Employer practices

A Preview of WorkRise’s 2023 Funding Opportunities: Catalyzing Partnerships for Equity and Impact

Caleb QuakenbushOctober 20, 2022

In January, WorkRise will launch three new funding opportunities for research to inform solutions that advance economic mobility for workers earning low wages in the US labor market. In this post, we preview these opportunities so that interested applicants can start generating ideas and building partnerships ahead of the application period in early 2023.

Grantmaking is a core part of WorkRise’s approach to generating actionable insights that labor market stakeholders—employers, researchers, labor advocates, policymakers, and philanthropists—can apply to support economic security and mobility experienced by workers earning low wages, especially Black workers, women, and others who have been excluded from opportunity because of structural disadvantages.

Since 2020, WorkRise has committed more than $7 million to support various research projects, including the fielding of new surveys to generate new datasets, qualitative projects that rely on fieldwork and focus groups, and multiyear, randomized evaluations of workforce training programs. WorkRise’s grantmaking prioritizes research and practice partnerships that incorporate deep engagement with on-the-ground changemakers, especially employers and workers themselves.

Three funding opportunities opening in January

The three funding opportunities include two new programs, including one designed to more effectively build the pipeline of scholars at minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and another to support research on emerging and timely issues that surface throughout the year. Eligible applicants will be able to apply to any of these three funding programs.

Program 1: Bold Ideas for Transforming the Labor Market (application deadline in the first quarter 2023, decisions made by early fall 2023). This program will function similar to our previous “two-stage” requests for proposals (RFPs), which include a letter of inquiry (LOI) phase and an invited full proposal phase. This program is intended primarily for larger, collaborative research projects (including pilot studies) that build new evidence on any of WorkRise’s research priorities.

Awards will typically be between $150,000 and $500,000. Applicants will submit LOIs in early 2023, finalists will be selected to submit full proposals, and funding decisions will be made by early fall. As with previous RFPs, we strongly encourage teams from well-resourced institutions to partner with less-resourced, mission-driven institutions and organizations that elevate the voices and perspectives of historically marginalized communities.

Program 2: Labor Market Research from Minority-Serving Institutions (rolling applications and decisions). MSIs play a vital role in building a diverse pipeline of scholars, practitioners, policy leaders, and business innovators and in surfacing solutions that center both the needs and strengths of the communities they serve.

This funding track is designed to support research at MSIs, including historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions. Based on our assessment of the demand for this type of support and the feedback we have received regarding the level of support that would be useful to MSI-based scholars, we envision most projects funded through this program will be in the range of up to $150,000 per project.

Applicants will submit a short concept note outlining their research proposals, and the program will accept submissions on a rolling basis throughout 2023, or until grant funds are spent down. Promising submissions will be invited to refine their ideas in a formal full proposal, and we expect to make funding decisions roughly every four months. This opportunity is open only to researchers at MSIs. MSI-based teams are encouraged to apply to any of the three funding programs that best meet their proposed project scopes.

Program 3: Emerging Opportunities for Advancing Worker Mobility(rolling applications and decisions). This track is designed to provide timely support for exploratory work or short research projects and will operate similarly to the MSI funding program. Short concept notes will be accepted throughout 2023, and promising applicants will be invited to submit formal full proposals on a rolling basis. We anticipate funding mostly smaller projects (up to about $50,000) that produce important syntheses or analytic groundwork on emerging topics likely to influence labor market policy or practice debates in the coming years. This opportunity is open to all applicants.

Teams may submit more than one application to any or all of these funding programs, although it is unlikely WorkRise will fund more than one project per team.

Research priorities

As with previous RFPs, our grantmaking will prioritize projects that yield actionable insights in at least one of our six core research pillars:

Since its launch, WorkRise has released several landscape reports that synthesize existing evidence on these topics, raise pressing questions for the field, and identify promising areas of investigation for researchers and practitioners to pursue. Although these studies do not comprehensively reflect our research agenda, they are a starting point for applicants positioned to tackle the questions the studies raise.

We also invite teams to submit projects that advance knowledge and solutions for specific populations, such as Black workers, young adults at risk of disconnection from the workforce, or the workforces of specific local or regional economies. WorkRise will favorably consider projects that incorporate community-engagement research methods in projects that aim to generate insights about specific populations. Engaging and partnering with these communities and the community organizations that support them is a promising pathway for broadening perspectives, bringing nuance to the research methods and findings, and expanding the reach, credibility, and impact of the project’s results.

Who should apply and how should they prepare?

These opportunities are aimed at multidisciplinary teams of researchers, practitioners, and community-serving institutions seeking support to build evidence, data, and knowledge to advance solutions to support workers’ economic mobility. Programs 1 and 3 are open to all applicants, whereas Program 2 is open only to researchers based at MSIs. For pilot studies, WorkRise funds are intended to support the research and evaluation components of the work; the intervention should be funded from other sources.

We encourage teams interested in applying for funding to begin scoping project ideas and partnerships now and to remain engaged with WorkRise’s events and research releases. Our newsletter remains the best way to be notified of updates, informational webinars, and new funding opportunities.

Projects supported by WorkRise funding have already achieved results—from national media coverage on critical labor market issues to engagement with policy leaders. We anticipate amplifying the work of grantee research nearing completion and our incoming cohort of pilot projects through our communications channels and learning networks. We look forward to seeing what new ideas and innovative partnerships are developed for the coming year.

Share your ideas for research, topics, or events to be featured on Working Knowledge by emailing workingknowledge@urban.org