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Learning from ARPA Investments


Through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), the federal government provided $3.8 billion to Colorado in support of pandemic-related recovery efforts across health, education, economic development, housing, and other public sectors. The Colorado Lab is supporting the state in identifying opportunities to learn from these investments. The goal is for evaluation processes and findings to inform and advance each agency’s immediate public benefit efforts and provide learnings to target future innovation and investments.
In meetings with agency and program leaders, the Colorado Lab is supporting creative thinking about evaluation strategies that meet short- and long-term agency needs as well as how to fund and execute those evaluations. A sampling of efforts we are partnering on includes:

  • Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing – Developing a Theory of Change for ARPA investments and aligning reporting for grant programs to that conceptual framework.
  • Colorado Workforce Development Council – Consulting on the development of an RFP for the Workforce Innovation Act Evaluation. Check out this opportunity with an application deadline of May 9—posted on VSS and Bidnet.
  • Colorado Department of Human Services – Designing a study that leverages cross-system data to inform strategies to identify and address disproportionality, equity, diversity, and inclusion in child welfare.
  • Colorado Department of Higher Education – Developing an evaluation framework for the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), a program that has grown from $6 million to $90 million in just eight years. COSI addresses the Colorado Paradox—the high proportion of adults with college degrees being due to credentialed people moving to Colorado rather than reflecting an educated homegrown workforce.

The evaluation and evidence-building activities for ARPA investments are aligned with the decision-making goals of the Governor’s Office and state agencies, as well as cross-agency collaboration. Emphasis is being placed on:

  • Maximizing actionability within and across projects;
    Building capacity within state government to sustain evaluation or performance management tracking beyond the ARPA investments; and
  • Ensuring the burden on direct service providers is minimized.

In addition to advancing the efforts and capabilities of state agencies, these coordinated, cross-sector evaluation and evidence-building activities offer Colorado the unique opportunity to test drive the utility of this type of service. We hope to learn more about the extent to which:

  • Facilitating trusted partnerships among the Governor’s Office, agency leadership, legislators, and independent researchers can advance collaborative, strategic decision-making guided by research;
  • Using rigorous evidence informs the sustainability, scaling, and expansion of services to maximize the public benefit; and
  • Providing guidance and support to tailor evidence-building activities supports innovation as well as proven practices.

The Colorado Lab is conducting this project in partnership with the Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting, with additional support provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
To learn more, please contact Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein.