2022 Knowledge Challenge
Supporting projects that generate practical, actionable, and rigorous evidence to inform decision making and create systems changes needed to ensure individuals have the opportunity to achieve economic security, mobility, and prosperity.
CONTEXT & FUNDING OPPORTUNITY
The 2022 Knowledge Challenge RFP is intended to support activities that improve our understanding of entrepreneurship and generate practical, actionable, and rigorous evidence to inform decision making and change systems. Applicants will be asked to select a focus area.
The two focus areas are:
- Systems and structures to support inclusive prosperity: This area will explore the infrastructure needed to support entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs live within communities that are shaped by many interrelated systems and structures — communities where access to financial capital, health care, childcare, education, food, and transportation are often unequally distributed and COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the business landscape. We need a more holistic understanding of how these structural conditions shape outcomes for entrepreneurs — particularly those whose race, gender, and geography have too often left them underserved by entrepreneurship and the economy more broadly — so that we can work towards greater inclusive prosperity. How can we ensure that the structures and systems in place create opportunity for individuals to start a business? What is needed to help entrepreneurs sustain their businesses, build capacity, and thrive? Systems and structures addressed in this focus area could address these questions. We especially welcome submissions exploring wealth and income inequality, emerging trends in financing, and broader protections and social supports needed among entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.
- Equitable opportunities and the future of work: This area will explore how entrepreneurial activity might be structured as the economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. How we work, what we do for work, and where we work are changing. Digital technologies, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, platforms, and algorithms are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, shaping the ways we work and live. What supports are needed to align entrepreneurial activity with the goal of inclusive prosperity? How might supports vary among differing forms of entrepreneurial activities such as self-employment, independent contracting, gig work, and employer firms? How do changes in work tasks and arrangements affect entrepreneurial activity? What new innovations are emerging, and what is yet to emerge? How can we ensure that these changes create more equitable outcomes, rather than supporting existing inequalities? How do we ensure that the future of entrepreneurship helps support and sustain individuals, families, and communities? We welcome proposals that explore these issues with an eye towards the future and what may lie ahead for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.
We will consider proposals from faculty researchers at an institute of higher education and/or researchers who are part of a nonprofit organization. We especially encourage applications from teams of principal investigators (PIs) that represent two or more disciplines and teams that represent research-practice collaborations. We will not consider proposals from students as part of the 2022 Knowledge Challenge. We encourage PIs to engage students to work under their guidance as part of the projects they are proposing.
The Kauffman Foundation seeks to support research projects that generate practical, actionable, and rigorous evidence to inform decision making and create systems change. To this end, we expect research findings to be relevant to and shared with a broad audience. This might include, for example, sharing research findings with entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial support organizations, community leaders, and/or policymakers in various capacities. We look for research projects that aim to take a translational research approach, working to connect research with practice and/or policy.
BUDGET & AWARDS
Applicants may request funding up to $200,000 for projects led by a single PI and up to $400,000 for projects led by a team of collaborating PIs (interdisciplinary teams and research-practice collaborations) over 36 months. Applicants with smaller project budgets and scopes are also encouraged to apply.
Applicants should submit a project budget that aligns with the scope of the project, supports proposed activities, and clearly connects those activities with line-item requests.
ELIGIBILITY & RESTRICTIONS
This call is open to PIs who are affiliated with organizations that are either institutes of higher education or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Eligible applicants must be located in the United States.
We will not consider funding for:
- Indirect/overhead expenses associated with the ongoing operations of the organization.
- Proposed project duration longer than 36 months.
- More than one application per primary investigator (only one proposal allowed).
- RFP opens: Jan 18
- Open question period: Jan 18 - Feb 8
- Stage 1 application due: Feb 28
- Finalist notified: Early April
- Stage 2 full proposal due: May 2
- Finalists notified: June 30
- Grants awarded: Aug 1
HOW TO APPLY
The application process will consist of two stages. The first is an initial application including an overview of your project, and the second is your full proposal. Within each online form, there are detailed guidelines for each section. To help you prepare, an overview of the application elements that will be included in each stage is provided below.
PLEASE NOTE: Applications that are incomplete or do not contain all the required documentation will not be reviewed. Additionally, please review the RFP timeline carefully. Applicants should plan to submit materials well before each deadline as we will not accept late applications or applications submitted outside of the designated systems.
For this RFP, we are instituting double-blind reviews for Stage 1 of the application process. This is an effort to minimize potential bias in reviews and ensure the research proposals are judged fairly.
We ask that you assist us with this effort in the following ways:
- When preparing your answers to the “Stage 1 Initial Application” questions, please remove any references to and mentions of the host institution and names and/or affiliations of the project team.
- When speaking to staff capacity, please outline staff’s skills and experiences in a general way without mentioning specific names or institutions.
Stage 1 Initial Application
In addition to organization and primary contact info, basic budget numbers, and drop-down categorizations of the proposal, applicants will be expected to complete a series of questions that are specific to this request for proposals. Below is an overview of the questions applicants will be expected to complete:
Proposal summary: Describe your project and how it aligns with one of the two focus areas.
Staff capacity: Describe your project team members’ experience and capacity; describe your plan for addressing any gaps in experience or capacity, if applicable.
Demonstrated need: How does your proposed research take into account/address root causes and systems change?
Project description: Describe the activities of the project, and share in detail how those activities support overall project goals.
Implementation plan: Describe how you plan to engage in translational research work—ensuring your findings are practical, actionable, and rigorous, in order to inform decision making and create systems change.
Describe your data collection process, including plan for disaggregating data by race, gender, and geography. If disaggregation is not possible with this project, please explain why.
If working directly within communities, share your plan to engage and learn from other community members and leaders engaged in relevant or similar work. Additionally, share your plan to engage or involve those most affected by the issue in the research process.
Project personnel: Discuss how your team members’ identities and lived experiences have shaped the focus and approach in this project, and how this might impact any work with communities and community members who hold different identities and/or have different lived experiences. Share how your team plans to engage, connect, and gather feedback from communities and community members involved in this research throughout the project duration.
Financial feasibility of project/program: Share a high-level budget and brief budget narrative for this proposed project (i.e., rough percentage of budget you expect to allocate to staffing, resources, etc.).
Project success: Describe how you plan to evaluate the impact of project activities. Include at least one output and one outcome that you plan to track and report on. Outputs and outcomes should address how the research results will be shared in practical, actionable ways with a broad audience (beyond academia), including, for example, entrepreneurs, ESOs, community members, and/or policymakers.
Prospective Applicant Support
Prospective applicants are encouraged to take advantage of the following opportunity for proposal support:
Question Period: The Kauffman Foundation will accept questions related to this RFP and the application process from January 18 – February 8, 2022. Responses to common questions will be posted to the RFP FAQ once the question period closes. We will not be able to respond to all questions individually. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stage 2 Full Proposal Elements
If selected to advance to the second stage of the RFP process, applicants will receive user credentials to the Foundation’s online grants management system, Fluxx. Below is an overview of the proposal elements you’ll be expected to complete and/or upload as part of your full proposal:
Project Beneficiaries and Need: Information regarding community need, the target populations you are hoping to serve, and how these populations have been involved in planning and will be involved in the project moving forward.
Project Description: Information about the proposed project/program, including a project summary, start and end dates, detailed project description, and the team’s implementation plan.
Relevant Qualifications: Information on how your organization and staff are uniquely qualified to carry out the work described within your grant proposal.
Project Budget: In addition to providing a Kauffman-specific project budget, applicants will be asked to upload a detailed overall project budget (using our template) that includes both revenues and expenses, status of other funds (if applicable), and clearly connects budget lines to grant deliverables.
Organization Capacity & Financials: This is information that will help us understand your organization’s capacity to manage the grant and overall financial health. This includes such things as your organization’s leadership/board, operating budget, financial statements, and most recent audit (if applicable).
Evaluation Metrics: Depending on the size of the grant, applicants will be expected to report 1-2 outputs and outcomes that align with the goals of this RFP. Outputs are the activities, products, or services that your organization will undertake/provide as part of the grant. The associated outcomes are the changes that you will see as a result of these outputs. Outputs and outcomes should align with the Kauffman Foundation’s focus on translational research and ensuring research is practical, actionable, and rigorous in order to inform decision making and create systems change.
All Stage1 submissions will be screened by Kauffman staff, and selected proposals will be sent to external reviewers. Those chosen as semi-finalists will be evaluated by a team of program officers and grants administration staff in a final decision meeting. The review and approval process for this RFP will take approximately 5 months from the Stage 1 deadline date.
Reviewers will be asked to assess how well each proposal meets the expectations listed below:
- Does the proposed project clearly and directly align with one of the two focus areas (Systems and structures to support inclusive prosperity; Equitable opportunities and the future of work)?
- Are the goals and activities of the proposed project clearly defined and aligned?
- Does the proposed project include a clear plan for evaluation of outcomes? (Put another way, does the proposal include tracking and evaluating salient metrics to determine impact?)
- Does the project team outline a plan for translational research and sharing with a broader audience? And, if working in close proximity with community members, does the project team outline a plan for sharing research results back to those who participated?
- Does the proposed project involve collecting or disaggregating data in such a way that findings will pinpoint impact and opportunity across identities? If not, does the proposal articulate why disaggregation isn’t possible?
- Does the project approach take into account how historical and structural drivers of inequality affect the proposed topic? Put another way, does the proposed research engage with/address root causes and systems change?
- Does the project team hold experience and capacity to carry out the proposed work? (i.e.,, have they successfully carried out projects of a similar scope? Do they accurately assess the staffing/team needs for a project of this size?)
- Is the proposed budget realistic, justified, and directly related to the research activities?
- Does the project team demonstrate awareness of how their identities might shape their approach, and/or ability to connect with the communities named or partnered in the research? Additionally, do they articulate a plan to develop feedback loops, review, and connection with those who hold lived experience in the research topic?
- And, if applicable (i.e., for projects that involve on-the-ground engagement and data collection within communities): Does the proposal indicate that community leaders working in this area have been or will be consulted in regards to project activities? Does the project team articulate a plan for engaging the community most impacted by the issue in research activities?
Finalists will also be assessed according to strategic fit and alignment with Foundation focus areas and priorities.
REPORTING & EVALUTION EXPECTATIONS OF GRANTEES:
Grantees will be expected to provide a yearly progress report and one final report at the conclusion of the project, in addition to participating in evaluation efforts throughout and following the project period (36 months total). If selected as a finalist, grantees will work with the assigned program officer to establish the appropriate reporting and payment schedule. Finalists will also be expected to work collaboratively with their assigned program officer to develop grant metrics.
In addition, grantees will be encouraged to participate in activities designed to engage Knowledge Challenge grantees throughout the course of their research projects. Grantees will have the opportunity to share findings and progress on their research with other researchers and community organizations. Grantees will also have opportunities to learn from one another about topics of interest, such as community-engaged research and translational research. Grantee convenings will be held virtually up to four times per year for the duration of the grant period (36 months).
If you have questions about the goals or content of this RFP, please email email@example.com.
For applicants having problems with accessing or submitting the application, please reach out to the SurveyMonkey help desk here.
TERMS & CONDITIONS:
Please review the following Terms & Conditions that guide the Foundation’s grantmaking and request for proposal processes.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
I would like to talk to someone about my idea before submission. Who do I call?
Due to the volume of prospective applicants, our staff will not be available for individual calls. However, we will accept questions related to this RFP and the application process from January 18 - February 8, 2022. Responses to these questions will be posted to the RFP FAQ once the question period closes. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am having difficulty submitting my application. Who do I reach out to?
For applicants with problems accessing or submitting the application, please email email@example.com.
I haven’t heard back from the help desk, and the deadline is tomorrow. What should I do?
The Foundation will not accept late submissions or applications submitted outside of the designated systems. Please review the timeline carefully and plan to submit your application materials well before each deadline.
We are a for-profit entity or membership organization. Can we apply for funding?
No. As a private foundation, the Kauffman Foundation can only provide funding for charitable activities.
I am a PhD student. Can I apply for a grant through the 2022 Kauffman Knowledge Challenge?
2022 Knowledge Challenge grants will not be awarded directly to students. We encourage students to reach out to faculty members who may be applying to see how they might be able to take part in the project work. We also encourage faculty members who are applying to identify ways to engage students in the projects they are proposing.
I don’t have a PhD, but I work on data regularly, and I think my work can provide some answers. Am I eligible to apply?
I work in an organization that provides mentoring and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs. We are interested in research, but we don’t have full-time researchers on staff. Can I still apply?
Yes. You are eligible and encouraged to apply. We encourage you to identify opportunities to partner with researchers, as these grants are intended for research projects.
Can I submit research that is currently also under consideration by another funding institution?
Yes. You should disclose previous, current, and potential funders at Stage 1 of the application. The Foundation also will expect full disclosure of funding sources as part of due diligence for full proposals.
I’m an existing grantee. Am I still eligible to participate?
I have an important idea for funding, but it doesn’t fit within the two areas you outlined in this Challenge.
The Foundation continues to be open to research proposals, so you can still submit your idea for consideration. However, the focus areas identified in this Challenge represent our priority research areas for the 2022 cycle, and strategic fit of proposed projects is part of our evaluation criteria.
Updated FAQs 2/17/2022
By “interdisciplinary teams” we mean teams that engage researchers from different disciplines. They can be in the same department, as long as they have diverse research expertise (i.e., different terminal degrees).
By “research-practice collaborations” we mean activities that engage stakeholders from various backgrounds in addition to researchers. These can be community leaders and members, policymakers, entrepreneurship support organizations, entrepreneurs, and others.
By “researcher” we mean individuals who engage in “systematic, intensive study of a subject to gain greater knowledge or understanding and/or apply new knowledge to meet a recognized need.”
By “translational research” we mean ensuring activities and deliverables are accessible and relevant to a non-research audience. These can include, but are not limited to sharing out findings in accessible formats, such as op-eds, executive summaries and briefs, presentations, forums, or other events. This also means ensuring research is relevant to the needs of practice, policies, and programs. We are open to exploring ideas around what translational research may look like for your project.
I do not see a portal for the actual application.
I haven’t heard back from the help desk and the deadline is tomorrow. What should I do?
Answer: The Foundation will not accept late submissions or applications submitted outside of the designated systems. Therefore, you should review the timeline carefully and plan to submit your application materials well before each deadline.
Are there any guidelines for the various sections of the proposal? Specifically, is there a word/page limit for the entire package of Stage 1, or a required document format?
Answer: The application for Stage 1 is intended to be concise and complete. While question fields do not have character or length limit, we ask that you condense your responses to at most a couple paragraphs for each question.
For organizations, should we specify the university or the unit (School of Business) within the university?
Answer: Please specify the organization that will be the grant recipient – in most cases that is the University.
For organization’s DEI details, where can we get more information to help us fill it out?
Answer: please see Kauffman’s FAQ here.
We have a combination of multiple PIs from different organizations (universities and/or 501c(3) non-profits). Do we need to fill out organization information, eligibility, and demographic information for each PI or for principal PI only?
Answer: Please provide information for the organization that will be responsible for managing the grant funds. This could be either a university or a 501c(3) non-profit.
We would like to cite statements from public engagement events (interviews, speaker series), statewide, would we need to disclose participant names, identities, etc?
Answer: No, please see the section on double-blind reviews.
Is there a space to upload supplemental documentation?
Answer: There is no supplemental documentation needed for Stage 1. We will be providing further guidance for applicants selected for Stage 2 at that time.
What are the distinguishing features between the “staff capacity” and “project personnel”—what should we detail in each section?
Answer: For staff capacity we are looking to see high-level description of project members’ skills and experiences in a general way without mentioning specific names or institutions. For project personnel we are looking to learn about your team members’ identities and lived experiences have shaped the focus and approach in this project, and how this might impact any work with communities and community members who hold different identities and/or have different lived experiences.
Is my submission confidential?
Answer: The Foundation will not intentionally share submission materials outside of the Foundation except for external reviewers (if needed), who are subject to confidentiality agreements. That being said, the foundation cannot guarantee confidentiality for information submitted in response to this RFP. It is strongly recommended that submissions not include any proprietary or confidential information.
Does the research project need to span the entire time, for example, 36 months?
Answer: No, projects do not have to span the maximum length. Projects should be proposed with the time period that most appropriately enables the work.
Are $200,000/$400,000 amounts fixed, or can we ask for less?
Answer: We ask applicants to request the amount of money that is necessary to ensure success of your project. The $200,000/$400,000 amounts are the maximums for the respective types of grants. We recognize that not all projects will require these amounts.
Do Knowledge Challenge grants require matching dollars?
Can the Knowledge Challenge grants be used as matching funds towards another grant?
Answer: Yes. Those selected for grant awards can reach out to Kauffman staff to discuss.
Can we apply for/sponsor a research study on behalf of a network partner?
What are the allowable expenses?
Kauffman will work with those selected to submit full proposals to structure project budgets. That said, grants through this RFP can support (but are not limited to):
- Project member salaries, including graduate students and post-docs as applicable
- Salary support and course buy-outs (Note: no more than one month of summary salary support per professor per year and no more than one course buyout over the project period per professor. Any request for salary support or course buyouts should have clear justification for why it is necessary. If invited to submit a full proposal, any proposal that includes a course buyout must be accompanied by a letter of support from the dean or appropriate university official.)
- Travel expenses
- Third party data collection fees
- The Foundation considers costs which are not in direct support of the grant as indirect. Indirect costs are not allowed in a grant request budget.
What information do we need to provide about beneficiaries for Stage 1?
Answer: In a brief paragraph, provide additional information about your target beneficiaries (such as numbers served, geographic area, socio-economic status, gender, race, ethnicity, student grade levels, numbers of students directly/indirectly impacted). Also, how was the target population involved in the planning of this project.
What kind of channels will exist for us to collaborate, research, or share findings with other grantees of the Kauffman Foundation?
Answer: Grantees will have the opportunity to share findings and progress on their research with other researchers and community organizations. Grantees will also have opportunities to learn from one another about topics of interest, such as community-engaged research and translational research. Grantee convenings will be held virtually up to four times per year for the duration of the grant period. Grantees are encouraged, but not required, to attend these events.
Are lived experiences required, as noted, or would subject matter expertise in the area of entrepreneurship be sufficient to convey?
Answer: PIs are not required to hold lived experience in a given research topic but should outline a plan for engaging others with lived experience during the course of the research.
If two universities submit independent applications, and both of them name the same partner organization, is that ok?
Will any data collected or used have to be made publicly available if my project is funded?
Answer: The Foundation expects that data will be made publicly available when possible. In some exceptional circumstances, this may be aggregated at a unit of analysis appropriate to privacy guidelines of the data provider/s.
Will my code and method have to be made publicly available if my project is funded?
Answer: Yes. We will work with PI’s to determine the best way to make the information public.
Will letters of support or letters of recommendation be required at some point in the future?
Answer: Letters of recommendation are not required for Stage 1 of the application. For projects invited to Stage 2 (full proposal), we may request additional documentation.
Who will own the intellectual property (IP) resulting from the grant?
Answer: Any work product created by you as the result of this grant will remain your property. The Kauffman Foundation will retain a license for use and distribution in furtherance of the charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purpose of this grant.
Community engaged work/ethics/IRB
Who should I engage when looking for those who hold 'lived experiences' in my research topic?
Answer: Engage those who are closest to the question at hand, with whom you are able to cultivate an honest dialogue about the research. This could be entrepreneurs themselves, entrepreneur support organizations, or others.
Our research will involve personal interviews with human subjects. Is there an IRB process in place as a part of this grant?
Answer: You will be responsible for determining if IRB is needed for your project and will need to work through your organization’s process if needed. Please share how you will work with your institution to ensure you follow the appropriate protocols of working with human subjects.
In our proposed project, we will be working with existing large-scale datasets, and will not be collecting primary data within communities. How should we address the "project personnel" prompt to 'gather feedback from communities involved in this research"?
Answer: If it's not possible to gather feedback from communities involved in your research, please describe how do you intend to engage and connect with communities this matters for/is relevant to?
For the double-blind review process, what is the appropriate level of specificity for discussing our community partners, specific cities/regions, and partnering networks?
Answer: Please remove names of community partners and networks. You can describe the area and type of work they do, and names of cities and regions are ok.
Is Kauffman awarding student grants for this RFP cycle?
No, we are not awarding student grants in this funding cycle. Student applications will not be reviewed. We do encourage PIs to request funding for student researchers in their grants, so students are able to participate as project members in Knowledge Challenge projects.
I work in a nonprofit that provides mentoring and networking opportunities to entrepreneurship. We are interested in research, but we don’t have full-time researchers on staff. Can I still apply?
Answer: Yes. You are eligible and encouraged to apply.
Does the PI have to have a PhD to apply? Does the PI have to be a university faculty?
Can our university/organization submit several proposals if they have different PIs?
I have multiple ideas for this RFP, may I submit multiple Kauffman Knowledge Challenge proposals?
Answer: While you are only able to be listed as the PI on one submission, you are able be listed as part of the research team on more than one submission.
Does each proposal from the same organization need have to have different team members, or could there be overlap of some of the team members?
Answer: Projects can have overlapping team members, as long as each proposal has a different PI.
Can our organization receive multiple awards?
What is the maximum number of co-PIs per project?
Answer: We do not have a specific requirement for maximum number of PIs per project. Each project has different needs, so please use your best judgement in making this determination. You will have to determine who will serve as the lead PI to submit the proposal in our system.
Can we hire a subject matter expert consultant/contractor from a for-profit entity?
Answer: Kauffman program officers will work with semi-finalists to discuss in more detail if applicable.
Are faculty from non-U.S. based universities or non-U.S. based projects eligible to apply?
Answer: The grant recipient’s institution must be located in the U.S. For grants to individuals, the individual must be legally present in the U.S. to receive a grant. We will consider research projects outside the U.S. as long as they provide insight about entrepreneurship in the U.S.
Is our project on x topic/approach a good fit for Knowledge Challenge RFP? Can you advise on x project-specific question? Which of the two focus areas is the best fit for our x project?
Answer: If you think your project fits within either of the two focus areas for this RFP, please submit your proposal for our consideration. We are not advising on project-specific questions at this time. If your project can reasonably fit either focus area, please select the primary focus area you believe best fits your proposal.
Can I submit research that is currently also under consideration by another funding institution?
Answer: Yes. You should disclose previous, current and potential funders at the white paper stage. The Foundation also will expect full disclosure of funding sources as part of due diligence for full proposals.
I have a really important idea for funding, but it doesn’t fit within the two focus areas you outlined in this Challenge.
Answer: The Foundation continues to be open to research proposals, so you can still submit your idea for consideration. However, the focus areas identified in this RFP represent our priority research areas for the 2022 cycle and strategic fit of proposed projects is part of our evaluation criteria.
Can the lead PI be a practitioner?
Answer: Yes, as long as the research is being conducted for public benefit. In furtherance of this, the foundation requires that:
- the grantee remains responsible for the allocation, management and reporting on the use of grant dollars;
- all work product is owned by the grantee (and not the practitioner);
- the results of the research must be made publicly available;
- no elements of the grant outputs are proprietary and available solely to the practitioner.
Can we use Knowledge Challenge funds to finance expenses for international collaborators?
Answer: It depends. Kauffman program officers will work with semi-finalists to discuss in more detail if applicable.
Can we apply for renewal/extension of an existing grant with Kauffman Foundation?
Answer: Knowledge Challenge 2022 funding cannot be used to fund renewal/extension of an existing grant. However, current Knowledge Challenge grantees are eligible to apply for funds for new projects/work through this RFP.