Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator


J-PAL North America’s work on homelessness seeks to expand the base of rigorous evidence on strategies to reduce and prevent homelessness. A key aspect of this goal is supporting organizations working to end homelessness in using randomized evaluations to generate new and widely applicable lessons about which strategies are most effective at reducing homelessness and promoting housing stability.

Through the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator, organizations can apply for the following to develop one or more high-quality randomized evaluations of a policy or program:

  • Pro bono technical assistance from J-PAL’s staff of policy and research experts to develop an evaluation idea;
  • Flexible proposal development funding of up to $50,000; and
  • Connections with J-PAL’s network of leading academic researchers

J-PAL’s network of researchers includes affiliated professors at more than forty universities around the world who use randomized evaluations to design, test, and improve programs and policies aimed at alleviating poverty. Organizations that have partnered with a researcher from J-PAL’s network to design a high-quality randomized evaluation can apply for funding, typically in the range of $150,000-200,000, to carry out the evaluation.

Selected finalists will receive scholarships to attend J-PAL’s weeklong Executive Education course, Evaluating Social Programs, and support from J-PAL North America staff in refining their ideas for evaluation and developing a full proposal and budget for funding. 

Who is eligible to apply?

Organizations in the North America region interested in answering policy-relevant research questions on strategies to reduce and prevent homelessness are invited to apply. This includes nonprofit service providers, government agencies or offices, public housing authorities, Continuums of Care, and other organizations that operate programs or policies aimed at reducing homelessness, preventing eviction, and promoting housing stability. These policies or programs may be related to:

  • Short-term financial assistance for individuals and families at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness;
  • Legal representation in housing court for individuals and families at risk of eviction;
  • Project-based transitional housing;
  • Rapid re-housing;
  • Permanent supportive housing;
  • Broader housing subsidies, such as Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, and low-income housing tax credits;
  • Rent control;
  • Evaluating whether housing first programs reduce the public costs of homelessness;
  • The long-term benefits of homelessness reduction programs, on a broad range of outcomes from housing stability to well-being and health;
  • Whether coordinated entry successfully matches people to the right programs;
  • How existing programs can be designed, targeted, and bundled to be most effective.

This list is not exhaustive: any proposal that explores forward-looking mechanisms to prevent homelessness, or interventions and services for people experiencing homelessness is potentially in scope. For a comprehensive review of open academic research questions on reducing and preventing homelessness, please see our Evidence Review, “Reducing and Preventing Homelessness: Lessons from Randomized Evaluations.”

If you have any questions about the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator, please contact Rohit Naimpally.

What does the application entail?

J-PAL North America invites interested organizations to submit a brief letter of interest describing (1) the policy challenge that motivates the application, (2) a brief description of the proposed program(s) or policies in question, and (3) information to help J-PAL North America assess which programs or policies are most suitable for a randomized evaluation.

Letters of interest should be no longer than three pages (not including the cover sheet and any letters of support) and include the following information:

  1. Cover sheet. Please complete the cover sheet, available under Application Documents.
  2. The challenge to housing stability. Please describe the policy question(s) or challenge(s) that motivate the application, including any relevant statistics. 
  3. The intervention. Please provide a description of the program(s) or policies to address each challenge that you would like to evaluate, whether it is in the planning or implementation stage, and any preliminary evidence that suggests that the program or policy works or will work. Please also include a description of how program eligibility is determined. 
  4. Opportunity for randomized evaluation. Please provide the following information in order to help J-PAL North America assess the feasibility for a randomized evaluation:
    1. An estimate of how many people or other units are currently reached by the program or policy and over what timeframe (e.g., 400 students tutored each semester). If different, please also provide an estimate of how many people or other units you estimate could potentially be reached, if resources were not a constraint.
    2. An explanation of how individuals are selected to receive the program or policy, and any initial thoughts on how a fair lottery or other form of random assignment could be used to determine who gets access to the program or policy.
    3. Any practical or ethical concerns about carrying out a randomized evaluation and prior experience with randomized evaluations, if any.
    4. Please describe your office or agency’s commitment to pursuing new opportunities for rigorous evaluation and using evidence to inform decision-making and how a partnership with J-PAL North America and academic researchers would advance these efforts.
  5. Letters of support from outside stakeholders. A description of whether the applicant has discussed the evaluation idea with partners who would need to be on board in order for the evaluation to happen (e.g. a school district leader). A letter of support from any external partner(s) necessary to conduct the evaluation is preferred. For representatives of government agencies, you are also encouraged to provide a letter of support for your application from executive leadership.

Please send the completed cover sheet, letter of interest, and letters of support to [email protected] by the application deadline, Monday, May 4, 2020 at 5 pm ET. 

What is the timeline for the evaluation incubator?

January 13, 2020 - Request for letters of interest announced
February 10, 2020, 2 p.m. ET  - Webinar for prospective applicants
May 4, 2020, 5 p.m. ET - Deadline to submit letters of interest
End of May, 2020 - Finalists selected and invited to submit full proposals for funding
August 10, 2020 - Deadline for full proposals
Week of September 14, 2020 - Selected partners announced
September 2020–September 2021 - Selected partners work with J-PAL North America staff to develop one or more randomized evaluations, find an academic partner, and may apply for full funding to carry out the evaluation.

What types of assistance does J-PAL provide for applications?

J-PAL North America staff, who are not members of the initiative’s Review Board, are available to provide support to help prospective applicants prepare stronger applications. Prospective applicants are encouraged to reach out to Rohit Naimpally, J-PAL North America Senior Policy and Research Manager, at [email protected] to schedule a 30-minute phone consultation.

Organizations selected for funding will partner with J-PAL North America and academic researchers to identify and assess opportunities for evaluation, design one or more high-quality randomized evaluations, and engage in training and capacity building activities. Because the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator is focused on helping organizations design and carry out randomized evaluations, applicants to this competition must be open to working with J-PAL North America to look for ways to include random assignment in the implementation of the program or policy they are interested in testing. For example, an oversubscribed program’s slots might be allocated by a lottery; eligible beneficiaries of an undersubscribed program might be randomly encouraged to sign up; and pilot programs or programs being expanded to new locations could provide opportunities to randomly select who receives the program first.

For more information on identifying opportunities for randomized evaluations related to housing stability, see our Evidence Review, “Reducing and Preventing Homelessness: Lessons from Randomized Evaluations.”

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