Policy is a powerful way to bring about social change. Policy experimentation is about testing the effects of policy interventions in a real-world setting, before a new policy is adopted. It represents a low-risk way of facilitating institutional innovation. Thanks to policy experimentation, large-scale policy implementations only go forward if a smaller-scale implementation at the policy experimentation level convinces the involved stakeholders of the evidence-based benefits of the intervention. Scientific progress over the centuries has been driven by experimentation, eventually leading to the right answers. Policy-makers can rely on policy experimentation for optimal results. Although the concepts are often considered as synonyms, policy experimentation is quite different from policy innovation. The difference is all about methodology.
On one side, policy experimentation aims to measure the impact of new and innovative policy before its widespread implementation, using Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) and other tools to determine the effects of a specific policy. On the other side, policy innovation does not include that previous impact measurement – it is mainly about implementing new policy for tackling known social challenges, without prior evidence of its effects. At PEEP, we acknowledge that both approaches have merits, although we believe policy experimentation delivers more reliable information for policymakers and, through an evidence-based policy making process, provides better solutions for society’s challenges.
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Youth Start Entrepreneurial Challenges
In this policy experimentation project, PEEP tests the effects of an extensive and an intensive version of Youth Start – Entrepreneurial Challenges at 89 secondary schools and 31 primary schools in four countries. In order to assess the effectiveness of the Youth Start Program, randomized controlled trial methodology was applied, utilizing a quasi-experimental protocol with an ex-ante, ex-post approach in three stages.
Finland Basic Income Experiment
is conducting a social experiment to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum of €560. The income will replace the existing social benefits these citizens were receiving and will continue to be paid even if they find work. This is a two-year nationwide pilot scheme, which began on 1 January 2017, and includes 2000 unemployed Finns, from all backgrounds, aged 25 to 58. Video credits: Prosocial Progress Foundation
Ontario Income Experiment
Canadian province of Ontario is launching (Summer 2017) an experiment to assess whether receiving monthly payments can provide stability and positive changes to about 4000 low-income participants. This pilot will run for three years. Video credits: The National.
“Becoming a Man”: Using therapy to address violence among teens
“Becoming a Man” program in Chicago (USA) offers youth weekly group sessions during the school day and uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help youth slow down in high-stakes situations. In two randomized controlled trials, the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that the program cuts violent crime arrests among youth in half and boosts the high school graduation rates of participants by nearly 20 percent.
RCT’s: how does it work?
A randomized controlled trial is a type of scientific experiment which aims to reduce bias when testing a new treatment/policy. It is RCT is often considered the gold standard for measuring effects of a specific treatment/policy. Video credits: UNICEF Innocenti
Policy Innovation (not experimentation)
Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs
Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001.
From that point on, possession and use of small drug quantities became a public health issue, not a criminal one.
This meant that although drugs were still illegal, getting caught with them no longer meant jail time and a criminal record, but only a small fine and a referral to a treatment program. The results were very positive: Portugal is actually one of the European countries with less deaths per million citizens due to drug overdose. Video credits: The Economist