Our approach relies on collaboration. Recognizing that we cannot do this alone is what drives our desire to build coalitions, share knowledge, and achieve victories across institutions, systems and communities.
We are working to develop a network of researcher-system partnership sites (i.e., school districts, early childcare facilities, hospitals and community based social service programs) to tackle the most pressing issues facing our society today. These Collaborations for Impact (CFI) sites will serve as laboratories of innovation that coordinate research focused on testing, replicating and scaling promising interventions. Over time, CFI will advance our understanding of the science of scaling.
Collaborations for Impact – Education (CFI-Ed)
Based on need and experience, the first iteration of our approach is CFI-Ed. We will begin by developing the network of laboratories of innovation with a focus on education. In particular, we will focus on the transition from pre-k to kindergarten. After identifying some potential partner sites for 2019-20 from our previous call for partners, we are continuing the search for additional partner sites. For more information, please contact Min Sok Lee firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collaborations for Impact – Education India (CFI-Ed India)
Thanks to the support of the Tata Trusts through the Tata Centre for Development at the University of Chicago, we are also launching CFI-Ed India with the identical goal to establish a network of sites in India to replicate the most promising educational interventions. We are in the early stages of building a group of local researchers and organizations with interests in field experiments in education.
As a first step, The University of Chicago Trust in India has hired a Team Manager for CFI-Ed India to help establish partnerships between researchers based in India, with connections to early childhood educational systems, and school systems. The focus of this role will be to establish and maintain a fruitful network of sites and researchers implementing interventions. This work will run in parallel to our CFI-Ed U.S. network.
Understanding the science of scaling is essential to developing evidence-based public policies that can impact foundational brain development at scale. The hallmark of public policy decision-making is an economic benefit-cost analysis. TMW and others use RCTs to assess the effectiveness of interventions (benefit), but research also reveals a “voltage drop” in which interventions proven effective in small-scale experiments often fail to maintain that level of impact (cost). And even in the absence of the voltage drop, the benefit-cost ratio may shift significantly at scale.
With an eye towards scaling up to the greater population, Collaborations for Impact (CFI) sites will provide the necessary insights into this benefit-cost analysis, specifically working to optimize the effectiveness of TMW and other early childhood interventions and overcome threats to scalability. Interventions will be evaluated through replication to mediate the costs and build sustained impact at community-wide levels. With multiple sites across the country, CFI makes replication possible from the first program iteration.
Our unique pairing of economic science with early childhood development allows us to inform national policies and develop scalable models that reach more than one community at a time.
In order to effectively scale evidence-based interventions, we must better understand threats to scalability. The voltage effect occurs when the treatment effect size is considerably smaller at scale than what researchers find in the initial investigation. The work of Al-Ubaydli, List, and Suskind provides insights into why this voltage effect might occur, such as false positives, representativeness of population, and representativeness of the situation. In addition, List and colleagues explore economic threats to scaling quality programs, i.e., the benefit-cost ratio.
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