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Essential Elements: Bridge to the Research Community

An eight-petal flower graphic depicting the Colorado Lab's eight essential elements

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

This post is part of our special blog series to mark the fifth anniversary of the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab. In each post, we highlight elements that are essential to our work with a broad range of government and community partners. The effectiveness of the work we undertake together is key to advancing systems and policies that strengthen opportunities to meaningfully improve the lives of Coloradans.

Our essential element, Bridge to the Research Community, articulates how we collaborate with research and evaluation partners across Colorado. We believe that mutually beneficial partnerships within the research community are vital to developing proactive, cross-system solutions that meet the priorities of government and community partners.

In this essential element, we take a growth mindset and prioritize capacity-building within the research community. Our governmental partners—and the communities they serve—have a wide array of needs and decision-making goals. We build capacity to meet these diverse needs by harnessing a broad base of subject matter and methods expertise through our network of highly-qualified researchers and evaluators. To join this network, researchers submit through our Call for External Research Partners. This ongoing, open call allows evaluators to self-identify their subject matter strengths and the types of research they are well-positioned to support.

As opportunities arise, we activate external partners to connect governmental partners with the right evaluators, at the right time, for the right project. This looks differently depending on the project needs and strengths of the external research partner. As the examples below show, an external research partner may serve as a consultant, the lead researcher on a project, co-lead on a collaborative initiative with the Colorado Lab team, or as an evaluation team under one of the Coordinating Hubs. Across these roles, the external research partner and the Lab share a commitment to learning together and building the capacity of the research community. This approach enhances decision-makers’ access to a reliable, consistent, and highly skilled evaluation workforce ready to help unlock data-informed solutions that improve the lives of Coloradans.

Serving as a Consultant

Project: Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) Consultation Program

  • Agency Partner: Colorado Department of Early Childhood
  • External Partner: Dr. Meg Franko, ECE Insights
  • Key Contributions: Meg is supporting evidence-building for ECMH by identifying tools to measure the consultation process, analyzing those data to inform implementation, and making recommendations for ongoing fidelity monitoring and training.

Lead Researcher on a Project

  • Project: Family Support through Primary Prevention (FSPP)
  • Agency Partner: Colorado Department of Early Childhood, with funding from the Administration for Children and Families
  • External Partner: Dr. Sara Bayless and her team at OMNI Institute
  • Key Contributions: Dr. Bayless and her team at OMNI are leading day-to-day execution of evaluation activities for FSPP, as the Lab supports big picture strategy for evidence-building of FSPP primary prevention strategies and activating evaluation findings.

Co-Lead a Collaborative Initiative

  • Project: Perinatal Substance Use Coordinated Care and Support Pilot: Plan of Safe Care (POSC)
  • Agency Partner: Colorado Department of Human Services
  • External Partners: Jade Woodard, Illuminate Colorado; Dr. Kathi Wells, Kempe Center; Dr. Alena Clark, Colorado State University
  • Key Contributions: Jade Woodard and her team at Illuminate Colorado, alongside Dr. Wells and her team at the Kempe Center, are co-leading with the Colorado Lab an initiative to develop, pilot, and build evidence on a data-informed strategic framework for coordinated POSC service delivery and tracking in Colorado for families impacted by perinatal substance use. Dr. Alena Clark of Colorado State University is serving as the external project director to coordinate the three collaborative teams and align activities.

Evaluation Team within a Coordinating Hub

  • Project: Implementing Rigorous Evaluation Requirements for Family First
  • Agency Partner: Colorado Department of Human Services
  • External Partner: Dr. Lanae Davis and Anne Byrne, Center for Policy Research (CPR)
  • Key Contributions: CPR is serving as the research team to build evidence for Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a service prioritized for evidence-building within the Family First coordinating hub with high potential for driving outcomes for children and youth.

Next up in our blog series we move from Relationships—our first three Essential Elements—to begin looking at Systems. The Colorado Lab applies systems-thinking at every step of building evidence so that issues and solutions move beyond silos to collective impact. First, we’ll delve into making connections across players in different systems to find alignment in opportunity.

An eight-petal flower graphic depicting the Colorado Lab's eight essential elements

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!