Stanford Impact Labs Invests $3 Million in New Impact Labs Driving Social Change

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Several drawings on a chalkboard: question mark, gears, lightbulb, arrow with target, rocket ship

Stanford Impact Labs has invested a second round of start-up funding in six new teams of scholars and practitioners working in partnership to generate new approaches to longstanding social problems. Each team will receive $500,000 over two years to help them build an impact lab that harnesses advances in social science and critical practical insights to improve people’s health, education, economic opportunity, and well-being in the Bay Area and across the globe.  

The six newest impact labs are working to improve educational opportunities for students after juvenile detention; increase access to healthy food for low-income families; match immigrants with communities where both will benefit the most; expand access to reproductive health technologies so individuals can decide whether and when to have a family; help government agencies effectively enforce clean water regulations; and reduce air pollution in Bangladesh by transforming the brick-making industry

More than 50 teams applied for start-up impact lab funding for 2021-2023. A group of 75 expert reviewers—from academia, philanthropy, nonprofits, business, and government—selected the six awardees. Reviewers evaluated the importance of the social problem, the potential for the partnership to advance our understanding of how to tackle the problem, and the likelihood of turning new research insights into practical, public impact. 

Reviewers also looked closely at the partnerships between university-based scholars and leading experts in government, nonprofits, or industry. Partners must develop the research agenda and approach together. Teams must also have the right mix of people to implement and scale new approaches—including those with administrative, legal, communications, policy, or other relevant skills. 

Stanford Impact Labs founder Jeremy M. Weinstein says, “With this second round of investments, Stanford Impact Labs is putting resources behind meaningful partnerships that promise to generate new ways of tackling today’s most challenging social problems. These teams are modeling what is possible when researchers and practitioners come together in an R&D process focused on identifying, testing, and scaling new approaches for the public and social sector.”

In addition to the financial capital Stanford Impact Labs invests in the teams, it provides every impact lab with training and mentoring, communications support, input on partnerships, strategic advice on scaling, and other tools and resources so impact labs can turn their evidence and experience into purposeful work that benefits society. 

Stanford Impact Labs continues to support five other start-up lab investments where teams are working with the state of Washington on early childhood development, the San Francisco police department on police-community relations, the county of Santa Clara on pretrial incarceration, nonprofits working with homeless people affected by flooding and fires and climate change, and the California public utilities commission on energy policies for the future

The start-up lab investments complement several other programs on campus designed to connect social science and public impact. These include an annual design fellowship program for faculty interested in creating an impact lab; a scholars-in-service program for faculty to spend time working directly with a partner outside the university; and a program for post-doctoral students to work directly with impact-focused social science labs on campus.