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Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab

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Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Theresa Ahrens

Madeline Phipps

Lab to be housed at the Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise


Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne today announced the launch of the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab (CEAL), an innovative government-research partnership that will be housed at the Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise at the University of Denver. CEAL will work with state officials to evaluate public policies, design improvements to existing programs, and pilot new interventions intended to benefit Colorado residents.

Funding for CEAL is provided through a $4.5 million grant from the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The lab is part of the Hickenlooper Administration’s ongoing effort to make the Colorado state government more effective and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. CEAL is modeled after other “policy labs” in various regions across the country, including California, Washington, D.C., Michigan, Rhode Island, and Houston, Texas. Policy labs are government-research partnerships that seek to integrate evaluation into policymaking by pairing experienced researchers with state and local officials in order to study problems and scale proven solutions.

“The lab is the first program of its kind in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “We owe it to the citizens of our state to ensure that the programs we undertake not only deliver on what they set out to do but that they are high quality, measured and push for improvement.”

CEAL will put Colorado at the forefront of a movement to implement an evidence-based approach to governing in order to make progress on key issues. Colorado and other states across the country face significant challenges in promoting the wellbeing of citizens and communities. Public agencies and service providers often do not have the resources or capacity to conduct rigorous data analysis and research studies on their own, and as result, we don’t know enough about what works, for whom, and why.

During the next several months, CEAL, in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, will consult with executive agencies, the General Assembly, and the Judicial Branch about the key issues facing Colorado. The lab will build a research network that will conduct long-term studies of public policies as well as real-time data analysis. The lab will also work with policymakers to build the capacity and infrastructure needed to use data and evidence to inform decision-making.

“The best way to improve is to use data to understand if our programs are making the impact we want and doing so in a cost effective manner,” Lynne said. “This lab and partnership allow us to take a big step forward in understanding how well we are delivering results for the people of our state.”

CEAL will be led by David Miller, the executive director of the Barton Institute. Miller has extensive experience working with state and local government, having served as executive director of the Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting and 20 years as CEO of the Denver Foundation.

“Partnering with the Barton Institute at the University of Denver was a natural fit,” Miller. said Established in 2016, the Institute seeks to address major social issues and improve society by promoting and enhancing traditional and new forms of philanthropy, social enterprise, and partnerships among the private, public, nonprofit, and academic sectors.

“The Barton Institute believes that the complex problems facing our community and our world can only be addressed successfully by all sectors working together,” Laura Barton said. "The Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab truly does bring together the knowledge and expertise of the various sectors — academic researchers will be using scientific and business disciplines to analyze and evaluate government programs for the benefit of Colorado residents and Colorado taxpayers.”

“The University of Denver is thrilled to partner with the Governor’s Office to help improve the lives of all who live and work in Colorado,” Chancellor Rebecca Chopp said. “By drawing on the intellectual capital of the Barton Institute and the University of Denver, this collaboration will allow us to change the world for the better.”