Background and Context. A growing body of research aims to identify and study the “core components” of effective interventions, or the “essential functions and principles that define the program and are judged as being necessary to produce outcomes in a typical service setting.” Researchers have developed useful models and resources for identifying core components (e.g., intervention component analysis) and making it possible to replicate them in varied settings (e.g., Template for Intervention Description and Replication).
Core component research offers several potential benefits to the traditional evidence-building enterprise in social policy. Identifying and evaluating an intervention’s core components can make research insights more generalizable and programs more adaptable, scalable, and better equipped to pursue continuous improvement. Additionally, core components research may help address a common challenge in social services settings: interventions deemed effective through formal evaluation may not have the desired impact when implemented in new environments and under different conditions, or may not be feasible to implement with existing resources. A core components approach can provide critical evidence for adapting the program across a variety of conditions. Furthermore, the goal of rigorous program evaluation is to determine whether interventions achieve desired results and deliver benefit to participants. However, many programs face challenges to participating in traditional impact evaluations. Smaller programs without the resources to adopt manualized interventions, conduct evaluations, or leverage fidelity supports could benefit from a core components approach.
Despite the potential benefits of core components analyses, most program evaluations are not designed to explore them, and few researchers have extensive experience conducting core components research. Few systematic reviews provide sufficient details about interventions’ core components, including the procedural information required to reliably implement them in the field.
Meeting Topics and Goals. OPRE’s 2020 research methods meeting convened evaluators working in different human services areas to explore how to identify and evaluate core components; the potential value of doing so for program design, improvement, and evaluation; and considerations for applying this approach in Federal research and evaluation projects. The meeting also presented examples of how core components have been applied in Federal social services contexts.
The meeting included presentations and discussions on the following questions:
The goals of the meeting follow:
Meeting Attendees and Logistics. The meeting convened Federal staff and researchers interested in exploring core component concepts and methodologies. It was held online on October 28 and 29, 2020. Participants and speakers included representatives from the Federal Government, research firms, and academia.
 Blase, K. & Fixsen, D. (2013). Core intervention components: Identifying and operationalizing what makes programs work. https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/core-intervention-components-identifying-and-operationalizing-what-makes-programs-work
 Chorpita, B., Daleiden, E., & Weisz, J. R. (2005). Identifying and selecting the common elements of evidence based interventions: A distillation and matching model. Mental health services research, 7(1), 5–20.
 Sutcliffe, K., Thomas, J., Stokes, G., Hinds, K., & Bangpan, M.(2015). Intervention Component Analysis (ICA): A pragmatic approach for identifying the critical features of complex interventions. Systematic Reviews, 4, 140. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-015-0126-z
 Hoffmann, T., Glasziou, P. P., Boutron, I., Milne, R., Perera, R., Moher, D., Altman, D. G., Barbour, V., Macdonald, H., Johnston, M., Lamb, S. E., Dixon-Woods, M., McCulloch, P., Wyatt, J. C., Chan, A.-W., & Michie, S. (2014). Better reporting of interventions: Template for intervention description and replication (TIDieR) checklist and guide. BMJ, 348. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1687
 Ferber, T., Wiggins, M., & Sileo, A. (2019). Advancing the use of core components of effective programs. https://forumfyi.org/knowledge-center/advancing-core-components/
Scott Cody of Insight Policy Research served as emcee each day, facilitating discussion and transition between each session listed below.
The event ran from 1:00 p.m. ET to approximately 5:10 p.m. ET each day.
1:00 – 1:15 p.m.
Naomi Goldstein (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation)
1:15 – 2:00 p.m.
Slide Deck: Designing Human Services for an Information-Rich World: Core Components in Context
Bruce F. Chorpita (University of California, Los Angeles)
Slide Deck: The Path to Core Components Approaches
Cheri Hoffman (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)
2:00 – 3:05 p.m.
Slide Deck: Constructing and Deconstructing Evidence-Based Programs
Mark W. Lipsey (Vanderbilt University)
Slide Deck: Where Do Components Come from and Where Do They Fit In?
Bruce F. Chorpita (University of California, Los Angeles)
Slide Deck: What Do We Mean by Core Components?
Allison Dymnicki (American Institutes for Research)
3:05 – 3:15 p.m.
3:15 – 3:25 p.m.
3:25 – 4:10 p.m.
Slide Deck: Analyzing Core Components
Joshua R. Polanin (American Institutes for Research)
Slide Deck: Taxonomies and Ontologies: Organising Knowledge About Core Components
Susan Michie (University College London)
4:10 – 4:55 p.m.
Slide Deck: Core Components of Effective Prevention Programs for Youth
Sandra Jo Wilson (Abt Associates)
Slide Deck: Building a Knowledge Appliance: Components and Much More
Kimberly D. Becker (University of South Carolina)
4:55 – 5:05 p.m.
5:05 – 5:10 p.m.
1:00 – 1:10 p.m.
1:10 – 2:05 p.m.
Slide Deck: SEL Kernels: Turning Social-Emotional Learning into Components
Stephanie M. Jones (Harvard University)
Slide Deck: Synthesis to Use: Building a Bridge from Research to Practice
Poonam Borah (The Forum for Youth Investment)
Moderator and Q&A Discussion:
Amanda Coleman (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation)
2:05 – 3:15 p.m.
Slide Deck: Components Research in Social Services Settings: An Agency’s Perspective
Eleanor Castillo-Sumi (Uplift Family Services)
Slide Deck: Using Core Components to Optimize Family-Based Prevention in Title I Schools
Nancy Gonzales (Arizona State University)
Slide Deck: The Importance of Equity in Evidence Based Program Implementation
Dirk Butler (United Way of National Capital Area)
3:15 – 3:25 p.m.
3:25 – 4:05 p.m.
Jeffrey C. Valentine (University of Louisville)
Allison Metz (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Sean Grant (Indiana University)
4:05 – 4:50 p.m.
Megan E. Lizik (Department of Labor)
Sarah Oberlander (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)
Kyle Peplinski (Maternal and Child Health Bureau)
Kay O’Neill (Johns Hopkins University)
Kriti Jain (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation)
4:50 – 5:10 p.m.
Scott Cody (Insight Policy Research)
Jenessa Malin (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation)
Session 1 Videos: Welcome and Opening Remarks by Naomi Goldstein
Session 2 Videos: Motivation, Use and Current Debates
Session 3 Videos: Describing the Diversity of Core Components Approaches
Session 4 Videos: Defining, Identifying and Testing Components
Session 5 Videos: Synthesis: Two Methodological Examples
Session 6 Videos: Synthesis to Use: Building a Bridge from Research to Practice
Session 8 Videos: Current Debates and Future Areas of Exploration
Session 9 Videos: Implications for the Federal Context