Our mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable individuals, children, and families by building knowledge and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of public policy and programs. MEF Associates was founded by Mike Fishman and Mary Farrell in 2009. Our staff members are experts in a wide array of social policy areas and have performed work for federal, state, and private clients.



On January 15th-16th, 2019, MEF facilitated OPRE’s Next Steps for Employment and Training Research Roundtable, in partnership with MDRC. Over the two-day, highly interactive convening, Mike Fishman and federal staff moderated panels on the changing nature of work, sectoral training strategies, and public-private sector coordination to encourage participants—including researchers, employers, practitioners, and federal staff—to identify existing gaps in knowledge that can inform the future of employment training research for low-income populations. Coming soon, MEF and MDRC plan to develop white papers exploring the research and evaluation topics raised during the roundtable to inform further work in the field.

Recent findings show that the RecycleForce program —which provided subsidized jobs and wrap-around services at a recycling plant to formerly incarcerated men and women— increased individuals’ employment and earnings and reduced recidivism. But at what cost? Kim Foley, Mary Farrell, and Riley Webster estimated the costs of the program relative to benefits to society and found that, for every dollar invested, $1.20 was generated. Read the newly released brief to learn more.

The 1998 Child Support Performance and Incentive Act dramatically restructured the child support performance incentive system. The legislation aimed to better align the incentive system to the child support program’s mission to promote responsible parenting, family self-sufficiency, and child wellbeing. A new brief authored by Val Benson and Riley Webster describes how states have made strides across performance measures, though variation in state performance persists.

MEF’s new literature review identifies aspects of an agency’s organizational culture that can facilitate positive agency, staff, and client experiences. These include designing client-centered office environments to promote comfort and transparency and fostering staff innovation at all levels by decentralizing decision making, among others outlined in the brief. The review also summarizes strategies human services offices have taken to successfully change their organizational culture. MEF will explore six “exemplar” sites whose practices align with these strategies in future fieldwork as part of the Understanding Poverty (UP): Childhood and Family Experiences and TANF Office Culture project, funded by OPRE.

In our new in-house podcast, MEF interviews four child support experts about ways research can inform better child support policy, what they see as the Child Support Research Agenda’s most pressing new areas for research in the coming years, and why this matters to the 20+ million children the program serves. Hosted by Justin Germain and produced by Angie Gaffney.

Asaph Glosser co-authored an Implementation and Early Impact Report from the first randomized controlled trial of I-BEST, Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program. The study found that the I-BEST program increased college enrollment and had positive effects on credit and credential attainment in the three colleges evaluated. I-BEST is one of nine career pathways programs evaluated as part of the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families.

Asaph Glosser co-authored a new report that profiles eight programs serving American Indians and Alaska Natives as part of the Subsidized Transitional Employment Demonstration and Evaluation Project project.

The Child Support Research Agenda serves as a roadmap and call-to-action for researchers and the child support community as a whole. It highlights eight pressing issues facing the child support field plus examples of research that could inform policy and program operations over the next ten years. MEF developed this research agenda as part of the project, Building the Next Generation of Child Support Policy Research.

Mary Farrell estimated the cost of the Young Adult Internship Program, a subsidized employment program for young people in New York City who have become disconnected from school and work. Results are included in the final report, which also presents findings from the 30-month impact analysis, conducted by MDRC.

Angela GaffneyLiza Rodler, and Justin Germain facilitated an interactive, two-day workshop for staff at the Kansas Department for Children and Families in Wichita. The workshop focused on using insights from behavioral economics and human-centered design to increase program participant engagement. Attendees practiced the behavioral diagnosis and design process and developed prototypes of behaviorally informed tools they could use in their day-to-day work.

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