State and Local Innovation Initiative – Request for Letters of Interest

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The J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative supports U.S. state and local leaders in using randomized evaluations to generate new and widely applicable lessons about which programs work, which work best, and why.

J-PAL North America is not currently inviting letters of interest and anticipates announcing the next application round in Fall 2017. The instructions for the most recent Request for Letters of Interest (which closed on February 17, 2017) are available for reference below.

The Competition

The J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative features a two-phase competition for U.S. state and local leaders who are interested in designing and implementing randomized evaluations and using the evidence generated to inform their decision-making.

In Phase I of the competition, state and local leaders will identify the policy questions they would like to answer using randomized evaluations. Selected state and local leaders will receive ongoing technical support from J-PAL staff for a period of up to one year, flexible pilot funding of up to $100,000, and connections with J-PAL’s network of researchers.

In Phase II of the competition, state and local governments 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 $250,000-500,000, to carry out the evaluation. There will be multiple rounds of both Phase I and Phase II of the competition over five years.

Application Instructions

J-PAL North America invites state and local government leaders to submit a brief letter of interest describing how rigorous evidence would help answer an important policy question. Letters of interest should be 3-5 pages and include a brief description of the following:

  1. The policy question or challenge that motivates the application. In describing the challenge, it would be beneficial to provide some evidence of the challenge, including any relevant statistics.
  2. A brief description of past or current efforts to address the policy challenge that the applicant is interested in examining, or a brief description of potential new approaches that the applicant is interested in exploring. Any preliminary evidence that suggests these existing or potential approaches work or will work would be helpful.
  3. A description of how your jurisdiction currently uses data and evidence to inform decision-making and how new evidence would be used to inform decision-making going forward.
  4. A description of your jurisdiction’s interest in and any experience with randomized evaluations.
  5. The names and titles of the main contact(s) for this application.

Selected state and local governments will partner with J-PAL North America to design high-quality randomized evaluations in order to generate credible evidence about the effectiveness of social policies or programs in their jurisdictions. Therefore, applicants to this competition must be open to working with J-PAL North America to look for ways to include random assignment (for example, a random lottery) in the implementation of the program or policy they are interested in testing.

Next Steps

Please send letters of interest to [email protected]. Letters must be submitted by an authorized representative of a U.S. state or local government (including states, counties, cities, and other municipalities).

You are also encouraged to provide a letter of support for your application from your Governor, Mayor, City Manager, County Commissioner or Supervisor, or agency leader.


Applicants should submit a letter of interest by February 17, 2017. We will accept additional applications on a rolling basis but cannot guarantee that they will receive full consideration.

November 14, 2016      Request for letters of interest announced
February 17, 2017      Deadline to submit letters of interest
March 20, 2017      Finalists selected and invited to submit full proposals
April 17, 2017      Deadline to submit full proposals
Week of May 22, 2017      Winners announced

J-PAL North America may conduct telephone interviews with select applicants in order to clarify our understanding of your proposal, provide you with an opportunity to ask any questions of us, and make sure expectations are aligned in both directions about the partnership between J-PAL and selected state and local governments.

What is J-PAL North America looking for?

J-PAL North America will consider the following general criteria in reviewing letters of interest:

  1. Clear description of an important policy question or challenge
    Does the proposal address questions that are crucial for the government? Are these questions relevant for other jurisdictions?
  2. Promising approach to addressing the policy challenge
    Is there an opportunity to test a promising program or policy?
  3. Feasible opportunity for a randomized evaluation
    Are state and local leaders open to conducting a randomized evaluation? Are there any practical or political concerns about implementing a randomized evaluation?
  4. Commitment to using evidence to inform decision-making
    Is there demonstrated commitment from senior leaders within the government to use evidence to inform decision-making?
  5. Potential contribution to the evidence base
    Would a randomized evaluation of an intervention addressing this policy issue make a significant contribution toward advancing the state of knowledge? How do the proposed interventions (if any) compare to approaches that have previously been studied?

PDF iconJ-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative – Request for Letters of Interest