Results First Helps States Compare ROI

E-newsletter Issue #120 | August 15, 2013

As state leaders continue their search for better, more efficient ways of doing business, a few strategies that stand out have emerged in recent years.

One strategy—using an evidence-based, rigorous cost-benefit model to make policy decisions—is being put into place in a number of states thanks to the efforts of the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. To help state policymakers learn more about the Results First initiative, The Council of State Governments will hold a special half-day, invitation-only information session in conjunction with CSG’s 2013 National Conference in Kansas City from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday, Sept. 19.

Results First is a joint project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that works with states to implement an innovative cost-benefit analysis approach to help them invest in policies and programs that work.

Results First provides state leaders with a tool for comparing the returns on investment for state-funded programs in an unbiased, nonpartisan way, said Gary VanLandingham, director of the initiative. The model can help state leaders make better policy choices and enable them to target their limited resources at programs that generate the best returns for taxpayers.

“This is a much more rational strategy than making across-the-board cuts that reduce funding for effective and ineffective programs alike,” said VanLandingham.

In working with their 14 partner states, Results First has demonstrated early success in a number of ways, including helping states to:

  • Implement the best research-based cost-benefit models to assess policy alternatives.

  • Design policies that work together as a total package or portfolio, recognizing that investments or cuts in one program can affect costs and outcomes in others.

  • Learn from each other, adapting best practices so each state doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

“In addition, we have been successful in creating the climate needed to make decisions based on results, not anecdotes or external pressures, by providing technical assistance and other direct support,” said VanLandingham.

Results First is working with 14 states—Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont—to adopt the model and begin applying this rigorous analysis to their policy and budget decisions. More states are expected to join the initiative in the coming months.

If you are interested in attending this half-day informational session, please contact Jennifer Burnett, CSG’s Program Manager for Fiscal and Economic Policy, at 859-244-8114 or

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