J-PAL North America partnering with state and local governments to tackle key policy challenges

Philadelphia skyline | Photo credit: Shutterstock

We are excited to announce that we are now inviting Letters of Interest from U.S. state and local governments that are interested in partnering with J-PAL North America through our J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative. This initiative, which we launched last year, supports state and local leaders who want to use randomized evaluations to generate rigorous evidence about the effectiveness of their policies and programs. You can read our official announcement here.

State and local governments across the U.S. are tackling challenging social problems, almost always with very limited resources. The state and local leaders we speak with are eager to learn what’s worked in other jurisdictions and to test which of their own approaches are most effective. The goal of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative is to provide them with the support they need to be able to answer these questions.

The state and local governments selected through the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative will receive pro bono technical support from J-PAL staff, flexible pilot funding of up to $100,000, and connections with leading academic researchers from J-PAL’s network to help them design high-quality, feasible randomized evaluations. State and local governments can later apply in partnership with a researcher for larger amounts of funding, typically $250,000-$500,000, to carry out the evaluation.

If you’re interested in learning more, please visit www.povertyactionlab.org/stateandlocal. You can also register for a webinar that we’re hosting on December 8th. If you have further questions or would like to discuss a specific proposal, feel free to contact me at jchabrier@povertyactionlab.org.

We look forward to receiving your letters, learning more about the innovative work being done by state and local governments across the U.S., and finding new ways to support state and local leaders in using rigorous evidence to improve their effectiveness and ultimately the lives of their residents.

Announcing five governments selected for the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative

We’re excited to announce today that J-PAL North America has selected Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, Rochester, and South Carolina as the first cohort of state and local governments to receive funding and on-the-ground technical support through the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative. Over the coming months, these governments will work with J-PAL staff and academic researchers to design randomized evaluations that can inform their policy questions and to build their own capacity to create and use rigorous evidence. For more information, read the MIT News story about the announcement here.

J-PAL North America is proud to partner with these governments to test innovative ways to improve the effectiveness of their social policies and programs. Our hope is that these evaluations will generate insights that can be applied in these jurisdictions and shared with others facing similar challenges. We also hope that our partnerships with these state and local governments will provide useful lessons for both policymakers and researchers about how to design and implement high-quality, feasible randomized evaluations.

We received 25 applications in this first round of the competition, and we were excited to see such strong interest from state and local governments across the United States. We’re already looking ahead to the next round of our competition, which we expect to announce in fall 2016. If you’re considering preparing a proposal, please feel free to email me, or visit povertyactionlab.org/stateandlocal to sign up to receive updates.

J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once observed that a “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

This notion – that states and local governments can be “laboratories of democracy” – is at the core of an exciting new initiative we have recently launched at J-PAL North America.

Through our State & Local Innovation Initiative, we will support state and local leaders who are at the forefront of creating and using evidence to address important social issues.

Next week, February 16 is the deadline for expressions of interest for our first wave of state and local partners. Through this process, we will work to support state and local governments in using randomized evaluations to generate new and widely applicable lessons about which social programs work best and why.

Through this initiative, J-PAL North America will

  • Build the capacity of state and local governments to create and use rigorous evidence;
  • Share this evidence with other jurisdictions that may be facing similar challenges; and
  • Document and disseminate best practices for feasibly implementing randomized evaluations at the state and local level.

We don’t expect our state and government partners to come to us with fully formed ideas at this point. Instead, we’ve structured the initiative in two phases.

In the first phase (by February 16), we ask for state and local leaders to submit a brief letter of interest identifying the policy questions they would like to answer using randomized evaluations.

We will select a few partners to work with, and these state and local leaders will receive the help they need to turn their priority policy questions into feasible research plans. We will provide technical support from J-PAL staff for a period of up to one year, flexible pilot funding of up to $100,000, and matchmaking with J-PAL’s world-class network of researchers.

In the second phase of the competition, state and local governments that have partnered with a researcher from J-PAL’s network to design a high-quality randomized evaluation can apply for funding (typically in the range of $250,000–500,000) to carry out the evaluation.

The state and local leaders selected to participate in this initiative will serve as a model for others across the country, demonstrating that state and local governments can create and use rigorous evidence to address challenging social problems.

If you work in a state or local government in the United States, we hope you will consider sending us a letter of interest by February 16.  But next week is just the beginning — there will multiple rounds of both Phase I and Phase II of the competition over five years.

For more information, you can view our webinars on the initiative here and here.