The GiveWell Blog

Invest in Kids

As part of our research into United States causes, we’ve been looking at Invest in Kids, an organization focused on implementing evidence-based programs in Colorado, and we recently had the chance to speak with Lisa Merlino, Invest in Kids’ Executive Director (edited transcript of our conversation (DOC)).

While our research is still in progress, we want to highlight some of things we really like about Invest in Kids:

  • Founding story. Invest in Kids was started in the late-90s by a group of mostly lawyers in Colorado who wanted to start an organization to help children in need. They considered their options and spoke with experts to identify programs with strong track records. Ultimately, they were convinced by the Nurse-Family Partnership’s strong evidence of effectiveness and decided to start an organization focused on implementing the evidence-based program. At that time, David Olds, NFP’s founder, was conducting the 3rd randomized-controlled trial of NFP’s model, and the NFP National Service Office (the NFP charity that GiveWell recommends) did not yet exist.
  • Ongoing program selection. After implementing NFP, Invest in Kids began looking for other evidence-based programs to implement. In 2003, they settled on the Incredible Years, another program that has been subject to rigorous evaluation. More recently, they participated in a clinical trial of the Good Behavior Game. According to Ms. Merlino, “This research trial was completed and although changes in child behavior trended in a positive direction, the preliminary data shows outcomes were not statistically significant for the children who received the intervention. Therefore, Invest in Kids has decided not to replicate the program at this time. However, anecdotally we heard powerful stories of improvement in teachers and children so we remain hopeful about the positive outcomes that may be seen from this intervention. We continue to await additional results from this and other trials around the country.”
  • Monitoring and evaluation. Ms. Merlino told us that they have ongoing monitoring of the programs they implement to assess whether the outcomes their programs achieve are in line with their expectations based on the research. Note that IIK has sent us these reports, but we haven’t yet had a chance to review them.

While our analysis of Invest in Kids is ongoing, we’re excited about them. Their general approach of looking to scale up what works should, in our view, serve as a model for other non-profit organizations. We’re looking forward to learning more about them over the next few months.


  • Barbara Bronson on August 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm said:

    Invest in Kids is an excellent example of what advocating for children should look like. Colorado is fortunate to have such a great organization.

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