Note: This page was created using content published by Good Ventures and GiveWell, the organizations that created the Open Philanthropy Project, before this website was launched. Uses of “we” and “our” on this page may therefore refer to Good Ventures or GiveWell, but they still represent the work of the Open Philanthropy Project.
The goal of BetaGov is “to massively increase the number of randomized controlled trials conducted on public policies and programs to guide policy solutions for our most challenging health and social problems.” We made the grant as part of our exploration of criminal justice reform, an area we’ve prioritized for deeper investigation through learning grants.
BetaGov is the project of Dr. Angela Hawken, who is an associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, where her research focuses on “drugs, crimes and corruption.”1 We were referred to Dr. Hawken by Steven Teles, who knew about her work leading the randomized controlled trial of HOPE, and by Dr. Kleiman, who has frequently collaborated with her.2
BetaGov aims to generate knowledge about what works in the public sector (in areas including but not limited to criminal justice) by serving as a repository for practitioners’ ideas to be tested, serving as a database of results to facilitate learning across studies, and providing a toolkit (including web-based training, webinars, assessment tools, and an RCT call-in hotline) so that practitioners can conduct their own RCTs.3 Dr. Hawken believes that Ph.D.’s are not necessarily needed to implement randomized controlled trials in all cases, and that by collecting ideas, enabling and encouraging practitioners to conduct RCTs, and sharing the results, BetaGov will dramatically increase the evidence available for public sector programs 4
At the time we began funding BetaGov, Dr. Hawken was already working with two jurisdictions seeking to test out variations on swift-and certain sanctions (Washington State and a jurisdiction in a western state), suggesting that there is demand for BetaGov’s service.5
Dr. Hawken’s rough estimate is that BetaGov’s full budget would be “on the order of $2 million for a five-year period.”6 We hope to make BetaGov’s budget and proposal public shortly.
We are interested in promoting an attitude toward the criminal justice system (and public policy in general) that values evidence and outcomes. Facilitating randomized controlled trials by practitioners seems like a good way to encourage this approach among policymakers and implementers on the ground. We believe that BetaGov’s efforts to increase the evidence base in the field of criminal justice may be an important complement to our other efforts to take advantage of the bipartisan interest in policy change in this field.7 We have therefore made a $200,000 grant to Pepperdine University to provide BetaGov with seed funding. We plan to follow up with BetaGov and would consider providing additional funding if the project is successful.
|Angela Hawken email to GiveWell on September 17, 2013||Unpublished|
|Angela Hawken homepage||Source (archive)|
|GiveWell’s notes on a July 2, 2013 conversation with Mark Kleiman||Source|
|GiveWell’s notes on a June 12, 2013 conversation with Steve Teles||Source|
|GiveWell’s notes on a September 16, 2013 with Angela Hawken||Source|