and scaling outcomes in a local governmental context. Drawing data from a single county with a stated goal of scaling evidence-informed practices across human service organizations, it used public government records and crowd-sourced and computational data-extraction methods to create measures of these four alternative strategies. It assessed the relative effects of these strategies on scaling progress using time-to-event analysis. It found that county governments are well positioned to implement scaling strategies and that the proportion of social service providers adopting evidence-informed services can increase, as can the proportion of county funding directed to these organizations. It also found some empirical support for a link between three of the strategies and scaled evidence-informed services—convening a leadership team, assessing readiness, and aligning funding. Moreover, it identified a new and potentially desirable county strategy—establishing a shared local measure of evidence-informed service. This study design is highly replicable and as such provides a general model to apply to other local environments to identify common county levers that effectively promote the scaling of evidence-informed social services.

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