WT Grant Institutional Challenge

Sponsor Name: 
William T. Grant Foundation
Description of the Award: 

Please Note: While the funder does not limit the number of applications from an institution, this down-select is to select the application that will receive the full endorsement and support of OSVPR and Foundation Relations.

To view slides and video from the past webinars and other applicant guidance visit the Foundation's Resources for Applicants page.

The Institutional Challenge Grant encourages university-based research institutes, schools, and centers to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.

To do so, research institutions will need to shift their policies and practices to value collaborative research. They will also need to build the capacity of researchers to produce relevant work and the capacity of agency and nonprofit partners to use research.

Applications are welcome from partnerships in youth-serving areas such as education, justice, child welfare, mental health, immigration, and workforce development. We especially encourage proposals from teams with African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American members in leadership roles. The partnership leadership team should include the principal investigator from the research institution and the lead from the public agency or nonprofit organization.


The award supports research institutions to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations to reduce inequality in youth outcomes. Research institutions will need to address four important goals:

  1. Build a sustained institutional partnership with a public agency or nonprofit organization.

  2. Pursue a joint research agenda to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.

  3. Create institutional change to value research-practice partnerships within research institutions.

  4. Develop the capacity of both partners to collaborate on producing and using research evidence.

The Award

The award will provide $650,000 over three years, in support of:

  • Up to $50,000 for 6-9 months of joint planning activities (e.g., refining protocols for partnering, selecting fellows, finalizing partnership and data sharing agreements, etc.).

  • Fellowship support for the equivalent of one full-time or two half-time mid-career fellows per year, for two years. In addition, universities are required to commit to a 1-for-2 match on the mid-career fellows. The grant pays for two full-time equivalent fellows, and universities are required to fund one additional full-time equivalent fellow..

  • Up to three years of support for the partnership to conduct and use research to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.

  • Resources to advance the proposed institutional shifts and capacities of both partners.

  • Indirect cost allowance of up to 15 percent of total direct costs.

Recipients of the award will have the opportunity to apply for a two-year continuation grant in order to solidify the partnership and institutional changes. At the end of a five-year grant, we expect the following results:

  • The research institution has established a set of strategies that facilitate sustained research collaborations with public agencies or private nonprofit organizations.

  • The public agency or private nonprofit organization has increased its capacity to use research evidence.

  • Participating researchers have improved partnership skills.

  • The research generated has been used in decision making and is likely to lead to improved outcomes for youth.


Eligible research institutions

The award will be made to an organization, not to an individual. Organizations can include university-based research institutes, schools, or centers. Grants are limited without exception to tax-exempt organizations. Institutions that sit outside of the academy, such as research organizations and think tanks, are not eligible.

Eligible principal investigators

Eligible principal investigators are leaders at eligible research institutions. They have visibility, influence on institutional policies and practices, and access to the resources needed to optimize and implement the award. They also possess the skills needed to cultivate trusting relationships with leaders from the partner public agency or nonprofit organization and to ensure the conduct of high-quality research.

Eligible public agencies or nonprofit organizations

Eligible public agencies include state or local agencies and their departments and divisions. Nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations are eligible if they are open to the general public and provide or coordinate services for youth ages 5 to 25 in the United States. Eligible agencies and organizations engage in work relevant to youth in the areas of education, justice, child welfare, mental health, immigration, or workforce development and have the resources needed to implement and optimize the award.

Please read more in the Application Information on the funder’s website about the eligible public agencies or non-profit organizations, eligible leaders from the public agencies or non-profit organizations, and eligible fellows.

Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Sep 14, 2021
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Please upload one PDF file (File name: Last name_GrantInstChall_2021) containing the following items in order no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

1. Describe the Institutional Partnership between Penn State and the public agency or nonprofit organization with which you plan to partner. (2 pages max)

2. Describe the Joint Research Agenda to reduce inequality in youth outcomes. Include a paragraph about how you plan to address changing institutional policies and practices to encourage participation in research-practice partnerships. (2 pages max)

3. Brief CV (2 pages max)

4. 1 page letter from the partnering organization supporting the research agenda.


Below are the criteria that will be used to evaluate each internal applicant's proposal:

Institutional Partnership

  1. The rationale for partnering provides compelling evidence that the research institution and the public agency or nonprofit organization can build a sustained partnership that will work together effectively.

  2. The plan for partnering demonstrates mastery of the literature on the challenges and strategies for collaborative work to promote the use of research evidence.

  3. Activities for building the partnerships will cultivate trust and deepen relationships.

  4. There is evidence that the public agency or nonprofit organization is invested in the partnership, will interact regularly with the fellows, and has strong plans for using the research.

  5. The partnership is likely to be sustained after the award ends.

Joint Research Agenda to Reduce Inequality in Youth Outcomes

  1. The long-term research agenda (including one or more research projects) aligns with the Foundation’s focus on build, test, and increase understanding of a program, policy, or practice to reduce inequality in the academic, social, behavioral, or economic outcomes of young people on the basis of race, ethnicity, language minority status, immigrant origins, or another compelling dimension.

  2. The research questions and findings are likely to significantly advance the public agency or nonprofit organization’s efforts to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.

  3. The proposal reflects a mastery of relevant theory and empirical findings, and clearly states the theoretical and empirical contributions the study will make to the existing research base.

  4. The research plan reflects rigorous methods that are appropriate for the proposal’s goals.

  5. The research plan is feasible given the resources and time frame.

  6. Plans to interpret and use the research findings in policy or practice decisions are convincing, feasible, and aligned with the literature on improving the use of research evidence.

Changing Institutional Policies & Practices

  1. The plan for institutional change is thoughtful and feasible given the resources and time frame.

Developing the Capacity of the Mid-Career Fellows and Partners

  1. The application includes written assurances that the research institution will provide support for the equivalent of one full-time midcareer fellow for one year.
  2. All fellows commit a minimum of half-time status for at least a six-month period.
  3. The criteria for selecting fellows ensure that the fellows possess the relevant expertise to carry out the proposed work and can effectively communicate what is learned to the broader research community and to change makers in other state or local settings.
  4. The capacity-building plan for the research fellows significantly extends the fellows’ skills as effective partners to policymakers and practitioners.
  5. Capacity-building activities for the public agency or nonprofit organization leverage the empirical literature on strategies for mobilizing research for use in practice or policy.
  6. The capacity-building plan for the public agency or nonprofit organization significantly extends the organization’s ability to access, conduct, and integrate high-quality research evidence into their work.

The Office of Foundation Relations is the designated institutional contact responsible for communicating with the Foundation. For questions concerning the application process or other foundation-related questions applicants should please contact Sophie Penney, Director, Foundation Relations (swp2@psu.edu).

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Thursday, July 15, 2021 - 4:00pm