Innovation Projects


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. This call for submission of proposals seeks innovative concepts that 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?

To identify promising ideas and evaluate their likely impact at scale, The People Lab at UC Berkeley is partnering with the California 100 Initiative to support a set of innovation projects across the State in key policy areas. Each selected project will rigorously test an innovative policy, program, or practice aimed at addressing a pressing challenge faced by Californians. Selected 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 California-based research team and a local or state agency, department, or organization. Projects will be chosen through a competitive process described below.

The Call for Innovation Projects is now open.

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. Non-profits should partner with a public entity to implement the innovation project.    

Partnerships with other organizations, for- or non-profit, are welcome, though the primary applicant must be a public or non-profit entity. With partnerships, we are flexible about where the funding is routed (e.g. state agency with non-profit).

How many projects will be selected?

We will select up to 6 innovation projects.

What is the timeline for carrying out projects?

Project timelines should be roughly 2 years, including planning, implementation, and evaluation. Projects can be carried out between September 2021 and October 31, 2023.

What is the timeline 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:


  1. Advanced technology and basic research
  2. Arts, culture, and entertainment
  3. Education and workforce
  4. Economic mobility and inequality
  5. Energy, environment, and natural resources
  6. Federalism and foreign policy
  7. Fiscal reform
  8. Governance, media, and civil society
  9. Health and wellness
  10. Housing and community development
  11. Immigrant integration
  12. Public safety and criminal justice reform
  13. 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?

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) 


Subaward terms will provide UC Berkeley and the California 100 Initiative sponsor the right to publish reports in full or in part and use the commissioned reports as source material for other California 100 projects and programs. Additionally, subaward terms will include that California 100 has first right of refusal on publication and dissemination of the commissioned reports.

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.

How do I learn more?

Click here to learn more about the California 100 Initiative.


Click here to watch a recording of the informational webinar and here to access the webinar slides.


Send us your questions using this form.



Can we apply to supplement another grant? Can we apply additional grants if our project is selected?

Yes, you are welcome to use funding from additional grants towards the Innovation Project.


Are university research organizations eligible to apply? Can a research unit apply if we provide evidence that our government partner is on board?

No, university research organizations are not eligible to apply. The organization that will have responsibility for implementing the Innovation Project must be the primary applicant. However, the government agency or non-profit can identify a specific university or other research organization as the evaluation partner. That research unit can of course support the government or non-profit partner in the preparation of the application.


Can a University of California organization apply? 



Do non-profit organizations need to be based in California or could non-California organizations look for California-based partners?

Organizations that have expertise in California and/or are supporting Californians are eligible to apply, regardless of where the organization is physically located, as long as the actual innovation project is located in California.



Can a government agency or non-profit partner with a for-profit organization to carry out the project? 



How are research partners paired with applicant organizations?

Following project selection, successful projects will be paired with a researcher who has relevant expertise for the policy innovation and scope of each project. The matching process will begin during the review of the proposals and be completed upon project selection, and we will do our best to ensure that the match is a good fit for both the organization and the researcher.


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, including a completed evaluation budget using the template provided.


Are applicants allowed to identify a research partner that is not already part of the network of researchers that the People Lab is connected with?

Yes! The research partner can be anyone who has the relevant expertise. In addition, the People Lab will provide technical assistance and work with the researcher to make sure they are fully supported in carrying out the evaluation.


Is the funding breakdown between implementation and evaluation flexible? 

Yes. Funding allocation between the two components is flexible and will depend on the needs of the organization and project.


How will applicants that apply as partners (e.g. state agency w/ nonprofit) receive funding?

Generally, funding will be provided to the city/county/organization that submits the application. However, we are flexible about where the funding is routed. Our team will work with successful applicants to make funds available on a mutually agreed upon schedule that best facilitates the timeline of work.


What if we have a private partner (consultant/help with implementation)? What are the limits to private participation?

Private partners are acceptable and these subcontracts should be detailed in the budget worksheet.



Do projects need to be able to be tested and evaluated within 2 years? What if a project is not expected to have immediate, measurable effects within 2 years?

We recognize that not all expected outcomes can be measured within the 2-year timeframe. However, we would expect to see some measurable outcomes within 2 years, and The People Lab will support successful applicants in scoping out their project and data collection in a way that makes this possible. Project timelines should be roughly 2 years, including planning, implementation and evaluation.

Informational Webinar

Click here to access the slides.