Research to Practice Partnerships: Early Findings and Lessons Learned from the HPOG University Partnership 2.0 Research Grants

Publication Date: July 29, 2021
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  • Published: 2021


Research Questions

  1. How did each HPOG UP 2.0 grantee translate their research and evaluation findings into practice?
  2. What did the HPOG UP 2.0 researcher/practitioner partnerships look like and how have they grown and evolved?
  3. What are the preliminary implications of the HPOG UP 2.0 grantees’ research and key takeaways from four years of project implementation?
  4. What are the broader lessons learned from the three projects and how can they be applied in contexts beyond HPOG UP?

In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) established the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program to provide Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and other low-income individuals with education and training for occupations in the healthcare field. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Human Services (HHS), awarded a first round of five-year HPOG grants (HPOG 1.0) in 2010. In 2015, OFA awarded a second round of HPOG grants (HPOG 2.0), which have continued into 2021.

HPOG was authorized as a demonstration program with a mandated federal evaluation, and ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) supports complementary HPOG 1.0 and HPOG 2.0 evaluation portfolios that include the HPOG University Partnership Research (HPOG UP) grants. In 2011, OPRE awarded five HPOG UP grants to university-based researchers (HPOG UP 1.0). In 2016, OPRE awarded a second round of HPOG UP grants (HPOG UP 2.0) to three grantees partnering with HPOG 2.0 programs: Brandeis University, Loyola University Chicago, and Northwestern University.  The HPOG UP grants supported research and evaluation studies focused on questions relevant to the HPOG Program goals and objectives; applicants were required to partner with one or more of the HPOG 1.0 program grantees as an integral part of their research plan development and execution.

This report summarizes lessons learned and early findings from the HPOG UP 2.0 research grants as of the end of the HPOG UP 2.0 grant cycle (i.e., September 30, 2020). As the HPOG 2.0 Program concludes in 2021, findings from the HPOG evaluation portfolio, including the HPOG UP research grants, provide information for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners considering the future of workforce development programs for low-income individuals.


This report summarizes lessons learned and early findings from the HPOG UP 2.0 research grants. Following a brief introduction to the HPOG Program and the HPOG evaluation portfolio, this report introduces each of the HPOG UP 2.0 grantees, their HPOG program partners, and their research projects. It explores the research methodologies of each grantee and highlights takeaways from each research project over four years of project implementation. Authors examine the partnerships between each HPOG UP grantee and their program partner, providing examples of how the partnerships grew and evolved and how the research has informed practice within the partner organization and beyond. To conclude, the report highlights the process of translating research into practice, with a focus on strategies that are practitioner and policymaker specific and action-oriented.

Key Findings and Highlights

Common threads across all three HPOG UP projects highlight:

  • the value of tailoring education and training and individualizing career pathways,
  • the importance of providing intentional and intensive supportive services to address participant barriers and challenges,
  • the importance of bolstering the capacity of career pathways programs to identify and understand structural barriers and equip participants with the skills and knowledge to overcome them, and
  • the power of active stakeholder engagement and regional partnerships (between researchers, education and training providers, and employers) in developing infrastructures that shape inclusive and equitable local labor markets.


This report was informed by one-on-one calls with each of the three HPOG UP 2.0 grantee teams, as well as project reports, past grantee meetings and presentations, and grantee publications.


Strategies for bridging research and practice can be summarized in several key takeaways:

  • Successful partnerships between researchers and key stakeholders, including practitioners and employers, work well when they are organic, relational, and built on common understanding. This includes offering mutual benefit, speaking each other’s language, understanding the labor market, and knowing what policies affect key stakeholders and how.
  • Career pathways research and program development should consider a long-term lens.
  • Data collection and analysis methodologies must be adaptable to both program context and external factors.


Patrick, Nicole Wright, Jacqueline Rhodes, and Kristin Abner. (2021). Research to Practice Partnerships: Early Findings and Lessons Learned from the HPOG University Partnership 2.0 Research Grants, OPRE Report # 2021-90, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.