Center for Advancing Opportunity
HBCU Faculty Research
Request for Proposals

Founded in 2015, the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO) is a research and education initiative created by a partnership between the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF), and Koch Industries. CAO supports faculty and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) , Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), and other postsecondary institutions to develop research-based solutions to the most challenging issues in education, criminal justice, and entrepreneurship and economic mobility. Our constituency is people living in fragile communities and they are members of all races, ethnicities, and religions.

Our mission is to move people living in fragile communities from promise to prosperity. We accomplish this by listening to their aspirations, fears, and recommendations; supporting researchers who are best-positioned to explore communities’ most pressing issues; and, using their findings to inform public, private, and community-based solutions.

CAO defines a fragile community as communities where residents — no matter their race or ethnicity — face significant barriers to opportunity. These communities often have characteristics including high crime, lack of educational options, and limited economic and social mobility opportunities.

HBCU Faculty Research Grants

CAO invests in HBCU faculty to study education, criminal justice and entrepreneurship/economic mobility in fragile communities. This support is in the form of research grants for qualifying projects. Funding amounts are determined by the requirements of the project and its potential to increase broader understanding of important issues. Grants typically are for one year, but exceptions can be made based on the requirements of the project

This Request for Proposals (RFP) seeks proposals from HBCU and PBI faculty for research grants in the three designated areas. Proposed research should be relevant to CAO’s overall mission of advancing opportunity through research-based solutions that create opportunity for fragile community residents. We’re particularly interested in research about the following topics:


• The impact of diverse educational opportunities upon individuals and communities.
• Individualized education options that best meet the personal needs of diverse students, particularly innovative models happening outside of traditional schooling.
• Teacher training and incentive structures that support effective practice, flexibility, and innovation and provide teachers access to diverse employment opportunities.
• New approaches to accountability, including consideration of multiple, different measures for assessing performance.
• School finance reform issues, including student-based funding, spending transparency, and long-term debt obligations.

Criminal Justice Reform

• Perverse incentives contributing to increased interactions between individuals and the criminal justice system.
• The impact of overcriminalization upon individuals and communities.
• Understanding early contacts with the criminal justice system and the consequences for individuals and communities.
• Effective policing that reduces violent interactions between individuals and police and reduces overcriminalization.
• Measuring the success of diversionary programs and suggestions for scaling successful programs.
• Alternatives to the current plea bargain system.
• Measuring the effectiveness of bail reform efforts.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Mobility

• Identification and ideas for elimination of poverty traps within the local, state, and national social safety net.
• Local legal and regulatory frameworks that either hinder or are most conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation.
• Examining the costs and impact of occupational licensing; and examining alternatives to occupational licensing.
• The role of communities and business in workforce development.

Grant Proposal Submission

    Grant proposals should be no more than ten pages, and include the following elements:

    1. Project Title
    2. Project Summary (350 words)
    3. Project Narrative, no more than ten (10) pages, single spaced, 1” margins, 12-point font. The Project Narrative should include:
      1. Description of Need for Research/ Rationale
      2. Proposed Research, including a question or hypothesis
      3. Research methodology
      4. Key research personnel, including description of past research experience
      5. Proposed dissemination process for research results
    4. Project Budget (not included in 10-page limit)
    5. Budget Narrative
    6. Project Timeline (not included in 10-page limit)

    Reporting Requirements:

    All faculty whose proposals are accepted will be required to sign a grant agreement that outlines scope of research, budget, timeline, milestones, deliverables (reports), and payment schedule.