Is the SIL Design Fellowship Right for You?

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The Stanford Impact Labs Design Fellowship (SILDF) was established to support any Stanford faculty member who wants to create or expand an area of impact-focused research in partnership with external collaborators.

During their tenure as fellows, faculty are supported by SIL staff as they engage deeply with community, public sector, and policy organizations; identify how their research can best support efforts to address a social problem; and co-design policy or programmatic solutions that are relevant, effective, and sustainable.

Since the program began four years ago, we've attracted a number of frequently asked questions from potential fellows, and we've done our best to answer and publish them here, as we launch launch the 2023-2024 application cycle.

1. Why would I want to join this fellowship program?

Because you are:

  • Passionate about a specific social problem, with a vision and curiosity for making it tractable. 
  • Committed to scholarship and its public impact, with a strong belief in the role of science to help inform interventions and policies that address social problems. 
  • Interested in working closely with external practitioners to co-create solutions.
  • In search of a direct connection between the scientific research you do and the practices, programs, or policies of influential institutions. 
  • Motivated to launch your own partnership and solutions-oriented research project.

2. You call yourself Stanford Impact Labs — what is an impact lab?

A project that:

  • Is focused on a well-defined social problem.
  • Involves partnership with one or more external collaborators (examples include school districts, police departments, departments of education, nonprofit or private sector organizations).
  • Is shaped by academics and partners working together to frame the problem, develop a research and learning agenda, generate and test hypotheses, implement a new program or policy, and scale one or more solutions. 
  • Presents a clear theory of change linking research to change “on the ground,” whether via new policies, programs, practices, or products, that can be effectively implemented and adopted.

3. What will I get out of the fellowship program? 

  • Flexible, exploratory grant funding of $50,000 to seed your efforts. This funding can be used however you determine will best support your work. This may include helping to defray the cost of a research assistant, convening practitioners on- or off-campus, or funding travel to engage with potential partners. 
  • Membership in a cohort of exceptional Stanford faculty with similar motivations and aspirations. This group will challenge, learn from, and support one another. 
  • Tailored workshops designed specifically to help you identify how best to leverage your research expertise, explore partnerships, and identify the best pathway forward for you. 
  • 1:1 professional support to provide thought-partnership, facilitate introductions to practitioners, and help you overcome the time-consuming barriers and high transaction costs that impede partnership- and solutions-focused work.

4. What should I expect to achieve by the end of the year? 

  • Clarity on where and how your research is relevant to driving forward solutions to the social problem you are addressing.
  • New and/or deepened relationships with potential partners and key stakeholders to begin formalizing a shared agenda for integrated research and implementation strategies. 
  • An operational plan for identifying and pursuing the resources you’ll need to move forward as well as a model of the organizational structure and team that will be required. 
  • A compelling pitch with supporting materials to communicate your vision to fellow faculty members, university leadership, potential partners, and other targeted decision-makers.
  • A new network and community of like-minded scholars who are motivated and prepared to use research that yields solutions to challenging social problems.

What happens after the fellowship concludes? 

  • Fellows have access to continued support from the Stanford Impact Labs professional team on a wide variety of operational issues (e.g., legal, human resources, data/IT, partnerships, innovation strategy, storytelling, scaling).
  • Fellows join Stanford Impact Lab’s Affiliate Network and benefit from this growing community of scholars who are motivated and prepared to use research that yields solutions to challenging social problems.
  • Fellows may apply for other funding opportunities through Stanford Impact Labs. Note: Having participated in the fellowship is not a requirement for applying to other SIL funding nor a guarantee of future funding. But the fellowship is designed to position you to apply for SIL funding should you decide to pursue this direction.