Studying Community Efforts to Engage MS/HS Youth in OST Learning Opportunities


​timeframe: January 2023-April 2024
up to $750,000

LETTERS OF INTENT DUE: August 17, 2022
PROPOSALS DUE: October 3, 2022

Questions about this RFP can be sent to


Many studies have documented the potential of the out-of-school time (OST) sector to support young people’s learning and development (see NASEM, 2002, 2021). At their best, OST programs (summer and afterschool) are organized as supportive social environments, centered on rich relationships between adults and youth, and among youth, that support young people’s intellectual, social, emotional, and physical well-being (American Institutes for Research, 2019; Durlak et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2014). Research has found that supportive afterschool programs may be especially important for young people who do not thrive in school (Liu, Simpkins &Vandell, 2021; Vandell et al., 2020a, 2020b).

With significant federal funding starting in the 1990s, the number of young people attending afterschool programs has grown substantially. Over the last several decades, the OST field has developed a network of intermediary organizations, regular regional and national conferences, journals, and a range of evidence-based tools and frameworks that can inform powerful OST programs for young people.

Despite these significant accomplishments, including the growing evidence of the benefits to young people of participating in such programs, we know that many young people are underrepresented in program participation (Afterschool Alliance, 2020). Lack of participation may be most stark among the most marginalized groups of young people, such as those experiencing housing or food insecurity, those who are involved with the justice system, children of new immigrant families, LGBTQ+ youth, and others. Across the board, secondary school-aged youth represent a significant group that is consistently underserved by the OST sector (Afterschool Alliance, 2020).

The OST research literature has long documented many logistical barriers to participation — for example, transportation, fees, and the like — and these logistical barriers indeed persist in many places. But less attention has been paid to the social and cultural barriers that may discourage many young people from choosing to attend, even when structural barriers are addressed (Simpkins et al., 2017; Vossoughi, 2017). This may be especially true for older (MS/HS) youth who often have more choice about how they spend their out of school time.  Indeed, there are many rich examples of smaller, often community-based, summer and afterschool programs that have been designed specifically for older youth who cannot or choose not to participate in more widely available programs, such as municipal, county, or district-based programs (Baldridge, 2014). These programs that successfully attract, retain, and engage older youth are often organized around specific youth interests, such as civic engagement or digital arts, and are often led by youth workers who live in or come from the same communities as the program participants, and oftentimes might have once been program participants themselves. Research with such community-based programs finds that they prioritize providing socially supportive, agentive, and culturally affirming spaces for youth participants (Baldridge, 2014; Little, Irby, Borah, & Pittman, 2021).

Thus, the current system may serve some older youth very well, but may serve many others not very well or even not at all. This begs the question: How might communities form or strengthen partnerships to address current logistical, social, and cultural barriers to the participation of older youth (MS/HS) in engaging and meaningful OST programs? This question is one that the Wallace Foundation is considering pursuing through a new large-scale initiative that would be expected to launch in 2024. In such a future initiative, we would partner with a number of communities to form or strengthen cross-sector partnerships that could design such systems; an external partner would be commissioned to nurture a cross-site learning community and provide technical assistance as needed; and we would partner with researchers to study the implementation efforts of participating communities, as well as their benefits for participating youth and communities.

Exploratory Phase of the Initiative Design
Before designing and launching such a multi-year initiative, the foundation hopes to work with and learn from a cohort of organizations that are considering—or are already engaged in—partnerships focused on some aspects of addressing logistical, social, and cultural barriers to engaging MS/HS young people in their OST programs.

In this one-year Exploratory Phase (roughly April 2023-March 2024) we would seek to learn from participating communities about the kinds of goals, approaches, and intended outcomes they see as desirable and feasible, and the kinds of supports they see as essential to realizing their goals. Through this process we would expect to inform the initiative design and refine and perhaps narrow the research questions such a future initiative might seek to address. The Exploratory Phase would thus be designed to

  1. Support and learn from a cohort of up to 10-15 community partnerships participating in an Exploratory Phase planning cohort, during which they would develop comprehensive plans for addressing structural, social, and cultural barriers to engaging older youth (MS/HS) in compelling OST programs.
  2. Support and learn from a cohort of 10-15 community partnerships, who are already engaged in some aspects of addressing barriers to engaging older youth in OST, participating in an Exploratory Phase implementation cohort, during which they would further develop or implement particular aspects of their efforts, such as building data systems, or engaging in resource mapping, or providing professional development aimed at increasing OST engagement among older youth.
  3. Learn from these planning and implementation efforts to surface the kinds of goals, supports, partnerships, phases, strategies, etc. that are critical to this work which could be funded, and also studied, in a future full initiative .
  4. Conduct other exploratory work that could inform the design of a full initiative, such as literature reviews, research scans, focus groups, etc.

To support these goals, Wallace is seeking a highly collaborative research team, with extensive experience working with out-of-school time, district, and community leaders on efforts relating to reaching and engaging youth historically underrepresented in OST programs. The research team will work with an Exploratory Phase steering committee (foundation staff and the external team leading the professional learning community), along with the up to two to three dozen participating communities, to study and document community planning activities in order to:

  1. Identify key opportunities, barriers, and other dimensions that Wallace should consider in the design of the five-year initiative—issues such as exact focus and locus for change, readiness, partnerships, strategies and levers for change, etc.;
  2. Provide useful and timely feedback to the Exploratory Phase grantee communities, and to Wallace and the learning architect to inform the Exploratory phase activities; and
  3. Produce a five-year research plan for the full initiative, which is expected to start in the first half of 2024.

It is anticipated that, if the final five-year research design is approved, the same research team would be commissioned to conduct it (perhaps with additional research partners or collaborators as relevant to the final initiative design) during the full initiative.


The Wallace Foundation takes an unusual approach for a private foundation. Most of our work is carried out through large-scale, multi-year initiatives designed to accomplish dual goals. Our first goal is to help our grantees (such as school districts or youth development organizations) create value for those they serve by supporting and strengthening their work at the local level. Our second goal is to add value to the field at large, by designing our initiatives to address important unanswered questions, working with researchers to capture and document what is learned by our grantees as they innovate, and then sharing these findings with practitioners, policymakers and influencers in order to catalyze improvements more broadly. In this way, we aim to use the development of knowledge and evidence as a lever to help institutions beyond those we fund directly to improve their work.

Our three focus areas are K-12 education leadership, child and youth development, and the arts. Our initiatives are designed and managed by cross-functional teams consisting of program, research and communications staff members at the foundation.

2.1 Research and Equity

Wallace is committed to supporting research that is designed and conducted with and for equity. To inform strategies for change, research proposals should use strength-based approaches and be designed to shed light on structures, systems, processes, or practices that produce or reproduce inequities. Research itself should be equity-centered—including partnerships and processes that center the voices and perspectives of communities that would stand to use or benefit from the research. Research teams should include principal investigators and other senior intellectual contributors with relevant lived experiences. Theoretical frameworks should account for systemic forms of exclusion or marginalization; research methods, from data collection to analysis, should clearly articulate how the use of such frameworks will lead to new insights and understanding at both a practical and conceptual level, and how they can support the development of strength-based change strategies.


Wallace has a long history of investing in and supporting the out-of-school time (summer and afterschool space), with a particular focus on infrastructure and partnerships. In 2003, the Foundation funded five cities to experiment with the idea of coordinating efforts and resources to bring young people afterschool opportunities that otherwise might be out of reach. Our work sought both to assist these fledgling coordination projects (in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Providence and Washington, D.C.) and learn lessons to share nationwide to help other communities interested in boosting afterschool opportunities. At the time, a few cities were pioneering this “system-building” approach, but it was still a novelty. The afterschool system-building field has grown and learned much since then.

In 2012, the foundation launched a “next generation” effort to assist nine other cities that had already begun to build systems of their own. For the next five years, these cities focused on strengthening the quality of programming offered through the afterschool systems as well as the capacity of the systems to gather and analyze data to inform decision-making. The work in the 14 cities as a whole, as well as a large body of research published in recent years, has helped the Foundation and the field refine our understanding of what sound system building entails.                                         

For over a decade, Wallace has also funded efforts to make summer a time of opportunity for children from socio-economically marginalized communities. We began by supporting several national nonprofits that provide high-quality summer learning experiences, often in partnership with districts, private schools, or institutions of higher education. Our most extensive work has involved school districts partnering with community organizations to provide summer learning and enrichment programs that help children thrive. The foundation’s six-year, five-city National Summer Learning Project, completed in 2017, produced promising evidence: A RAND study, which also produced substantial program implementation guidance, found that voluntary school district-led summer programs, offering academics with enrichment, can confer meaningful benefits in math, reading, and social and emotional learning for students who attend frequently (McCombs et al., 2020).

To complement this research, the foundation supported the development of aSummer Learning Toolkit to provide additional guidance to those interested in implementing RAND’s recommendations. The Toolkit features more than50 practical, adaptable tools and sample planning resources used by practitioners from the five districts and their partners, as well as new resources created by field experts. Offerings range from a customizable monthly planning calendar to a sample summer class schedule incorporating instructional-time recommendations to a tip sheet for promoting student participation.

Since 2017, the foundation has supported, in six communities, partnerships between in and out of school time providers focused on social-emotional learning. The program, called PSELI, works across the systems, site, and classroom levels. Early lessons from this work are available on the Wallace website.

In 2021, in response to the unprecedented funding for summer programs made available to communities through the America Rescue Plan (ARP), the foundation funded the creation of the District Summer Learning Network. This initiative is supporting roughly 100 school districts to develop their own three-year plans for summer programming. Participating districts receive dedicated consultants, technical assistance, and access to planning tools. Wallace provides no direct funds to the districts for planning or for the later implementation of plans.

You can read more about the Wallace approach to afterschool and summer programming at    


The expected timeline for this project is approximately 16 months—two months of planning, 12 months of data collection and analysis, and two months of reporting.

4.1 Study Purpose

The main purpose of the proposed study is to document the Exploratory Phase in ways that can inform the design of (a) the full initiative (including issues such as goals and intended outcomes of such an initiative, participant eligibility criteria, requirements/deliverables of initiative participants, and technical supports likely to be needed by initiative grantees) and (b) the initiative research design.

During the Exploratory Phase we hope to home in on what valuable learning could occur in a full initiative, what kinds of bounds (e.g., age range, target population, partnership strategy) should be placed on the initiative design, and what kind of research is possible. This includes what kinds of questions, studies, and approaches—which could range from YPAR, CBPR, effects studies, SNAs, and other types of studies that can contribute meaningful knowledge to the field. This process will refine the question that will constitute the learning agenda for the five-year initiative.

A secondary purpose of the study is to provide responsive and timely feedback to the communities participating in Exploratory Phase, as one of several incentives for their participation in the research.

Research activities during the Exploratory phase will include:

  • Collaborating with Wallace and other partners on the final design of the Exploratory Phase for optimizing learning, including helping to determine participant recruitment, selection, and supports.
  • Collecting and analyzing data from Exploratory Phase participants, and from other sources as needed, in order to inform the full initiative and initiative research design.
  • Meeting regularly with Wallace and partners to reflect on what we are learning collectively.
  • Producing the research deliverables, as described below in section 4.5.

4.2 Central Research Questions for the Exploratory Phase Study

The Exploratory study should address the following questions, meant to inform the full initiative and initiative research design:

  1. What are the goals and intended outcomes developed by communities that are seeking to address logistical, social, and cultural barriers to engaging older youth in OST programs? How do community partners determine which youth audiences and outcomes to prioritize and/or phase in?


  1. What approaches do community partnerships take or intend to take, towards achieving their goals, why and how? For example,
    1. Who is the lead organization, and who are key partners on the teams?
    2. What prior experiences or relationships prove pivotal in their work?
    3. What resources, insights, or activities are instrumental to the development or implementation of their planning or implementation approaches?
    4. What strategies, levers, partnerships, and activities appear to be promising? What barriers exist and what strategies are developed to address them?
    5. How do they monitor or track progress?
  1. What kinds of knowledge gaps could be addressed through a five-year initiative that builds on lessons learned during the Exploratory Phase, and how would the initiative best be studied?

We invite proposers to elaborate, revise, or add to these research questions in ways that enhance the contributions of their proposed Exploratory Phase study to the design of the full initiative and initiative research plan.  (See item 1b of proposal requirements listed in section 6.3.)

4.3 Exploratory Phase Activities

Planning for the Exploratory Phase is occurring in the summer of 2022, so here we share current thinking, which will change over the next few months, and change yet again as the research partner and learning community leader are selected and contribute their ideas and research considerations.

During the first quarter of 2023, community partnerships will be recruited and selected to participate in the learning community, based on their interest in the project goals as well as a demonstration of past efforts to collaborate at a community level to achieve positive benefits for young people.  We intend to issue an open call for partnerships working on or interested in expanding OST programs to older youth. We will learn through this process what communities are currently doing and the kinds of support they need for their work.  We expect to identify a few different strands of, or approaches to, the work that could help to identify and form cohorts within a group of participating teams.  Our intention is to have the research team advise us in this process of eligibility and selection. Communities would be selected for diversity across a range of variables such as those shown in Table 1. Proposers are invited to share with us their thoughts on other dimensions that might be important to consider, including what could be learned from planning versus implementation cohorts.

Table 1. Possible Characteristics of Participating Community Teams


Rural, Suburban, Urban


All regions and territories

Governance structures

Led by the mayor's office, school district, out of school time intermediary, other CBOs, etc.

Team composition

A range of partners (public, private, community, funders, others) seen as relevant to the local goals and strategies teams plan to pursue.

Target youth participants

MS/HS youth. Youth underrepresented in programs, justice-involved youth, youth experiencing housing and food instability, foster youth, LGBTQ+ youth, etc. to be locally determined.

Engagement strategies

A range of culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogies, including youth voice, restorative justice, youth well-being, and others

Content focus strategies

Digital arts programs, civic-engagement programs, service learning programs, etc.

Beginning in April, 2023, the funded community partnerships could receive supports such as:

  • Funding for on-the-ground leadership and coordination
  • A dedicated consultant who could help to convene, organize, coach, and advise
  • Funds for travel, meetings, and supplies as needed to engage in the planning processes
  • Technical assistance, as needed for the specific local context and also for common deliverables such as a: community engagement plan, identification of what data streams and systems they might see as important to their work, community OST resource mapping plans, or others TBD.
  • Learning community supports involving whole group and subgroup zoom convenings on a monthly basis, TBD.

These details will be determined through our open call process as we learn what the field thinks is important and as we work with our partners to design the Exploratory Phase to optimize learning for the initiative design. We invite proposers to suggest supports (in item 1b of their proposal, see section 6.3) that they might see as important to incentivize participation and learn from participants to inform the initiative and initiative research design. It is anticipated that each team will be composed of five or more individuals representing key stakeholder organizations and roles, relevant to meeting their local goals for their OST planning or implementation efforts. It is possible that some teams could be asked to meet a number of milestones, which will be determined in collaboration with the research partner and learning community leader partner. Proposers are invited to suggest the kinds of milestones they could see as valuable for informing initiative and initiative research design. For instance, depending on whether teams are in planning or implementation cohorts, they could be supported to develop and submit:

  • Resource maps that document what OST programs are currently available to older youth in their community
  • Community engagement plans to hear from youth and families what would interest and support young people
  • Data streams and structures that could help to monitor progress and guide decisions

All of the above is subject to change or refinement, but is meant to provide an idea of what the Exploratory Phase might entail so that proposers can articulate

  • What you think it will be important to learn to inform the design and associated research plan for 5-year initiative
  • What Exploratory Phase activities might yield insights into these questions (based on what we have described will happen or what you might suggest should or could happen, since if selected you will help us to finalize the Exploratory design)
  • What you propose by way of data collection, analysis, and communication during the Exploratory Phase.

4.4 Other Proposal Specifics

Other Exploratory Phase elements you might want to account for in your proposal include the following:

Steering Committee
Please plan and budget to participate in regular semi-monthly 2-hr steering committee meetings, along with Wallace staff and the professional learning community leader, as well as consultants and technical assistance providers. Please describe your experience with such collaborations and how it has informed (and possibly complicated) prior research activities. These meetings could be as much as weekly at the design and start up period of the Exploratory Phase.

Systems Level
At this stage we anticipate that the future initiative will build on the foundation’s prior experience working at an exo-systems level—that is with organizations that serve as the infrastructure to other organizations that work directly with youth. This might include county or municipal youth and family divisions, mayoral offices, OST intermediaries, school district central offices, parks and rec, library systems and others. The current thinking is that these are the actors that can help to build a coherent support system to programs that would work directly with youth heretofore underrepresented in OST programs. Accounting for the gap between intervention point (funding the exo-system) and the intended outcomes (youth engaging in the microsystem of OST programs) is one of the research challenges and perhaps opportunities. It is possible that the Exploratory Phase will shift our understanding of what is possible and desirable. Proposals should be explicit about how they will study exo-system actors, and/or micro-system actors, and the kinds of effects and learning that is possible as a result. We also invite you to suggest limitations of such an approach and if and how you might advise shifting this focus.

Local Research-Practice Partnerships
For the five-year initiative, we are interested in exploring the possibilities of funding a cross-site study, ideally to led by the main research team studying the Exploratory Phase, of mutually agreed to, as well as local research-practice partnership (RPP) studies, for each community participating in the full initiative. The RPPs could be more finely attuned to local contexts. The research design deliverable, expected in early 2024, should detail the approach to the cross site study, as well as the possibility of coordinating with local RPPs. For example, if the final initiative supports variation among target youth audiences, a community focused on engaging justice system-involved youth in OST programs might work with a researcher who attends specifically to issues of relevance to this youth population, and how efforts were designed to attract and retain them. Whereas a community focused on engaging high school drop-out youth might have an RPP addressing other design issues. RPPs would allow each community to look in-depth at youth experience and possibly outcomes. Meanwhile, the overarching cross-site study could not only look at the systems level activities at each site, but make larger meaning, including citing the research of the RPPs, of how the efforts were undertaken and what patterns and variations occurred across the funded communities.

Researchers applying for the Exploratory Phase should describe their experience with RPPs in their proposals, including if and why they see advantages to the initiative supporting such studies. They should also describe how they would use the Exploratory Phase to make recommendations about the inclusion of local RPPs in an initiative launch.

Peer Learning Communities
It is likely that some community grantees will participate in peer learning communities where they can share goals, strategies, and emerging insights. These could be as frequent as monthly virtual meetings of either the whole team or sub-teams from some of the funded community partnerships. These meetings are potential sites for data collection and learning for the research teams, and we ask that researchers describe how they might imagine using these events for their research activities, including for engagement and communication with the grantee communities. Proposals should explain how they will leverage such meetings for research purposes.

Community Consultants
It is possible that some partnerships will work with consultants who can provide specialized technical supports. These consultants would be working with communities “on the ground” as they developed and/or implemented their plans. As such, consultants could be important informants to the research design. Please include your thoughts on how you might collaborate with the consultants, technical assistance providers, and the learning community leader, to achieve your research goals. Please speak to your experience working in such a configuration, and share thoughts on structures, systems, or norms to put in place to make such relationships productive for all.

Complementary Research
As noted, in addition to studying the Exploratory participating communities, we anticipate that researchers may need to conduct additional inquiries into current efforts underway in other communities that can inform the initiative and initiative research design. For example, if ecosystem resource mapping is a key proposed element in community designs, the research team might identify past approaches, the kinds of resources needed to do the work, and how the results were used. Such findings could directly inform the design of the future initiative. Proposals should directly address their institutional capacity to take on additional research activities such as these, which could include desk research, interviews, surveys, or artifact analysis. Since we don’t yet know what the studies would be, Wallace will work with you at a later date to budget these costs. Please include your thoughts in the proposal about what would be best learned through studying the planning or implementation cohorts, versus what could be learned through other means (lit reviews, interviews, etc.).

4.5 Research Deliverables

Required research deliverables are internal-facing (for Wallace and partners and participants):

  1. Semi-annual analytic memos to Wallace, with emerging findings relevant to the design of a five-year initiative
  2. Periodic feedback memos to participating teams in the Exploratory Phase
  3. A brief final report with criteria, considerations, and recommendations to Wallace for the design of the full five-year initiative.
  4. A detailed five-year research plan that can be considered by Wallace for funding

The five-year detailed research plan deliverable should include items such as: refined initiative research questions, and how answering them could address knowledge gaps in the evidence base and advance practice; approach to collaboration with Wallace and partners; proposed research approaches, conceptual framework, and methods, including the possibility of coordinating multiple different studies; data collection and analysis plans; timeline; research team description, qualifications and role; and budget.

Additionally, please budget time to produce a short (<5 page) research brief sharing findings with the field of OST leaders and stakeholders, assuming that there is mutual agreement among you, Wallace, and collaborators, that such a report would be of value to the field.

Feedback to Wallace in the form of analytic memos, updates, and collaborative conversations is important so that the initiative design can begin to take shape during the Exploratory Phase, and not entirely wait until all final deliverables are in hand.


5.1 Publications and Products

Wallace undertakes extensive communications efforts to share lessons from its research investments, both on its own through its website and with professional associations and issue organizations with which it partners.

Academic Papers. While not necessary for this particular RFP, in general Wallace expects, and asks that proposals include related budgeted time, for teams to develop academic papers resulting from their research efforts. If you believe that a paper is warranted by the scope described in the RFP, please include such costs in your proposal. The foundation does not expect to have any involvement in that part of your work, though it requires that you maintain the same confidentiality and privacy of individuals and organizations involved in the research as that required for the public-facing reports, as described below. Further, Wallace expects researchers will share drafts with those they are studying, as appropriate, and conduct member checking. When research involves studying Wallace grantees, such as in this case, we ask that Wallace be allowed to review a draft of the paper so that we can attend to and draw your attention to (a) any possible risks to Wallace grantees and (b) any factual errors related to Wallace investments. Please include, as a budget item, costs for making your academic publications open access.

Public-Facing Reports. We expect the study could produce a brief public-facing report for non-academic readers. Any such public-facing reports would then be disseminated through the foundation’s communications channels. Generating and disseminating knowledge that can benefit the field more broadly is, as described in section 2.0, a crucial aspect of the foundation’s philanthropic strategy. Wallace therefore expects that the publication contents will not only be rigorously researched but also written in an accessible tone and manner appropriate to our target audience of practitioners, policymakers and others interested in U.S. public education. Please budget for time to workshop your report with a group of practitioners (intended end users) to hear from them what resonates most clearly for their work. Budget one day (likely to be two virtual half days) for such workshops.

Because they are central to our communication efforts, we ask for the opportunity to review and provide feedback on public reports and other products, representing our knowledge of and experience with their intended audiences.

Wallace seeks to work across all communities in the country, and to that end conducts an editorial review that considers four key factors: Clarity, including language accessible to non-specialists; organization of argument; support for and limitations to claims; and non-partisanship. In that spirit, we will provide editorial suggestions for your consideration that are intended to help you amplify your research findings and contributions to the broadest possible audiences. The 12-week editorial review process encompasses two iterations, in which Wallace’s in-house research, program, and communications teams review drafts and provide comments for the researchers’ consideration. We ask authors to build time for that review process into their schedule and to budget accordingly.

Our editorial review seeks to support rather than replace your own editorial review and quality control. As a result, we assume that drafts of publications will be fact-checked, copy-edited and proofread prior to submission to Wallace. Crucially, we ask that you budget editorial and graphics time to prepare your drafts for non-academic audiences. We expect authors to factor in the related costs when they make their publication plans. We invite any questions from applicants about our editorial review.

5.2 Meetings and Travel

Proposers should budget time and effort for the following activities:

  • Virtual Meetings. For your budgeting purposes we anticipate that meetings could include as many as the following:
    • A monthly 60-minute meeting with your Wallace research officer.
    • Semi-monthly 90-minute meetings with a Exploratory Phase steering committee consisting of Wallace staff, the learning community leader, researchers, and other consultants. These might occur as often as weekly during the ramp up period.
    • For each public research deliverable you propose, two 60-minute virtual meetings, one with Wallace staff to preview findings and one with relevant professional audiences to discuss results.
    • Public Research Report one-day workshop with intended end users to discuss which findings are most relevant to highlight and how.
  • Travel. You are responsible for budgeting all travel costs for your team—including meetings at Wallace and all data collection activities. You may wish to budget one trip to NYC to meet with Wallace staff, although we are open to accommodating virtual meetings as well.
  • Written Project Updates. Proposers should budget time each year for developing and submitting the following updates for Wallace Foundation internal purposes:
    • A monthly short email update, listing (in bullet form) research activities of the prior month, plans for the following month, and any challenges or changes that have arisen.
    • Short analytical memos describing, in 3-5 pages, emerging findings.


In this section we discuss qualifications, requirements for the letter of intent and proposal, and review criteria.

6.1 Qualifications

We seek research teams/partnerships with the following qualifications:

  • Experience studying OST systems level and community partnerships change efforts, particularly in ways that attend to relevant issues of equity and inclusion.
  • Research and analytical skills appropriate to the project and proposed research design.
  • Demonstrated experience working with complex multi-organizational research studies or contexts.
  • History of publishing in the area of OST systems level change efforts.
  • History of working collaboratively with others to design and study field initiatives.
  • Excellent writing, publication, and communication skills.

Wallace seeks to support research teams that bring a variety of perspectives to the work, including methodological expertise, firsthand knowledge and understanding of the communities and contexts being studied, and active engagement with the scholarly and practical discussions that are relevant to this study. We strongly encourage, and will give preference to, the formation of teams whose senior intellectual leadership (PI and co-PIs) includes researchers with lived experiences relevant to the purpose of this study. We further encourage proposers to develop teams that include early career scholars and scholars from communities underrepresented in the academy. We invite proposers to explicitly address these issues in the description of their team’s qualifications.

6.2 Letter of Intent

Please submit a letter of intent by email (no attachments) on or before August 17, 2022. In your email please include:

  1. Name, title, and institution of PI and partners identified to date
  2. Any proposal ideas or thoughts that you would like early feedback on
  3. Any questions you may have about the RFP or the proposal submission process​

As soon as you submit your LOI, we will respond to you with initial feedback and an invitation to sign up for Wallace office hours if you would like to discuss any questions or ideas. Regarding item 3, Wallace will compile a list of all RFP-related questions it receives and issue, by September 1, 2022, an FAQ to all who have submitted an LOI. At that time if we have any more information on the Exploratory Phase design we will share those details as well. Regarding item 2, Wallace will respond to you individually, and not publicly, about any ideas you have for the study, posing questions or considerations that you might address or clarify in your proposal.

You must submit an LOI to be eligible to submit a proposal.

6.3 Proposal Requirements

We ask that you submit the following in a Word document totaling no more than 15 pages for Part A. Documents should be single spaced with 11 pt font. References are not included in the 15-page limit. Proposals should address the following points:                 

Part A Proposal Narrative

  1. Rationale
    1. What do you see as the importance or value of the proposed full initiative idea described above? How might such a full initiative address a knowledge gap in the field?
    2. What could be learned during the Exploratory Phase that could inform the full initiative design, including the research design?
  2. Frameworks
    1. What theoretical and analytical frameworks will guide your work?
    2. How will your team conceptualize and integrate equity into your work?
  3. Exploratory Research Design
    1. Based on the information provided in this RFP, as well as your answer to 1b, describe your Exploratory Phase research design. What data would you collect, from whom, why, and how?  What considerations would guide your Exploratory Research design?
    2. Include a table that shows the connections and logic between your responses to narrative items 1b, 2a, 3a, and 4.
    3. How will you build trust with those you will research and how will you protect their confidences and preserve the anonymity of individuals and organizations?
  4. What deliverables will your study produce? How do you see them informing grantees? The field? What kinds of information will you be able to provide Wallace as the study proceeds?
  5. What experiences and qualifications prepare you and your team to engage in this project? Describe who will participate in the proposed activities and their roles in the project, highlighting how diverse expertise and experience will be leveraged. In particular, address the collaborative nature of the project.  

Part B Proposal Attachments
Please also attach, as separate documents, not counted toward the 15-page limit:

  1. A detailed budget in Excel format. Wallace allows a 15% indirect rate on all direct costs. Excel subaward budgets should be submitted separately.
  2. A budget justification explaining each budget line in the Excel document(s).
  3. A list of senior staff time allocation, including subcontracted team members, on an FTE basis broken down by year or other organizing framework (e.g., planning, data collection, write-up). It is important to the Foundation that the proposed principal investigator has dedicated sufficient time to the project.
  4. Resumes of key staff or consultants included in your budget.
  5. A project timeline.
  6. Two examples of/links to published work that reflect the tone, and, if possible, the subject matter that you feel will be relevant to the reports created by this study.

In fairness to others, we will not review any materials not listed above. Complete proposals are due to Wallace by the end of your day on October 3, 2022. Please send to

6.4 Selection Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated along the following lines:

  • Research design, in particular the ways in which it would or could inform initiative design and research.
  • Qualifications of the team, including composition of the research leadership team (PIs/coPIs), and demonstrated experience of working collaboratively with stakeholders in the execution of research.          
  • Depth of conceptualization and integration of equity into proposed plans.
  • Attention to issues of feasibility, practicality, research burden on practitioners, and value of the proposed research deliverables.
  • Budget.

6.5 Exploratory Design Selection Process Timeline

August 17, 2022            LOIs due
August 8-19, 2022         Office hours available
August 25, 2022            FAQ sent
October 3, 2022            Proposals due
Before Thanksgiving     Clarification questions sent to finalists
December                     Finalist interviews and selection
January 2023                Begin Exploratory Phase planning/design meetings with Wallace and partners
March 2023                  Begin data collection—Exploratory participant activities begin
February 2024               Exploratory Phase participant activities end
April 2024                    Final deliverables due


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Past full-scale initiatives have typically been 4-5 years in duration, and funded on the order of $50-80 million.

Depending on the final design, participants in the initiative might be an entirely different set of communities.  For example, if the final initiative design focuses on a subset of youth audiences or strategies, only some or possibly none of the Exploratory community teams would be appropriate for such an initiative.  Wallace is sensitive to the possible challenges of setting and communicating expectations to Exploratory Phase participants.  We expect to revisit this question with the research team and learning community leader selected as Exploratory Phase partners