MIT research institute invites local governments to apply for innovation competition

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J-PAL North America, a research institute based at MIT, is hosting its second annual state and local government innovation competition.
The competition aims to help municipalities and states tackle pressing policy issues by testing the effectiveness of any number of programs. The team at J-PAL is providing the technical support to create the tests and funding to implement them.
Winners last year were the states of Pennsylvania and South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the cities of Philadelphia and Rochester, N.Y. Together with J-PAL North America, these governments will develop and test innovative approaches to increasing employment, helping people move out of poverty, expanding opportunity for young people, and finding more effective treatments for substance use disorders.
J-PAL North America will host a webinar on Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. EST to share more information about the initiative and how to apply. For more information, visit
The application period ends Feb. 17.
State and local governments are increasingly looking for rigorous evidence about which social programs are most effective and cost-effective. The governments selected to participate in this initiative will receive flexible pilot funding of up to $100,000, pro bono technical support from J-PAL North America staff, and connections with experienced researchers from J-PAL’s network.
State and local governments that have partnered with a researcher to design a high-quality randomized evaluation can later apply for additional funding, typically in the range of $250,000 to 500,000, to carry out the evaluations.
“State and local governments can serve as laboratories of innovation and test out new approaches to tackling challenging social problems,” said J-PAL North America deputy director and initiative co-chair Mary Ann Bates. “By partnering state and local governments with J-PAL staff and affiliated researchers, we can build the capacity of state and local governments to generate and use rigorous evidence – and, ultimately, better serve their citizens.”
Over the course of this five-year initiative, J-PAL North America will partner with at least 12 state and local governments and share the evidence generated to ensure that it reaches other state and local governments facing similar challenges. Building on a recent movement toward evidence-based policymaking, these state and local leaders will serve as a model for others across the country.
“We are excited to partner with state and local policymakers who want to better understand the impact of their programs and policies and give them the tools they need to develop high-quality and policy-relevant evaluations,” said Jonathan Guryan, associate professor of human development and social policy and economics at Northwestern University and initiative co-chair.
J-PAL North America is a regional office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. J-PAL was established in 2003 as a research center at MIT’s Department of Economics. Since then, it has built a global network of affiliated professors based at over 40 universities and regional offices around the world.
For more information, visit