Brown University

Welcome to The Policy Lab

We’re at the center of Rhode Island’s
infrastructure for evidence-based policymaking.

Let’s learn together.

Why We’re Here

The Policy Lab brings together experts from government, universities, and community organizations to collaborate on research tailored to inform decisions about how to improve policies and programs across the state.

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How Can We Design So No One's Left Behind?

Ben Guhin Delphine, Head of Design

Rhode Island School of Design
20 Washington Place, Providence

Join Ben Guhin Delphine, Head of Design at The Policy Lab, for a conversation about the role of design in government, how to think about designing for all types of users, and what we can do as designers to create more inclusive and equitable products, services, and communities.

What Does Big Data Say About Social Mobility?

John Friedman, Co-Director, Opportunity Insights

A defining feature of the American Dream is upward income mobility — the ideal that children have equal opportunities to succeed in life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Join us for a conversation with The Policy Lab's John Friedman, who will discuss his research using large administrative datasets to uncover where opportunity lacks in America, and what policymakers and civic leaders can do about it to revive the American Dream for future generations.

Applied research can be remarkably difficult, as theories often fail to work in practice. We need scientists shoulder-to-shoulder with practitioners in those moments, co-designing fresh ideas and iteratively experimenting to optimize solutions. The Policy Lab is a place and group of people dedicated to this work. Think NASA or Bell Labs, but for public policy.
David Yokum, Director

Theory of Change

It is common nowadays to agree that policy should be evidence-based. But how to deliver on that rhetoric in practice is harder. We need not only the highest quality scientific methods, but also a pragmatic mindset geared toward designing learning agendas that can concretely inform decision-making within the bureaucratic and political trenches.

We look to improve policy outcomes through three interconnected areas:

Generating evidence to fill knowledge gaps

Integrating that evidence into planning, budget, procurement, and performance management processes

Building coalitions across government, universities, and community organizations to support evidence-based policy

While many approaches to this work focus on one or two areas at a time, building a culture of evidence-based policymaking requires us to pursue all three simultaneously. We need a substantial amount of stakeholder engagement throughout the entire research process — from carefully listening to and observing what questions most need answering, to helping partners troubleshoot any unanticipated implementation issues based on the generated answers.

The partnership is also a vehicle for increasing staff training and capacity by way of onsite trainings and courses, fellowships, speaker and event series, curating a statewide integrated data system, and other activities to foster a community of practice around the work.