Implementing the Evidence Act – What’s Next?

On January 14, 2019, Congress passed the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018,” also known as the “Evidence Act.” The Evidence Act a...

On January 14, 2019, Congress passed the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018,” also known as the “Evidence Act.”

The Evidence Act and the accompanying guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget ambitiously aims to transform federal decision making by introducing unprecedented requirements for transparency and releasability of federal data.

But five years into the journey, many agencies are only just beginning to implement many of the key provisions.

For many of the 24 agencies subject to the act’s provisions, the human capital, technological and modernization investments needed to make the law actionable have been largely unfunded or underfunded.

So now what? How can agencies comply with the intent of the law despite imperfect conditions and incomplete guidance?

Here’s a look at what’s next five years into implementation of the Evidence Act.

Set the timeline

Implementing the Evidence Act will be a multi-year and likely multi-decade initiative for most agencies. Full implementation requires massive organizational changes that include investments in human capital (hiring, training and retaining a skilled workforce) and technology. The prospect of engaging in such a large effort can be overwhelming and polarizing in federal agencies. Therefore, it may be necessary to embark upon a phased approach with right-sized goals and shorter timelines to ensure there is continuous delivery of important wins along the way.

Tell the story

Each goal along the timeline should be linked to a key stakeholder’s priorities or pain point for maximum impact. Those wishing to groundswell intra-agency support for resources to implement the Evidence Act should become master storytellers and target their stories to stakeholders directly impacted by the scope of the law.

For example, Title II of the Evidence Act, also called the OPEN Government Data Act, requires agencies to release all data assets that would otherwise be made available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to be publicly disclosed in machine-readable formats. This requirement could place a large burden on the FOIA/Disclosure office or the requirement could lessen the normal workload.

On average, the federal government processed over 750,000 FOIA requests each year of the last decade. Each request, on average, took over 210 hours to process, with this number climbing to its highest in 2019 at 314 hours or roughly 15% of a normal work year.

If FOIA is a time-consuming and costly process in an agency, a curious leader may be seeking a way to streamline. This is the type of stakeholder with a pain point that implementation of the Evidence Act can help year over year.

Find a champion

Although the Evidence Act is certainly data-driven, the reality is that people are at the heart of its implementation. To successfully implement the Act, it is essential to understand the stakeholders that can influence or impact implementation efforts — and to find one or more champions.


A common approach to locate champions is to first make an interest-influence chart. Start by listing stakeholder groups. Beginning with the largest suborganization levels (offices, divisions or directorates, etc.) list key individual stakeholders and move down through the levels of the organization. Then, if enough information is known about each of the stakeholders, map their influence-interest.


Champions will reside in the high influence, high interest quadrant. They may not be experts in the Evidence Act, but they may know enough about their pain point to help implementers design use cases and compelling stories.



Embarking upon implementation is a major change management effort. The Evidence Act offers a great opportunity to support federal agencies as they select tools, technologies and staff to support their compliance and unleash the power of their data.

But this is both complex and challenging involving process, people and technology. Organizations should understand where they are, what they need, how implementation will be delivered, and the impact this will have internally and externally.

Carmen Robinson is a senior principal consultant at ABSG Consulting Inc. (“ABS Consulting”), Global Government Sector.

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