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Californians have an incredible capacity for innovation, and there are countless sources from which we might uncover new and exciting ideas that will take the state into its next hundred years. To identify promising ideas and evaluate their likely impact at scale, The People Lab at UC Berkeley is partnering with California 100 to support a set of innovation projects across the State. Through this process, we aim to answer the question: What new and creative ideas are out there that have the potential to move California forward but have not yet been attempted or accomplished at scale?

Each Innovation Project will rigorously test an innovative policy, program, or practice aimed at addressing a pressing challenge faced by Californians. Projects will provide ‘proof of concept’ for bold ideas, demonstrating the possibilities for California’s future when we embrace innovative ways of approaching long-standing problems.

Each project will be co-designed and carried out as a partnership between a local or state agency, department, or organization and a California-based research team.

We are now accepting applications to our open Call for Innovation Projects. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Apply today!

Innovation Project Guidelines:


Who is eligible to apply?

Any California city, county, state agency, or non-profit is eligible to apply for funding, so long as they have the authority and capacity to carry out the innovation project if selected. 

How many projects will be selected?

We will select up to 6 innovation projects.

What is the timeline for carrying out the projects?

Project timelines should be roughly 2 years, including planning, implementation, and evaluation. Projects can be carried out in any 2-year period between September 2021 and August 2024.

What is the timelines for project selection?

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Finalists will be notified if invited for an interview.

What policy areas can projects focus on?

Proposed projects can be in any policy domain, so long as it deals with a problem or outcome that is important to the future of California. Projects may focus on any of the policy domains outlined in the broader work of the California 100 Initiative.

The following is a list of policy areas that will comprise the work of California 100:

  • Advanced technology and basic research
  • Arts, culture, and entertainment
  • Education and workforce
  • Economic mobility and inequality
  • Energy, environment, and natural resources
  • Federalism and foreign policy
  • Fiscal reform
  • Governance, media, and civil society
  • Health and wellness
  • Housing and community development
  • Immigrant integration
  • Public safety and criminal justice reform
  • Transportation and urban planning

In addition, projects can focus on issues that cut across policy domains, including (but not limited to) policies aimed at fostering inclusion and equity, promoting civic engagement, strengthening public management (e.g., improving how residents interact with government, or recruiting and supporting a high-quality public-sector workforce), and improving public service delivery (e.g., ensuring resilience, increasing procedural justice, or reducing administrative burdens).

Within each topic area, California 100 will utilize the following throughlines to evaluate the status quo and to understand the future:

(1) Resilience that enables communities to bounce back from a range of natural and human-caused disasters.

(2) Advanced technology and innovation that improves private and public sector operations across various domains.

(3) Inclusion–especially of traditionally marginalized groups such as communities of color, immigrants, inland regions, rural areas, and low-income communities–that deepens community involvement in identifying and implementing solutions.

(4) Sustainability that promotes health and well-being over multiple generations.

(5) Equity that ensures justice in the allocation of resources and life chances by race, ethnicity, gender and gender expression, immigrant status, LGBTQ+ identity, and socio-economic status.

What is the selection process and criteria?

All proposals will be evaluated through a rigorous blinded review process. Reviewers will include both academic and policy experts from across the state. Projects will be evaluated on the basis of 7 criteria. Not all projects will meet all criteria; some projects might in fact be strong on just one dimension. However, the full set of projects will meet the range of criteria outlined below. In addition, final project selection will prioritize diversity of geography and policy topics, as well as the commitment and preparedness of the proposing agency/organization to carry out the project. 


Proposed projects should be:

Relevant (clearly related to the vision outlined by the California 100 Initiative)

Testable (can be rigorously evaluated for short-term outcomes). 

Bold (have significant potential to change outcomes for the better)

Cost-effective (feasible to fund in an ongoing way)

Scalable (have significant potential to affect sizable groups of Californians)

Replicable (are generalizable beyond one specific city or location)

Innovative (creative and novel ideas that are not already common practice) 

Finalists will be interviewed virtually by a small panel of policy and research experts to confirm fit.

What is the amount of the award?

The total budget for both project implementation and evaluation will be in the range of $250,000-$270,000. The award includes two components:

(a) Design and implementation award

Proposed design and implementation budgets will be in the range of $100,000 – $150,000 per project. These funds will be provided to the applicant city/county/organization in order to support staff time and other resources related to project implementation. The selected projects will receive significant additional pro-bono technical assistance with the design, implementation, and evaluation of the innovation project, from The People Lab and the broader California 100 Initiative.

(b) Research and evaluation award 

Following project selection, successful projects will be paired with a researcher from the state of California who has relevant expertise based on fit with the policy innovation and scope of each project. Applicants may also apply with a pre-identified research partner. Proposed projects that have already identified a research or evaluation partner should include this information in their proposal. All researchers (both paired and pre-identified) will be provided with funds in the range of $100,000 – $150,000 per project, separate from the implementation funds, to support data collection, analysis, and reporting. In addition to the funding award, all research teams will be provided with in-kind technical assistance and support from a dedicated team at The People Lab.

How do I apply?

The Call for Innovation Projects is now open.

Applications should include:

Cover Sheet (using linked form)

Project summary: Summarize the purpose of your project in brief (2-3 paragraphs).

Project proposal: Describe your project (maximum of 3-5 pages) including the following elements:

  • The problem statement: What problem are you addressing, what is the scope of the problem, and why is it important to address? 
  • The policy idea: What is your policy idea? 
  • Theory of change and expected outcomes: How and why do you expect this policy idea to address the problem? Please include any existing evidence of how this policy idea might be effective.
  • Data availability/ability to measure outcomes: What existing data are already being collected that could be used to assess the success of the policy idea in addressing the problem? What additional infrastructure could be available to measure outcomes (e.g., ability to conduct surveys, ability to track information on implementation)? You do not need to include a full-fledged evaluation, but instead, describe what data might be available or how additional data might be collected. 
  • Capacity to carry it out: What will it take to implement this policy idea? Why do you think you are positioned to successfully implement this policy idea? What support would you need? 

Timeline: Summarize the main milestones of your project with an expected timeframe for each element (maximum 2 pages).

Implementation budget (using linked budget template): Provide a detailed description of the costs to be funded by this grant, including specific costs for personnel, supplies, equipment, travel, meetings, etc.

List and background of key participating staff: Include name, title, responsibilities, relevant experience for each participant

CV of proposed research partner, if relevant:

  • Most projects will be matched with an evaluation partner after selection. However, if you already have a proposed research partner, please share a letter of commitment from that person or organization, and the CV of the relevant Principal Investigator (PI).

Research/Evaluation budget (using linked budget template), if relevant:

  • Please only include a research/evaluation budget if you have a proposed research partner. Otherwise, evaluation and research costs will be calculated by The People Lab.