Evidence-Based Budgeting

Tennessee is placing a greater focus on ensuring it invests in what works to best serve citizens across the state. Part of this effort, known as evidence-based budgeting, began in the spring of 2019 within the budget division of the Department of Finance and Administration. Current fiscal year budgeting forms, required from all executive agencies, use the Tennessee Evidence Framework and follow the principles of evidence-based budgeting.

The Tennessee Evidence Framework is designed to standardize the language that is used enterprise-wide to classify programs in Tennessee based on the level of available evidence supporting the program.

In this model, five evidence steps build from left to right. Every program has a logic model, or a theory of action, that guides its operation. Outputs are process measures, while outcomes communicate impact on participants or systems over time. The evaluation and causal evidence steps indicate that the program is supported by at least one rigorous evaluation. Various factors can prevent a program from being rigorously evaluated, so ultimately the expectation is that all Tennessee programs are at least measuring outcomes.

Tennessee Evidence Framework

In addition to the type of evidence that might be supporting a program, the impact of that program is also important. The symbols to the right are the possible program impact ratings, and which steps they might be associated with. For example, a program might be rigorously evaluated, but demonstrate a neutral impact on its participants. 

Tennessee Impact Ratings

Evidence-based budgeting facilitates the use of research and evidence to inform programmatic funding decisions in a way that improves outcomes for Tennessee citizens. Influenced by the Results First Initiative, Tennessee's evidence framework allows agencies to demonstrate the evidence of both proposed and existing programs during the program inventory process or the budgeting process.

OEI's Evidence-based Budgeting in Tennessee document provides additional information on budgeting, qualifying evaluations, and the evidence framework.

Evidence is a rigorous body of research that speaks to the efficacy of existing programs or proposed pilots in Tennessee. Tennessee’s evidence framework provides decision makers with a consistent language across all departments to know what programs work according to research.

Qualifying evaluations serve as evidence to allow us to answer the following questions:

  • Are Tennessee programs based on strong models in other states, promising theories of change, or something else?
  • Based on research, are the desired outcomes positive, negative, or neutral?
  • How do our existing programs compare to alternatives?
Qualifying Evaluations Pyramid

Qualifying evaluations are impact evaluations that use either a systematic review, randomized controlled trial (RCT) design, or quasi-experimental design (QED) to rigorously assess effectiveness of a program or service on desired outcomes. Both RCTs and QEDs use an evaluation design that includes a treatment and a treatment-as-usual group.

Systematic reviews: Researchers draw on multiple experimental studies to form conclusions and take into account the quality of included studies.

Randomized controlled trial (RCT): Researchers use random assignment to place individuals into treatment and control groups and compare group outcomes of interest. The difference in outcomes at the end of the study is attributed to the treatment offering.

Quasi-experimental design (QED): Researchers do not always control placement into treatment and control groups using random assignment. QEDs use statistical controls to try to create equivalent comparison groups.

We encourage the use of clearinghouses and clearinghouse databases to find this type of evidence. These tools conduct systematic reviews to evaluate programs and determine their impact. Here are a couple of our preferred resources:

  • The National Results First Clearinghouse compiles research from nine national, social services clearinghouses into one central location. 
  • The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) conducts non-partisan research to evaluate and study relevant policy questions. This research includes traditional evaluations and benefit-cost ratios to provide additional analysis on policies and programs in the social and human services.
  • For additional clearinghouse resources, email OEI.Questions@tn.gov

To download FY24 evidence-based budgeting forms and view general instructions, visit the budget instructions page. We have compiled the following resources to support agency budget teams in completing the FY24 forms:

The short videos below cover the Tennessee Evidence Framework the process of completing the FY24 evidence-based budgeting forms. Watch them in order or select the video most needed. 

With general budget questions, contact your agency's budget analyst. With questions about evidence and impact, contact us at OEI.Questions@tn.gov

Evidence-based Budgeting in Tennessee (2:22)

This clip provides an overview of fiscal policy objectives and evidence-based budgeting in Tennessee.

Evidence of Effectiveness (6:51)

This clip covers the last two steps of the framework—evaluation and causal evidence—and how to use a research clearinghouse.

Navigating the Forms (3:39)

This clip covers EBB form navigation and completion tips, including in-depth definitions and examples of programmatic vs. operational requests.

Tennessee Evidence Framework (4:19)

This clip covers the first three steps of the Tennessee Evidence Framework: logic model (if/then statement), outputs, and outcomes.

Outputs and Outcomes (2:58)

This clip contrasts outputs and outcomes, providing examples of each and tips on where to find them for use in evidence-based budgeting forms.