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The Moral Imperative Of Effective Altruism

This past August, a thousand or so entrepreneurs gathered in Berkeley, California to talk about making the world a better place. They represented the usual suspects you’d find at a Bay Area conference – data wonks, business strategists, venture capitalists, and blue-sky creative types. They shared Silicon Valley’s obsession with big ideas powered by data and evidence. But instead of hacking taxi rides or Internet searches, these entrepreneurs were hacking giving.

The Effective Altruism (EA) Global Conference, and the growing movement behind it, is based on a simple but revolutionary idea: that the wealthy have a moral imperative not only to give, but to give in the most effective way possible.

EA’s basic moral sensibility is captured in a thought experiment known as the “drowning child,” originally conceived by the philosopher Peter Singer. Imagine you’re driving to work and see a child drowning in a pond. No one else is around, and if you don’t intervene the child will die. You can save the child, but you will ruin your work shoes and your suit will get dirty. Should you help? read more…

Strengthening Colorado’s Early Childhood Workforce

em-logoHigh-quality early childhood experiences are one of the most important factors that drive adult success. The child care industry is also an important component of Colorado’s economy. In spite of this, the high cost of quality child care remains out of reach for many parents, and wages for early childhood professionals remain low.

BRC is partnering with the Butler Institute at the University of Denver to better understand the economic contribution of the child care sector, and to determine sustainable strategies for building a highly qualified workforce. The study, commissioned for Early Milestones Colorado, will use interviews, surveys, and quantitative analyses to understand more about the economic realities of providing child care and the financial implications of wages and costs in the industry.

Using Evidence To Do The Most Good: The Effective Altruism Global Conference

Image result for effective altruismEffective Altruism (EA) is an emerging movement based on a simple idea: that we ought to use reason and evidence to do the most good in the world. This summer I had the opportunity to attend the EA Global conference in Berkeley, which brought together people from the realms of philosophy, international health and development, research methods, nonprofit management, philanthropy and many other fields to think about ways to make our work as effective as possible. read more…

Presentation at the Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors Conference

pfs-conference-catalog-2016Each year, the Annual Conference of the Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors hosts one of the nation’s most dynamic conversations about the feasibility, research, and policy implications of Pay for Success programs. The conference is organized by the Institute for Child Success, Ready Nation, and Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah, with whom I partner as a Senior Research Fellow.
read more…

Presentation on Pay For Success at Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference

Last week I had the opportunity to present on the opportunities and challenges presented by Pay For Success programs in early childhood.  Two early childhood PFS are already in progress in the U.S. – in Chicago and Utah — and another has just been launched in South Carolina. PFS programs have great potential to inject capital into effective social programs who sorely need it. However, they must be structured in such a way as to ensure program effectiveness and quality implementation; to minimize risk for investors; and to enable scaling and sustainability.

The PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here.

Two Definitions of Child Care Quality

As I think about the conversations I heard about early childhood in the past year, I find people are usually speaking the same language.  At conferences, in journals, and in legislative chambers, those of us who live within the early childhood realm generally agree that early childhood is a great public investment.  We also agree that, in general, attention and resources ought to be focused on children who are traditionally underserved.

Amidst all of this agreement, there remains an central unanswered question:  What is quality? This is a question that the field has not fully answered.  In part that’s because there is not one “right” answer to the question.  In many ways, the field is asking us to define our terms.   read more…

Andrew Brodsky Partnering With Policy Innovation Lab On Pay For Success TA

pilI’m excited to be working with the Policy Innovation Lab at the University of Utah’s Sorensen Global Impact Investing Center to help develop Pay For Success programs across the Western U.S.  The PIL works across sectors to develop innovative, data-driven approaches to difficult social and public health challenges.  With support from the White House’s Social Innovation Fund, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the James Lee Sorenson Foundation, the PIL is supporting Pay For Success financing programs across the West, including early childhood projects in Adams County, Colorado and Las Vegas; homelessness projects in Colorado and Boise, Idaho; recidivism in Missoula, Montana; and recidivism and mental health in Utah. read more…

The Five Warning Signs Of EAU (Evaluation As Usual)

enquêteIs your organization suffering from Evaluation As Usual (EAU)?  Symptoms of EAU include overly enthusiastic language about successes, wish-washy discussion of potentially negative results, and a general lack of objective and critical data analysis and discussion.

Evaluation can be expensive, and billions of dollars are disbursed every year based on its results.  With this kind of money at stake, it’s essential that funders are getting the most mileage possible out of their evaluation dollars.  Unfortunately, however, much of this money is being directed to EAU.  This is, perhaps, unsurprising:  the central irony of program evaluation is that is usually funded by the very organizations who sponsored the program under inspection, posing a natural conflict of interest.   With reputations and funding dollars at stake, challenging EAU is sometimes difficult. read more…

EC State Advisory Councils Final Report Highlights Colorado and New York Cost-Effectiveness Models

ECAC Final ReportThe final report from the Early Childhood State Advisory Councils, released in May, documents the $92 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to 45 states to help build higher-quality early childhood systems.  The funding touched the lives of millions of children across the country and helped inform President Obama’s 2013 early learning plan.

Among the grant’s legislative requirements were to conduct periodic statewide needs analyses, to identify strategies for better collaboration, and to increase participation among underrepresented groups.  In order to advance these goals, two states, Colorado and New York, built interactive early childhood cost-benefit models to measure the current scope of the state’s early childhood system and to estimate the costs and benefits of program improvement.  I was excited to have the opportunity to help develop both of these models in partnership with APA Consulting and each state’s early childhood advisory council. read more…

Cool New Cost Effectiveness Tool From Center For Cost-Benefit Studies

Cost-BenefitApart from the words “free ice cream”, there’s nothing more exciting in my mailbox than an e-mail that says “new web-based cost-effectiveness tool.”   Given the approximately 550$ billion we spend on K-12 education alone in this country, understanding the impact of our investment is more important than ever – so the easier it is to create accurate and complete cost-effectiveness analyses, the better.

The Center for Benefit-Cost Studies (CBCS) at Columbia University has just released Cost Out, a web-based tool to facilitate the estimation of costs and benefits of public programs.  The tool is based on the “ingredients” method, developed by CBCSE Director Henry Levin and Patrick McEwan, and described in detail in their 2001 book Cost-effectiveness Analysis: Methods and Applications.

The ingredients method involves tallying the individual components of a program’s cost.  In the education context, these could include teacher salaries, classroom materials, or administrative costs.  The ingredients method is often preferable to other cost-effectiveness approaches because it uses actual cost inputs rather than budget figures, and thus more accurately reflects actual expenditures for a program.

All Posts

The Moral Imperative Of Effective Altruism

This past August, a thousand or so entrepreneurs gathered in Berkeley, California to talk about making the world a better place. They represented the usual suspects you’d find at a Bay Area conference – data wonks, business strategists, venture capitalists, and...

read more

Strengthening Colorado’s Early Childhood Workforce

BRC is partnering with the Butler Institute at the University of Denver to better understand the economic contribution of the child care sector, and to determine sustainable strategies for building a highly qualified workforce.

read more

Presentation at the Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors Conference

Each year, the Annual Conference of the Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors hosts one of the nation’s most dynamic conversations about the feasibility, research, and policy implications of Pay for Success programs. The conference is organized by the Institute for Child Success, Ready Nation, and Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah, with whom I partner as a Senior Research Fellow.

read more

Two Definitions of Child Care Quality

As I think about the conversations I heard about early childhood in the past year, I find people are usually speaking the same language.  At conferences, in journals, and in legislative chambers, those of us who live within the early childhood realm generally agree...

read more

The Five Warning Signs Of EAU (Evaluation As Usual)

Is your organization suffering from Evaluation As Usual (EAU)?  Symptoms of EAU include overly enthusiastic language about successes, wish-washy discussion of potentially negative results, and a general lack of objective and critical data analysis and discussion....

read more

What Programs Are Appropriate For Pay For Success?

In April I had the opportunity to participate in a panel on Pay For Success (PFS) programs at the annual Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors Conference in San Diego.  Jointly sponsored by the Institute for Child Success and ReadyNation, the conference...

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The Promise of Pay For Success In Early Childhood

I contributed a post this week to What Works In America’s Communities, a blog based on the recent book of the same name, which promotes innovative ideas that are helping to build stronger communities across the nation. Pay For Success financing structures fund...

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Child Care in Canada: The Child Care 2020 Conference

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Child Care 2020 Conference in Winnipeg.  The conference is the fourth national child care conference in Canada’s history and the first in a decade.  Presenters from around the country and overseas talked about issues...

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Three Lessons on Early Childhood Systems From Smart Start

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual Smart Start conference in Greensboro, N.C.  The conference also draws a spectrum of early childhood policy, research, practitioners and advocates from around the nation, in addition to a good chunk of North...

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Rallying Economic Support for Early Care and Education

State leaders who are trying to rally support for early education can use several strategies to make sure their message comes across loud and clear. In a new post on the Build Initiative’s blog, I outline five messages that advocates and policymakers can use in...

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Why Is Preschool ‘Hot’?

Preschool is now “hot”, according to the New York Times.  “If early childhood education were an actor, it would be Tom Cruise or Meryl Streep,” Gail Collins writes.  “If it were a video game, it would be Candy Crush or Angry Birds.” It’s true that preschool...

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Costing Out The New Preschool Proposal

Last week, Congress introduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which would expand high-quality preschool, Early Head Start, and home visiting across the United States.  The bill is similar to President Obama’s Preschool For All plan, though with some...

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Early Education on the Ballot

As people go to the polls around the country, a number of early education initiatives are on this years’ ballots.  Last week I wrote about Colorado’s Amendment 66, which would allot $950 million to education, of which $165 million would go to fund full-day...

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Funding Preschool in Colorado Could Create Billions in Benefits

Next week Colorado will vote on a constitutional amendment to raise $950 million for education funding.  Amendment 66, which Governor John Hickenlooper somewhat hubristically claims would be “one of the most comprehensive education-reform initiatives in the history of...

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Evidence Base for Preschool: New Findings

A new study out this month sheds light on the evidence base for preschool education. The report, financed by the Foundation for Child Development and produced in collaboration with the society for Research in Child Development, concludes that high-quality preschool...

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Preschool Testing: The False Dichotomy

As early childhood assessments and quality ratings systems become more sophisticated, it is interesting to see the testing and accountability issues percolating K-12 start filtering down to the preschool world. The same essential – and largely false – dichotomy seems...

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Naps Make Preschoolers Smarter

A new study reports what parents of preschoolers already knew:  naps make you smarter.  UMass-Amherst researcher Rebecca Spencer studied 40 preschoolers and found that naps help kids remember what they learned earlier.  In the study, children completed a...

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Cool Interactive Graphic About Economic Returns to Education

I just came across this cool graphic from OECD, which represents the economic returns to education in OECD countries.  The graphic shows costs and benefits for both private and public sources.  Returns include increased earnings, taxes, and public benefits, while...

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Randomized intervention in Jamaica finds economic benefits

The World Bank has released a report detailing the effects of a psychosocial intervention for toddlers in Jamaica on personal earnings 20 years later.  The intervention involved weekly one-hour visits over a two-year period for stunted Jamaican toddlers living in...

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Denver Preschool Program Drives Gains, Study Says

My alma-mater Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates has released the first round of achievement results for students in the Denver Preschool Program (DPP).  Sixty-four percent of third-graders reached proficient or advanced on third-grade state reading tests, compared...

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