Our Story

A New Approach to Old Challenges

Stanford Impact Labs is a new university-wide model that trains and invests in teams of researchers working with leaders in government, business, and communities to design, test, and scale interventions that can help us make progress on some of the world's most pressing and persistent social challenges. 

Our ambition is to put social science to work for society, but we can’t do it alone. Realizing our vision will take leadership and action from collaborators and change agents at all levels: government, higher education, philanthropy, and local communities.

Why Now?

Social science can do more for society than ever before

The social sciences are at an inflection point in terms of what is possible. Researchers can measure human behavior and institutions better than ever before, deploy cutting-edge data science tools to extract practical findings, and mobilize teams to generate insights and applications with potential for public impact. To increase the public impact of social science, though, the research must be informed by practical experience and put into practice with those outside the university.

Linking research and practical experience creates new insights and better evidence

Leaders in the public, private, and social sectors are championing evidence-based practices and innovation. They want new data and research to shape their policy and program decisions. But often, they are pressed to make decisions quickly, without the benefit of rigorous research built into their processes. They are eager to partner with social scientists to jointly design, test, and scale new interventions.

An R&D model for the social sciences can create public impact now and for the future

An effective model of research and development for social problems requires significant financial investments and a commitment to training a new generation of problem-solvers. We make staged and sequenced investments in partnerships between leading researchers and practitioners—impact labs—to generate innovative policies, programs, and interventions that meaningfully address social problems. In parallel, we offer training for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty who aspire to tackle social problems but need additional skills and capabilities to do so effectively.

Our work supports Stanford’s Long-Range Vision to ensure the university’s research and education makes a purposeful impact in the world.

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Creating a Culture of Public Impact: An Open Letter

At a moment in history when social science can do more for society than ever before, we believe in the importance of developing new models to address pervasive social challenges.

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