In these times of ever shrinking resources, it is important for organizations to offer targeted and cost-effective services. Organizations that apply for grant funding are increasingly being asked to use Evidence Based Practices (EBPs) in their programs when applying for funding. Funders like Evidence Based Practices (EBPs) because they increase the chances that the programs they pay for will get positive results. Alan Brown in his article Determining What Works (and What Doesn’t) in the Public Sector (International
Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.145-148) states “In an era of increasingly tight fiscal budgets, public sector policymakers need more objective and impartial means of reviewing publicly funded programs to determine if the greatest value is being provided for the taxpayer’s dollars. No longer can these policymakers assume that programs are effective simply because the program’s supporters assert that they are effective.”
Although EBPs has become a buzz word in the last few years, there is still a great deal of confusion about what Evidence Base Practices (EBPs) exactly means and the difference with Best Practices. Evidence Base Practices (EBPs) are programs that have been shown effective by scientifically rigorous evaluations and they should not be confused with Best Practice programs that lack the independent evaluations that validate their assessment of effectiveness. Best Practice programs are generally accepted, informally-standardized techniques, methods or processes that have proven themselves overtime however they lack the evaluation process. For instance, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) admits that the vast majority of prevention, intervention and treatment as well as supervisory programs related to drug abuse, juvenile delinquency and adult crime have not been rigorously evaluated. This is true for most programs regarded as best practices. Therefore, DOJ just like other federal agencies are moving towards the implementation of EBPs.
For a program to be called an Evidence Based Practice the program must meet the following criteria (http:www.state.sc.us/dmh/best_practices/definitions.htm):
- It has been studied using appropriate scientific methodology;
- It has been replicated in more than one geographic or practice setting, with consistent results;
- It has been recognized in scientific journals by one or more published articles;
- There is an implementation manual to follow; and
- It produces specific outcomes
Evidence Based Practices used to be commonly associated with medical research however it has increasingly being seen mentioned in other disciplines such as juvenile justice, education and social service programs. Well known organizations that now promote the use of EBP include: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), SAMHSA’s National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices (NREPP) and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). SAMHSA for instance lists “Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)” as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of mental illness. ACT is a service-delivery model that provides comprehensive, locally based treatment to people with serious and persistent mental illnesses. The model differs from other programs because recipients receive multidisciplinary, round-the-clock staffing of a psychiatric unit, within the comfort of their own home and community (http://www.actassociation.org/actModel/).
As an organization applying for a particular program you need to pay close attention to the Request for Proposal (RFP) to see if the funding agency is asking for Evidence Based Practices in the program. An RFP will usually list links to Evidence Based Practices for the particular program. If you are developing a brand new program for your agency the list provided will assist you with choosing the best program that fits your target audience and ties in with current programs you might already be working on. If you already have a program in place and you want to apply for funds to expand or enhance your programming, you should choose an EBP that best compliments your current activities.
As a professional grant writing firm organizations often tell us that they are currently applying best practices. However, in order to make your programming an evidence based practice you would need to conduct a rigorous evaluation of the program within your organization, and be able to replicate the results in another organization. Remember that for your program to be considered EBP it must meet the criteria listed before. The links bellow are just some examples of available resources to identifying EBPs that might work in your organization.
Evidence-Based Programs Websites
OJJDP Model Programs Guide: http://www.dsonline.com/mpg2.5/mpg_index.htm
Promising Practices Network: http://www.promisingpractices.net/
Guide to Community Prevention Services: http://www.thecommunityguide.org/
Social Programs that Work: http://www.evidencebasedprograms.org/
National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices: http://modelprograms.samhsa.gov/
Local communities seeking funding are finding that they must invest in and implement proven programs to be successful. This means either implementing programs that have already been labeled evidence-based through a national process or going through the process of evaluation to prove your current program is evidence-based. Since the latter can be costly my best advice is to choose a program that has already been labeled evidence-based. Remember to do your homework early so that when an RFP is released asking for an EBP, you have already identified one that will work for your target audience and organization.