Lauren Akers

Lauren Akers

Senior Researcher
Expertise
  • Formative evaluation
  • Learn, Innovate, Improve (LI2) framework
  • Human-centered design
  • Learning-centered meeting design and facilitation
Focus Areas
  • Human Services
  • Early Childhood
About Lauren

Lauren Akers’ work focuses on early childhood programs and policies, particularly iterative design and formative evaluation of interventions tailored to community needs. Akers has a deep interest in human-centered design and facilitation, and believes we can best promote equity by elevating the voices of the people served by a program. Across her projects, Akers is known for her skills as a facilitator, ably navigating webs of competing perspective and priority across stakeholder groups (such as federal staff, experts, and practitioners).

Currently, Akers directs Mathematica’s work as a learning partner to the Parent Innovation Institute (PII) in Philadelphia, which is implemented by the Start Early’s Early Learning Lab and funded by the William Penn Foundation. PII uses human-centered design to involve staff and parents in co-designing and iteratively testing approaches to family engagement that incorporate the lived experiences of the individuals who are directly involved with providing and participating in the services and activities. As learning partner, Mathematica is conducting both a formative evaluation of the PII and capacity building activities with early childhood literacy organizations participating in the PII. Akers also serves as principal investigator for the Evaluation and Technical Assistance of Early Childhood Workforce Innovation Grants, where she guides work to support Early Milestones Colorado and its local grantees as part of the Transforming the Early Childhood Workforce in Colorado Initiative. The team provides technical assistance and evaluation services to lead the grantees through iterative testing and improvement using the Learn, Innovate, Improve framework. The team also monitors and evaluates grantee progress toward achieving goals related to the recruitment and retention of a qualified early childhood workforce while building their capacity to collect and use data. In her work on the Child Care Research and Evaluation Capacity Building Center, Akers provides intensive capacity-building support to selected Child Care and Development Fund lead agencies on conducting, understanding, consuming, and using research and evaluation for decision making. Over more than a decade, Akers has developed a deep knowledge of early childhood home visiting models during her tenures as both acting project director and deputy project director of the Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness (HomVEE) review, for which she now leads efforts to determine how to define and assess versions of the models (such as adaptations and supplements).

Akers believes that ensuring access to a rich early childhood experience is in the best interests of individual children and society at large. She hopes her work inspires society at large to value early childhood programming and caregiving. Akers serves as a reviewer for the Early Childhood Research Quarterly. She holds a master of public policy degree from Duke University and a bachelor of arts degree from Davidson College.

Key Projects
  • Agape index image
    Support for Agape Child & Family Services’ 2Gen Program

    Mathematica has partnered with Agape to help document 2Gen’s implementation and the experiences of its families. For another effort, Mathematica is using rapid-cycle learning and race, equity, and inclusion principles to strengthen two 2Gen programs within the context of COVID-19 and beyond the pandemic.

  • How Effective Is Home Visiting?

    The Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness project is a thorough and transparent review of the home visiting research literature and an assessment of the evidence of effectiveness for home visiting models that serve families with pregnant women and children from birth to age 5.

  • Head Start Family Voices Pilot Study

    Head Start and Early Head Start aim to increase the school readiness of young children in low-income families. To better understand the experiences of participating families and staff, Mathematica developed interviews to collect qualitative data from these individuals.

  • Universal Preschool Child Outcomes Study (UPCOS)

    The Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) was created to increase the number of preschool slots available in the most underserved Los Angeles' communities. Since 2007, Mathematica has conducted this study to provide descriptive information about the diverse population LAUP serves.