Data-Driven Performance Management

Government too often assumes that responsibility for achieving outcomes is handed off to providers once a service is contracted out. To achieve effective delivery of social services, government must maintain its share of responsibility for results during the period of service delivery and be an active participant in refining systems to improve client outcomes. Active contract management (ACM) is a set of strategies developed by the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL) in partnership with government clients that apply high-frequency use of data and purposeful management of agency service provider interactions to improve outcomes from contracted services.

For a more detailed overview of this approach, see our publication: Active Contract Management: How Governments Can Collaborate More Effectively with Social Service Providers to Achieve Better Results. For guidance on implementation, check out our guide: Six Tools for Implementing Active Contract Management. To see how these strategies are being used on-the-ground, watch this short video on how Rhode Island is using active contract management to connect job seekers to employment: 

Read more in the examples below about how these strategies have been adopted by agencies responsible for child welfare, workforce development, prisoner re-entry, developmental disabilities, and addiction treatment to improve service delivery.

Arizona Child Welfare Performance Improvement

Developing a performance-based contracting strategy for delivery of critical services to ensure children are placed in the most appropriate setting and are provided the most effective services

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Illinois Wraparound Services for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth

In Illinois, approximately 700 youth per year become simultaneously involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. These dually-involved youth experience very poor outcomes; on average 1,300 arrests per year and 230,000 days spent in congregate care. With pro-bono technical assistance from the GPL, the state tested a new model for supporting families involved with multiple agencies and has re-engineered data systems to improve performance management and referral processes. It now takes the state child welfare agency less than three days to identify a dually-involved youth,...

Read more about Illinois Wraparound Services for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth

Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families Performance Improvement

The GPL worked with DCYF on strategic planning to assess service needs and design an approach for improving services for children and families, executing a results-driven procurement for a new set of service contracts, strengthening their contract and provider performance management practices, and designing a strategic procurement management system to improve the results of contracted spending throughout the agency.

Rhode Island TANF Work Supports

Improving workforce participation and employment outcomes for TANF employment programs through more integrated service array and active contract management

Rhode Island Workforce Development

To address a skills gap among the workforce, the State of Rhode Island rolled out a $14 million workforce development program called Real Jobs Rhode Island to help ensure that demand for talented workers was met across growing industries. The GPL helped Rhode Island's Department of Labor and Training develop a rigorous strategy for data collection and performance management of its new job programs, streamline intake procedures by eliminating burdensome application processes, and pilot collaborative, high-frequency meetings with program...

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Saint Paul, MN Street Construction

As part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative, the GPL provided pro bono technical assistance to help Saint Paul expand the pool of vendors that bid on street reconstruction contracts and improve vendor management during construction.

The City of Saint Paul faced several key challenges with their street reconstruction contracts. Vendor competition was low, and projects ran past agreed-upon budgets and timelines. With pro bono technical assistance from the GPL, the city conducted a vendor survey and implemented pre-bid meetings to...

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Seattle, WA Homeless Service Contracts

Although the number of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle has risen over the past few years in part due to structural factors such as housing affordability and inadequate mental healthcare, the city’s increased spending on homeless services has had a limited impact on the problem. The city of Seattle held a conglomeration of contracts with service providers, but it renewed almost any contract that complied with requirements and rarely evaluated the effectiveness of the services themselves. The GPL worked with Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) to...

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Chicago, IL Homelessness Services Performance Improvement


Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) has been working to improve performance outcomes achieved by the shelter system, including addressing low exit rates into permanent housing, long lengths of homelessness, and a rising unsheltered population. To assist these efforts, the GPL:

  1. Assessed the current shelter system through site visits and analysis of historical performance data, and
  2. Executed $19 million in results-driven RFPs for the...
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North Carolina Performance Improvement in Workforce Development

Strengthening services provided at local career centers through actively managing service delivery, and jobseeker and employer needs, with regular review of case management data and wage and employment outcomes

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Rhode Island Department of Health Family Home Visiting Performance Improvement

Refining population targeting, family engagement, and service delivery of family home visiting programs through reprocurement and data-driven contract management practices

Read more about Rhode Island Department of Health Family Home Visiting Performance Improvement