In Brief:


  • We focus on big social problems where progress is possible when practitioners and scholars work together to understand the issues, craft solutions, and expand promising approaches. 

  • We find, train, and invest in scholars from across the university motivated to use their talents to formulate solutions to local, national, and global issues.

  • We connect scholars with our growing network of government, business, nonprofit, and philanthropic practitioners. They work together—in impact labs—to generate new insights, creative approaches, and practical tools to make progress on complex social challenges.

  • We provide financial capital, training, thought-partnership, and mentoring to help impact labs turn their evidence and experience into purposeful work that benefits society.

  • We share what the labs do and learn—about the problems, solutions, and what does and doesn’t work—to create a culture of public impact at Stanford and inspire scholars and practitioners everywhere to work together to create just, fair, and equal societies. 



Our Investments

We make staged and sequenced investments to catalyze impact labs that bring leaders in government, business, nonprofits and the university together to tackle concrete social problems with new evidence and practical solutions that benefit society. 

In addition to financial capital, we equip all of our problem-focused partnerships with training, thought-partnership, mentoring, communications support and advice, and other tools and resources so impact labs can turn their evidence and experience into purposeful work that benefits society.


Stage 2: Test Solutions funding

partners from business, nonprofits, and government

Stage 1: Seed Partnerships

Solutions-focused research benefits when it grows from a deep understanding of the problem in a specific setting–who is affected, how they’re affected, and what else has been done or is being done to address the problem. This takes time and coordination, but increases the likelihood that research and ideas turn into practical action that benefit society. Stage 1: Seed Partnerships provides seed funding for new and established partnerships to conduct research that deepens understanding of the problem and sets the stage for testing solutions.

Stage 2: Test Solutions

Stage 2: Test Solutions provides funding for impact labs to run at least one solutions-focused R&D cycle–developing and testing solution(s) in collaboration with external partners. These teams have advanced the frontiers of knowledge on a particular solution, and are taking tangible steps along their path from science to impact. Their solutions-focused R&D cycles involve developing and testing solutions in real-world settings.

Stage 3: Amplify Impact

Investments in R&D continue to be crucial as teams work through the key questions that are necessary for impact on people’s lives to be sustained at scale, and scaling insights are crucial to successful R&D cycles that benefit society. Stage 3: Amplify Impact funding provides long-term flexible support to teams with established track-records of running multiple partnership-based R&D cycles. Track A: Scaling Insights provides funding to put specific insights to use across multiple contexts at scale; Track B:  R&D Agenda provides support to teams running R&D cycles across different insights around a common impact-focused research agenda. 

Innovations in Education and Training

Design Fellowship: One-year, $50,000 design fellowships provide resources,  training, and mentoring for faculty to conceptualize new impact labs. Funding is flexible and recipients work alongside a cohort of faculty each year, all of whom are working to design and launch new impact labs with partners in government, businesses, nonprofit and community organizations.

We also run programs to prepare Stanford undergraduates and Ph.D. students to use cutting-edge analytical capabilities in the public, private, and social sectors to tackle social problems.

Ph.D. Summer Collaborative Research Fellowship: The Stanford Impact Labs Collaborative Research Fellowship is an experiential training program that offers outstanding doctoral students the opportunity to actively engage in problem-focused research with close advising and mentorship from faculty and staff across a variety of affiliated impact labs. Meet our 2020 summer fellows. 

Creating a Culture of Public Impact

In addition to our impact lab investments and innovations in training and education, we are working to create a culture of public impact at Stanford. We launched a Scholars in Service program for faculty to pursue in-depth, hands-on learning with public service organizations to generate new research insights and promising approaches to complex social issues. We helped establish the model for public impact professorships, and the university is committed to endowing 15 positions across the university. And we continue to cultivate, encourage, and fund external service and leadership experiences for Stanford faculty and students. We hope to learn from and inspire other university-based efforts to increase public research, service, leadership and impact.

Blog: News & Insights

Stanford University's School of Humanities and Sciences reports on our investments in eight new impact labs working on misinformation and democracy, financial risks, and inequality in healthcare and schools.
What kind of future is possible if you want to apply technical skills in data, math, and computer science *and* you care about serving your community? Mallory Nobles, associate director of Stanford’s brand new Data Science & Social Systems undergraduate major, shares her eureka moment about how to do both and why she’s so excited to kick off classes, a new speaker series, and more.
The Stanford Impact Labs Design Fellowship welcomes nine new faculty members from across the university to its program. Fellows will apply their research skills to address pressing social problems, from climate disaster mitigation to voter turnout to suicide prevention. The program helps each fellow develop an impact-oriented research agenda, in collaboration with external partners.

"This is a remarkable opportunity to get support to develop meaningful partnerships and to build the infrastructure needed to address social problems. Developing partnerships takes time and dedication and is not often supported through other mechanisms."

Lisa Goldman Rosas
Assistant Professor of Health Research and Policy