EBDM Starter Kit

2a: Engaging and Readying Staff for Change

Navigating the Roadmap

Activity 2: Build individual agencies that are collaborative and in a state of readiness for change.


For evidence-based decision making to achieve its optimum effect, it must occur consistently within individual agencies and across the criminal justice system. That is, the reliance on evidence to inform decision making should occur at the system level (the work the collaborative policy team is undertaking), at the agency level, and at the case level. This agency and case level “alignment” requires a specific focus on the individual agencies and the professionals within them. In the case of many agencies, it will likely involve

  • reevaluating the agency’s mission, goals, and values to determine the degree to which they align with and support the policy team’s systemwide vision;
  • reconsidering agency policy and practice in light of evidence-based knowledge;
  • retooling organizational culture, structure, and agency policy and practice where needed; and
  • providing new knowledge and skills for staff.

Staff engagement will be critical to making these efforts possible.


To provide opportunities for professionals across the criminal justice system to become actively engaged in the process of building a criminal justice system that employs evidence-based decision making


All policy team members should be involved in engaging their agency’s staff in this work. How the work is conducted in each agency may vary, depending upon the size, structure and culture of the organization, as well as the extent to which evidence-based decision making has already been incorporated.


  • Devote a policy team meeting to the topic of engaging and readying staff for change. Review, and then consider, the relative merits of the strategies offered in the “Tips” section of this document. Keep in mind that some ideas will have merit across all agencies, some will make sense for only one or a few agencies, and some will not serve any agencies well.
  • As a team, generate a list of additional strategies for engaging and readying staff for change. Assess the merits of these additional ideas. For each strategy that has merit, develop an action plan that considers the involvement of
    • all agencies (those strategies that can be employed on a systemwide basis);
    • a cluster of agencies; or
    • single agencies.

    Consider establishing work groups that draw upon the talents of agency staff to carry out these action plans. This both expands the capacity of the policy team to accomplish work and builds agency staff engagement.

  • Be sure that action plans include methods to monitor progress and assess the impact of the action plan. For instance, action plans might include routine report-backs to the policy team on activities and results. Action plans might also include objective measures to assess change over time. For instance, a simple ten-question survey administered to all agency staff at the beginning of the effort is an efficient way to capture baseline information. Repeating the survey at a later point in time will provide information about the effectiveness of the strategies adopted. The survey can be found in the Appendix. Alternatively, use the survey as a set of prompting discussion questions at an informal, “brown bag” lunch session.


Outreach Efforts

In Mesa County, Colorado, the policy team chair developed a standard presentation on EBDM and the policy team’s work, which she gave at “brown bag lunches” in different agencies to begin to build more interest in the Initiative.

The following are some possible strategies for engaging staff and readying them for potential changes that will result from involvement in the EBDM initiative:

  • Establish a county-wide web page to share information. Possible content includes information about the national EBDM initiative, the county’s involvement in the initiative (e.g., team members, action plan), and research findings.
  • Create a newsletter (electronic or paper) to share the kind of information described above.
  • Create research briefs that highlight specific empirical findings and their relevance to the county’s justice system.
  • Convene cross-disciplinary briefings to increase agencies’ knowledge about mission, roles, responsibilities, and activities to enhance understanding and foster new or improved working relationships.
  • Convene brown bag lunches within or across agencies to build stronger working alliances—particularly interdisciplinary alliances.
  • Circulate research articles and seek reaction and input from staff about their findings, the extent to which local policies and practices reflect these findings, and/or ideas about how to advance current practice using these research findings.
  • Administer surveys to staff to gauge their level of knowledge about particular matters and/or to seek their ideas, involvement, and input.
  • Meaningfully engage mid-level supervisors by asking them to lead certain portions of the agency’s EBDM efforts (e.g., convene a meeting of staff to examine the agency’s current mission statement and evaluate the extent to which it is consistent with the policy team’s vision for the local justice system; recommend modifications to the mission statement as appropriate; identify specific ways the agency’s work supports the systemwide vision; engage supervisors in the policy and practice analysis process; engage supervisors in the process of assessing line staff knowledge and skills around the core competencies of correctional practice).
  • Convene ad hoc work groups (within or across agencies; of mixed or same level of authority) to take on specific pieces of work in support of the policy team’s action plan.
  • Conduct briefings at staff meetings to share and dialogue about research findings, the EBDM initiative, and/or case study materials from colleague communities that have had success in risk and harm reduction efforts.
  • Hold brainstorming or focus group sessions to explore discreet ideas or problems (e.g., Which harm reduction measures should our community strive for? How might community members be more substantively educated about matters related to the justice system? How might certain kinds of information be shared with other system actors more effectively in the future?).
  • Prepare communications materials (e.g., vision statements, statement of values, research findings, etc.) and post visibly in agency lobbies, meeting rooms, and staff offices. Create a local “identity” related to the EBDM work.


Ramsey County, Minnesota, EBDM Awareness Event

Charlottesville-Albemarle County, Virginia, Staff Engagement Strategy


Sample Survey on Staff Knowledge of and Interest in the EBDM Initiative

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