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Colorado Lab Celebrates 5-Year Milestone


Colorado Lab Celebrates 5-Year Milestone

Celebrating the Fifth Anniversary of the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab!

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab! As this milestone approached, we reflected on the “essential elements” that make our work most effective. We’ll be sharing insights about these key elements throughout the year in a series of blog posts. We hope you’ll follow along, asking questions, sharing feedback, and offering ideas in the spirit of working together to make Colorado’s policy lab a valuable resource for the people of our state well into the future.

Policy Lab Comes to Colorado

The creation and launch of the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab in 2017 positioned Colorado at the forefront of a growing movement to implement an evidence-based approach to governing.

Policy labs are typically positioned in universities to supply governmental partners with relevant and timely research evidence to make smart decisions. They can take different forms and may be focused on a small numberor broader range of issues. There are several policy labs across the country, including in California, Chicago, Georgia, Michigan, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

“The lab is the first program of its kind in Colorado. 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.”

Former Governor John Hickenlooper

The Colorado Lab is non-partisan and housed at the University of Denver. We work with partners across branches of government to build two-way relationships that center decision-making needs and goals. To remain responsive to pressing priorities and opportunities, we do not limit ourselves to specific issue areas. We apply systems thinking to all projects, making connections across sectors and developing sustainable solutions.

Essential Elements to Improving the Lives of Coloradans

In reflecting on our work—whether partnering with rural and urban school districts, charter schools and a Native American Tribal community on COVID-19 recovery efforts; a collection of District Attorneys’ offices to track their progress toward greater fairness through data; or across multiple state agencies to prevent substance use and improve family health—we find the elements that matter most are much the same.

First, and always first, it’s about relationships. As executive director Kristin Klopfenstein said in an interview at the Colorado Lab’s 1-year mark, “The three most important lessons we’ve learned are ‘Listen, listen, and listen.’ It is essential to come to our government partners with an open and humble attitude, meeting them where they are, supporting them in articulating their pain points, and working with them to address their concerns in a spirit of collaboration.”

Within a collaborative partnership, we work to leverage data to inform policy and practice, set the wheels in motion to achieve and sustain change, and position our partners to achieve and sustain meaningful outcomes for the communities they serve.


In our next blog post, we’ll delve more deeply into the essential elements of relationships—how we work to be a trusted partner, why coming to each project as a learner is critical to our work, and the Colorado Lab’s unique role in fostering connections and growth within Colorado’s research and evaluation community.

Please tell us if there is an essential element that stands out to you based on the work we’ve done together. Do you have a story to share? Is there something about the Colorado Lab that you would like to learn more about? What are your hopes for the future of Colorado’s policy lab? We would love to hear from you; a celebration is more fun when it’s shared with those we’re making this journey with!

Email us at admin@coloradolab.org.