State and Local Evaluation Incubator

Overview

State and local governments exercise significant regulatory, financial, and programmatic discretion that uniquely positions them to foster economic mobility among residents in their community. J-PAL North America’s State and Local Evaluation Incubator equips state and local agencies to design randomized evaluations in order to generate evidence about programs and policies that alleviate poverty and promote community well-being.

In turn, decision-makers can use this evidence to improve and scale effective policies and programs to reach more people. The Initiative’s state and local learning agenda provides a synthesis of key areas where new or additional research using randomized evaluation is best positioned to address barriers to mobility from poverty. 

Through the Incubator, selected partners may receive:

  • Up to one year of technical support from J-PAL North America’s staff policy and research experts

  • Flexible project development funding of up to $50,000 

  • Training on program evaluation, evidence use, and data, including a scholarship to J-PAL’s Evaluating Social Programs course in June

  • Connections with J-PAL’s network of leading academic researchers, which includes affiliated professors at universities around the world who use randomized evaluations to design, test, and improve programs and policies aimed at alleviating poverty

  • Relationship building with other leading organizations that are committed to using data and evidence. 

Selected partners who successfully match with a researcher from J-PAL’s network to design a high-quality randomized evaluation can jointly apply for pilot funding (up to $50,000) or full evaluation funding through one of J-PAL North America’s Request for Proposals, typically in the range of $150,000-$250,000, to carry out the evaluation.

The State and Local Innovation Initiative is co-hosting a webinar for prospective applications on August 25, 2022 at 1:30 pm ET. To learn more about the Incubator and how to apply, register here.

How the J-PAL North America Evaluation Incubator Works

Graphic displaying the services offered and potential outcomes from partnering with J-PAL North America through the Evaluation Incubator.

How to Apply

Applicants should submit a 3–5-page Letter of Interest (LOI) to [email protected] by October 17, 2022. LOIs should describe (1) the policy/research question that motivates your application, and the program or policy you wish to evaluate (2) how rigorous evidence would inform how your organization or agency makes decisions, and (3) how a partnership with J-PAL North America would advance your efforts to use evidence to inform decision-making. We also invite you to share any information about how your policy question or program seeks to address racial disparities or may have a disproportionately large impact on communities of color. 

See below for more details about the application timeline and Letters of Interest. For complete instructions, please see the “LOI Instructions” document at the bottom of this page.

Application Timeline

Timeline displaying each of the steps of the J-PAL North America Evaluation Incubator application process.

FAQs

Who is eligible?

State and local government agencies in the United States interested in answering policy-relevant research questions on strategies to foster economic mobility are invited to apply. See a list of past and current partners here. See a full list of randomized evaluations funded by the State and Local Innovation Initiative here

Applicants 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 evaluating. For example, slots for a program with a waitlist might be allocated by a lottery; eligible beneficiaries of an undersubscribed program may be randomly encouraged to sign up; multiple versions of a program may be randomly assigned to individuals to test them against one another, and pilot programs or programs being expanded to new locations could provide opportunities to randomly select who receives the program first. 

Finally, while any state or local government agency is encouraged to apply, we especially welcome applications from agencies interested in evaluating programs funded by the American Rescue Plan (ARP)

When states and localities design ARP-funded programs to include evaluation, they can make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. Evaluations allow states and localities to generate lessons about the full impact of their program or policy, providing confidence and legitimacy to secure future funding and expand effective models for years to come. 

However, many state and local agencies may not have capacity or resources to include evaluation components within their programs. J-PAL North America’s state and local evaluation incubator seeks to alleviate these constraints by providing capacity-building, funding, researcher matchmaking, and training, equipping state and local agencies to run randomized evaluations around pressing policy questions that matter to them and their communities the most. 

Read more about J-PAL North America State and Local Innovation Initiative’s resources for American Rescue Plan evaluation and evidence use. 

What does the application entail?

Letters of Interest should include the following information:

  1. Cover sheet

  2. The applicant

  3. The question

  4. The intervention

  5. Opportunity for randomized evaluation

  6. Access to data

  7. Commitment to using evidence to inform decision-making

  8. Description and letters of support from outside stakeholders

For complete instructions, please see the “LOI Instructions” document at the bottom of this page.

What is the timeline for the Evaluation Incubator?

August 1, 2022: Call for Letters of Interest opens; LOIs accepted on a rolling basis

August 25, 2022: Webinar for prospective applicants 

October 17, 2022: Deadline to submit Letters of Interest

Through early November 2022: J-PAL North America conducts applicant interviews

Mid-November 2022: Finalists selected and begin receiving proposal development support

Mid-February 2023: Deadline to submit full proposals

Mid-March 2023: Incubator partners are selected

March 2023–March 2024: Selected partners work with J-PAL North America staff to design a randomized evaluation of their program, find an academic partner, and potentially apply for full funding to carry out the evaluation.  J-PAL North America staff will work with partners to determine what activities to focus on and how long staff will support the project. Length of the support will vary depending on project need, and can last for up to 12 months.

What type of assistance does J-PAL North America provide applicants?

J-PAL North America staff, who are not members of the State and Local Innovation Initiative’s Review Board, are available to provide support to help prospective applicants prepare stronger Letters of Interest. Prospective applicants are encouraged to attend or view a recording of our informational webinar, which goes through the application process in detail. Please direct any remaining questions to Mera Cronbaugh at [email protected], or sign up to attend office hours here

Finalists (selected in mid-November 2022 by the State and Local Innovation Initiative Review Board) will receive proposal development support from J-PAL North America staff to build on the ideas described in their Letters of Interest. J-PAL North America staff will work with finalists to help develop a competitive proposal to submit by mid-February 2023.

Partner organizations (selected in March 2023 by the State and Local Innovation Initiative Review Board) will receive technical assistance, training, and in some cases flexible funding to assess the feasibility of a randomized evaluation and design a rigorous evaluation. J-PAL North America staff will also work to match partner organizations with academic researchers in our network to collaborate on the evaluation design. Partners who successfully 1) develop a feasible randomized evaluation design and 2) match with an academic researcher may then jointly apply for additional funding through one of J-PAL North America’s Requests for Proposals to carry out the evaluation.

For more information on identifying opportunities for randomized evaluations of state and local government programs, see our State and Local Learning Agenda, “State and Local Priorities: A Blueprint for Future Evaluations on Mobility from Poverty”.

Who will review my application?

The State and Local Innovation Initiative Review Board will review all applications. The Review Board is composed of J-PAL affiliated researchers Bruce Sacerdote and Day Manoli, as well as a policy reviewer from Arnold Ventures.

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