Mission, Vision, Values


Stanford Impact Labs (SIL) enables teams of scholars to work in partnership with leaders from the public, social, and private sector to tackle social problems using human creativity, rigorous evidence, and innovative technology. We advance this mission by catalyzing rigorous, problem-focused research and training on social problems with the goal of achieving broad public impact. We call the teams that do this work “impact labs.”  


To accelerate the impact of higher education in solving our most challenging social problems by reshaping how research and development is done in the social sciences.

We are a new university model that invests and sustains research-practice partnerships with funding, professional support, and a relentless focus on public impact. We flip the traditional idea of a public policy school on its head. Rather than bring policy problems to campus, we prepare, fund, and support teams of scholars to embed themselves within, and work in close partnership with, governments, philanthropies, companies, and nonprofits to generate evidence and insights that can be put into practice.

The 21st century research university can catalyze these partnerships and support rigorous, problem-focused research and training to create purposeful public impact. Our investments position scholars and practitioners to jointly frame problems, generate and test hypotheses, share insights, and scale solutions to complex problems to achieve broad public impact.

Read more about and how our work supports Stanford’s Long-Range Vision to ensure the university’s research and education makes a purposeful impact in the world.


Our work is guided by the following set of shared values and principles:

Focus on Outcomes that Improve Peoples' Lives

When we invest, we expect to see a return on investment - not in dollars - but in outcomes that improve the conditions of people’s lives. We work on the “back end” as funders and trainers, supporting scientists and practitioners working in partnership to generate meaningful change. We strengthen our team, our investments, and our approach by bringing in the perspectives of those who experience or have experienced the harms of social problems.

Pursue Experimentation and Learning

With humility about what we do not know and respect for different ways of knowing, we engage new approaches and ideas, test them, put them into practice, and communicate openly about what we discover. We ask ourselves how we can strengthen our team, improve our processes, and deliver better outcomes. We seek feedback at every opportunity, give feedback generously to others, and seek to learn from our mistakes in order to learn and grow.

Work in Partnership

We work to foster equitable partnerships that are rooted in curiosity, humility, openness, and mutuality. We look for opportunities to collaborate and co-create (which is harder!) rather than to go it alone. For us, this means bringing people into our work from the outset, before our ideas are fully developed. We recognize that the university is only one part of the solution and seek to build bridges across other parts of the problem-solving ecosystem. We build trust by being dependable - doing our part first - and we recognize that trusting relationships are a critical ingredient for making change.

Embrace Diverse Perspectives

We seek out and embrace diverse and underrepresented perspectives in our team, those we support, and the people who influence our thinking and hold us accountable. We ask ourselves: Whose perspective might be missing in our understanding of a problem or opportunity?, seek those perspectives out, and engage directly with them as we make investments, design programs, and do our work. Inclusion means that we seek to understand, embrace and celebrate different ways of thinking and working.

Commit to Equity

Equity is achieved when a person’s identity no longer systematically exposes them to risks or grants them privileges with respect to social and economic outcomes. Our commitment to equity involves being conscious of, deeply considering, and striving to address structural factors that benefit some social groups/communities and harm others. We bring this lens to our work as a team, our engagement with partners, the investments we make, and the training programs we offer.