At Stanford Impact Labs (SIL), we believe actionable, solutions-focused social science research must happen in partnership with communities, industry, and government.
To serve as a catalyst for precisely this sort of work, we invest in exceptional teams making ground-breaking scientific contributions against big problems where tractable progress is possible. We call these teams ‘impact labs’ and each year we invest in three different types of labs – all working at various stages of the journey from science to impact.
Stage 1: Seed Partnerships offers up to $350,000 to support early-stage work to better understand a social problem and deepen external partnerships in a way that creates a clear path to testing solutions. The deadline for Stage 1 applications is October 30, 2023.
Stage 2: Test Solutions offers $350,000 to $800,000 per lab over a maximum of 36 months to support partnership-based work that involves the design and testing of a concrete solution to a well-defined social problem. The deadline for Stage 2 applications is October 23, 2023.
We plan to launch a request for proposals for Stage 3: Amplify Impact by October 2023.
If you are conducting or interested in partnership-based research to create tangible outcomes in the world but not sure which stage of funding might best meet your needs, we encourage you to read this. Once you are clear on which stage you want to apply for and ready to draft your proposal, we understand you will inevitably be curious about (1) what SIL selects for and (2) what we offer – beyond funding – to the labs we invest in. Here are some answers to both of those questions.
What makes an application successful?
What makes a research team’s proposal successful at the outset of a project is very closely tied to what makes an impact lab successful as its work evolves.
The best teams draw upon academic skill sets and on-the-ground expertise while also considering the landscape of policymakers and leading practitioners integral to putting science to work for society. The best teams further understand that the journey is as important as the outcome. For this reason, our investment criteria place a strong emphasis on selecting for, and supporting, equitable partnerships where partners from the public, social, and private sector play important and complementary roles to researchers.
When we invest, we expect to see a return on that investment – not in money, but in terms of outcomes that improve people’s lives, with an emphasis on the needs of vulnerable communities. We also recognize and believe that science is more likely to be put to use when future users are directly engaged in shaping the research.
What does support from Stanford Impact Labs look like?
We understand that the work of partnership-driven, solutions-focused research is ambitious, nuanced, and likely to present challenges. That is why we invest both time and money into impact labs. We make it our business to not just fund teams but to also offer guidance as their work proceeds and, where possible, leverage our network to help teams overcome inevitable roadblocks.
Support from Stanford Impact Labs can take many forms. In recent years, it has included help with:
● Navigating administrative hurdles. The social problems you’re trying to tackle are difficult enough. You deserve institutional partners that have your back as you conduct your research and put your work to good use. We’ve helped several labs navigate sub-contracting, data sharing, and research agreements in compliance with institutional guidelines.
● Building a team. SIL has supported multiple labs to build the right team, including identifying relevant skills needs, building out job descriptions and requisitions, and recruiting for roles like Project Manager, Software Developer, and Data Analyst–while helping them navigate Stanford’s hiring tools and processes.
● Strengthening partnerships. We help impact labs set clear expectations and foster trust with their partners. When one of our labs hit a significant research roadblock with one partner, for example, we helped them as they pivoted toward a new partnership and research design with much wider reach.
● Sustaining the impact of your research. We are impact-obsessed at SIL. We work through each lab’s plan for longer-term implementation and scaling and help them to ensure their research is put to use well beyond the end of their study.
The teams and projects we fund all become ‘impact labs’ within SIL’s portfolio. If your application is successful, you will enter a broader network of change agents from within and beyond the university who are committed to impact-focused research.