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Stanford Global Development and Poverty (Stanford GDP): Capacity-Building Grants and Planning Grants

Background and Purpose

The Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED) and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies announce a university-wide initiative on global development and poverty. The goals of the initiative are to transform Stanford’s capacity for top-notch research and action relevant to improving the lives of the poor around the world, promote global development, and complement SEED’s mission to promote entrepreneurial activities that improve the lives of the poor in developing economies.  The following program details will be helpful to scholars preparing letters of inquiry, discussed below under "Award Process."

Eligibility and Guidelines

The heart of the grant program would be awards of a limited number of Capacity-Building Research Grants for major research projects (requiring a minimum of $250,000 in funding) that may take up to 5 years to complete and reflect a substantial new effort rather than the continuation of an existing project.   Collaborative, multi-faculty proposals are not mandatory but are strongly encouraged. 

Proposals for Capacity-Building Research Grants will be evaluated by a faculty advisory committee along several distinct dimensions of merit that would be considered in their entirety on a proposal-by-proposal basis.  While the ideal project would score highly along all of the dimensions simultaneously, projects may be funded if they make particularly impressive contributions along a more limited number of dimensions. 

  • Substantive Focus on Global Poverty

    Will the proposed project focus substantially on improving the lives of the poor in poor or developing countries (e.g., where per capita GDP is less than the global average)?

  • Building Stanford’s Capacity

    Will the project transform the capacity of Stanford, as an institution, to address issues of global development and poverty alleviation through research and action?

  • Potential Practical Applications

    How might the project lead to sustainable and scalable “real-world” improvements in the lives of the poor in specific regions or countries?  Will it enhance, for example, the capacity of actors in those countries to alleviate poverty through improved governance or opportunities for entrepreneurship?

  • Regional or Cross-National Impact

    How will the research lead to systemic improvement in economic and social conditions in multiple regions or countries?   Will the project lead to institutional change?

  • Scholarly Merit

    What are the scholarly merits of the research, including advancing the state of knowledge about global development and poverty alleviation?

  • Budget, Planning, and Evaluation

    Is the budget for the project reasonable and well considered? Where appropriate, does the project include a thoughtfully-crafted evaluation strategy?  

  • Long-Term Strategy

    How would the project’s findings, including the results of any relevant evaluation, be communicated to scholars and practitioners at Stanford and beyond?  If funds are needed beyond the period of the grant, how would the project become self-sustaining?  If the project is intended to continue only for a limited amount of time (such as during the duration of the grant), how would the project achieve a lasting impact?

In addition to the Capacity-Building awards for large projects, the Initiative will award grants for innovative projects that are at more preliminary or exploratory stages, requiring more limited resources.  These Preliminary Research Grants would not exceed $30,000 per award and would be limited to one year of funding.  Proposals would be evaluated on similar criteria as listed above, adjusted to reflect the preliminary nature of the research.  In addition, these proposals would be assessed on the basis of the likelihood that they could lead to more substantial projects.

Reports and Participation in Other Initiative Activities

Recipients of Initiative grants would be required to provide twice-yearly progress reports to the Council and to participate in periodic workshops with other Initiative grantees and with SEED about their research.  In addition, recipients of Capacity-Building grants would be required to make presentations about their research in an annual conference hosted by the Initiative and SEED and open to a public audience.

Award Process

The Initiative co-chairs and faculty advisory committee will review proposals through a two-stage process, beginning with receipt of a letter of inquiry describing the proposal and its purpose.  Scholars submitting ideas found to be promising and consistent with the goals of the Initiative will then be invited to submit a full proposal.  

» Initial letters of inquiry should be no more than three pages in length and are due by March 14, 2014

Please direct questions to Lesley Sept, at, or Belinda Byrne, at  

Invitations to submit full proposals (along with additional instructions on how to prepare the proposals) will be issued by April 2, and full proposals will be due by May 1.  Awards will be announced before the end of the Spring Quarter.