Project AWESOME: Advancing Welfare and Family Self-Sufficiency Research
After federal welfare reform in the mid-1990s, state-generated research and evaluation declined significantly, as did local capacity for using and producing rigorous evidence. At the same time, new research approaches and enhanced data accessibility have created a unique opportunity to advance the field of family self-sufficiency and stability research.
The Advancing Welfare and Family Self-Sufficiency Research Project (“Project AWESOME”) is a multi-year effort sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. During the first phase of the project (2012–2016), Mathematica partnered with more than a dozen human service agencies across the country to embed evaluation and learning into decisions about policy and practice. We developed a number of resources and tools to help programs become better users and producers of high-quality research, including the following:
- Advancing Evidence-Based Decision Making: A Toolkit on Recognizing and Conducting Opportunistic Experiments in the Self-Sufficiency and Stability Policy Area
- Learning What Works: A Guide to Opportunistic Experiments for Human Services Agencies
- Resources for Connecting TANF Recipients and Other Low-Income Families to Good Jobs
- Promising Occupations Achievable through Short-Term Education or Training for Low-Income Families (interactive map)
- Using Data to Connect TANF Clients to Good Jobs: An Opportunity to Foster WIOA Partnerships
- Using a "Road Test" to Improve Human Services Programs
- The Learn Phase: Creating Sustainable Change in Human Services Programs
- The Innovate Phase: Co-Creating Evidence-Informed Solutions to Improve Human Services Programs
As part of the Family Self-Sufficiency and Stability Research Consortium, Project AWESOME has contributed to path-breaking research on the interplay between social safety net programs and income instability of vulnerable families, offering recommendations for policymakers and practitioners. More of the consortium’s work was highlighted in a 2015 “year in review” brief.
ACF launched a second phase of Project AWESOME, extending Mathematica’s work through 2018. Over the next two years, we will continue efforts to engage practitioners in meaningful research partnerships, support the work of the research consortium, and assist ACF in disseminating its research portfolio and other resources.