State and Local Innovation Initiative Request for Letters of Interest

Overview

The goal of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative is to support US state and local governments in using randomized evaluations to generate new and applicable lessons about which policies and programs work, which work best, and why.

Through the Innovation Competition, US state and local governments can apply for:

  • Pro bono technical support from J-PAL North America’s staff of policy and research experts;

  • Flexible funding of up to $50,000; and

  • Connections with J-PAL’s network of leading academic researchers to explore a randomized evaluation.

J-PAL is anchored by a network of 227 affiliated professors at universities around the world who use randomized evaluations to design, test, and improve programs and policies aimed at alleviating poverty. Applicants who successfully partner 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 the J-PAL North America State and Local Innovation Initiative Request for Proposals, typically in the range of $150,000-$250,000 to carry out the evaluation.

The State and Local Innovation Initiative will host a webinar for prospective applications on February 23, 2021 at 11 am E.T. Registration and recording are available here.

FAQs

Who is eligible to apply?

State and Local governments in the United States interested in answering policy-relevant research questions are invited to apply.

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, 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. 

For examples of relevant randomized evaluations, please see a list of current government partnerships (here) and randomized evaluations funded by the State and Local initiative (here). 

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:

Letters of interest should not be more than five pages (not including any letters of support) and include the following information: 

  1. The applicant. Please briefly describe your organization or agency and your major activities, including the key programs that you oversee or administer.                              The question. Please briefly describe one or more policy challenges or questions that motivate your application. Please provide some evidence of the challenge, including any relevant statistics.

  2. The intervention. A brief description of the proposed policy or program you would like to examine. Please include the current status of the policy or program (e.g. undergoing development or ready to implement) in your description, as well as any preliminary evidence that suggests the program works or will work. Please also describe the primary outcome(s) you are interested in measuring.

  3. Opportunity for randomized evaluation. Please provide the following information in order to help J-PAL North America assess which programs or policies are most suitable 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. The primary outcomes you expect to change as a result of the program or policy and any existing sources of data that could be used for measuring outcomes (e.g. hospital admissions, student test scores, arrest records). 

    3. An explanation of how individuals are selected to receive the program or policy, and any initial thoughts on how a fair lottery or other forms of random assignment could be used to determine who gets access to the program or policy.

    4. Any practical or ethical concerns about carrying out a randomized evaluation and prior experience with randomized evaluations, if any.

  4. Access to data. A description of existing data collection efforts related to the program, including data collected by the applicant and others on outcomes the program is thought to affect, and whether any of these data would also be available for individuals assigned not to receive the program. A successful applicant will have a way to access data to measure the outcomes of interest.

  5. Commitment to using evidence to inform decision-making. Please describe your organization 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.

    1. Please describe who in your organization or agency would play the lead role in developing a partnership with J-PAL North America and what other staff would be available to support the partnership.

    2. Please describe any experience with research and evaluation to date, including any partnerships with external researchers. 

    3. Please provide any additional information on the potential scope of your organization or agency’s partnership with J-PAL North America and how this partnership would support your organization or agency’s priorities.  

  6. 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.

  7. Contact information. The names and titles of the main contact(s) for this application. Letters must be submitted by an authorized representative of the agency or the organization. Applicants who have reached the finalist stage will be asked t) to submit a proposed budget. 

Please send the completed cover sheet, letter of interest, and letters of support to [email protected] by the application deadline, April 30, 2021.

What is the timeline?

February 1, 2021 - Request for letters of interest announced

February 23, 2021 - 11 a.m. ET - Webinar for prospective applicants (registration and recording available here)

April 30, 2021, 5 p.m. ET - Deadline to submit letters of interest

Week of May 17, 2021 - Finalists selected and invited to submit full proposals for funding

October, 2021, date TBD - Deadline for full proposals

Week of November 8, 2021 - Selected partners announced

November 2021 - November 2022 - 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 type of assistance does J-PAL provide for applicants?

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] or sign up for a 15-minute discussion here

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 State and Local Innovation Competition 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 state and local governments, see our Mobility from Poverty 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 North America’s Executive Director, Mary Ann Bates, J-PAL affiliate, Bruce SacerdoteDay Manoli, and a policy reviewer from Arnold Ventures.

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