Innovation in Action

Science-Based Innovation Training: Reimagining Program Development and Evaluation

A one-day training to help programs increase impact for children and families.

November 18, 2019 – 9 am-5 pm
Cambridge, MA
What we’re doing is great, but we can do better…

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Decades of research have shown it is possible to improve outcomes for children and families facing adversity. However, on average, the impacts of early childhood programs are modest, and they have not improved over time. So, how can we build better programs that achieve greater outcomes for more young children and families?

To answer this question, we created the IDEAS Impact FrameworkTM, a new approach to program development and evaluation.1 This framework enables us to go beyond simply asking whether a program works, on average, because the usual approaches to evaluation don’t tell us enough. What about the program works? How does it make a difference? Who benefits most?

That’s where the IDEAS Impact Framework comes in. It helps us understand the specifics of how a program works, for whom it works (and does not work), and in what contexts it works. It enables us to continually learn about and improve programs in order to make a bigger difference in the lives of children and families.

What will this training do for me?

Since 2016, the Science-Based Innovation Training has helped people in a variety of roles gain critical skills and knowledge. The training is ideal for anyone involved in the development, implementation, or evaluation of programs for children and families who is interested in learning how to go beyond the best of what the field has achieved so far. Past participants have come from a wide range of settings, including community-based organizations, non-profits, universities, philanthropic organizations, and policy/systems settings. Among other take-aways, participants have learned how to:

Group discussion at the Science-Based Innovation Training
  • improve the impact of their interventions,
  • understand the underlying mechanisms of an intervention by co-creating an evaluation plan with multiple stakeholders,
  • identify programs with the greatest potential to impact kids and families facing adversity,
  • redefine how they evaluate program effectiveness, and
  • orient their businesses around impact and reach.

What does the agenda include?

Two Science-Based Innovation Training participants discussing the materials
  • IDEAS Impact Framework Component #1: Theory of Change
    Successful and impactful programs have a Theory of Change, a practical tool that pinpoints why, how, and for whom an intervention works or doesn’t work. 
  • IDEAS Impact Framework Component #2: Program and Materials Development
    Programs should be grounded in science, made to be delivered in the real world, and continually improving to better meet the needs of those they serve. Developing high-quality materials to use in those programs is essential to achieving these goals.
  • IDEAS Impact Framework Component #3: Evaluation Plan
    To understand and measure your program’s impact, you need a feasible Evaluation Plan that will answer the questions raised in your Theory of Change.

In addition to these presentations, you’ll have opportunities to network with fellow training participants throughout the day.

How much does the training cost? What does the fee include?

Participants smiling with facilitators at the Science-Based Innovation Training

The training registration fee is $550 and includes:

  • All materials/handouts
  • Morning coffee and continental breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Refreshments

Participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging. See below for more information.

Have questions?
Contact developingchild_foi@harvard.edu.

Post-training opportunity
Attendees who complete the one-day Science-Based Innovation Training will have the opportunity to apply to participate in a future two-day, hands-on workshop that will help them apply the IDEAS Impact Framework to their particular program.

FAQ and Logistical Information



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The next training will take place on April 21, 2020. Please fill out the short form below and we’ll contact you with details about that upcoming training, including when registration opens.

Information on the Next Science-Based Innovation Training







1 The IDEAS Impact Framework is a joint initiative of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the University of Oregon Center for Translational Science, and the University of Washington College of Education.