Coleridge Initiative

Democratizing our Data:
A Challenge to Invest in Data and Evidence-based Policy


The challenge is designed to support state agencies to work with each other and with their partner organizations to propose innovative data-driven projects that will inform education and/or workforce policy at the state, regional, or national level. 

The projects should build on activities that already show promise, using data that are already hosted in the Coleridge Initiative’s Administrative Data Research Facility and supported by earlier investments of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ascendium, Overdeck Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. All will involve developing products – such as new linkages of data, data dashboards, data portals, APIs, data models, or code repositories – through state agencies collaborating with each other and their local universities and/or non-profit organizations. All will have some aspect of community building through training and/or workshops. Any state can participate but all must be partnering with at least one state that has data in the ADRF and with the Coleridge Initiative.

Coleridge will facilitate long-term community building, enabling team members to stay in touch with each other and interact with teams from other states.


The unprecedented changes in the employment situation in the last year have underscored the need for timely, local, and useful data and evidence to inform education and workforce policy.  Several years of successful investments by state and federal governments as well as philanthropic foundations, have laid a foundation to build a new data infrastructure that can respond to those needs quickly and effectively. 


All projects should contribute to a community understanding of the impact of programmatic impact investments.  They should show how the project informs key stakeholders (students, institutions, programs, policymakers) and what key questions the project will answer.  Projects that lead to sustainable infrastructures will be especially valued.

While each funder has their own interests, the broad categories are outlined below:

  1. High interest target populations include low-income learners/workers and formerly incarcerated individuals.
  2. High interest domains include postsecondary to labor market transitions, economic mobility, unemployment to reemployment patterns.
  3. High interest measures include first-year persistence, credential completion, time to completion, and job placement.


At least $5 million has been committed to support up to 15 projects; more funding may become available.  There are three project tiers. 

Tier 1: Getting to the Finish Line

State agencies can propose projects that have been developed in a team project that would take a final investment to be implemented.  These could, for example, include standardized reusable code for defining non-completion, reoccuring, or “stuttered” unemployment, churning, or labor market sectors. The funding level would be approximately $50k and the project timeline will be approximately 3 months.

Tier 2: Scaling through Community Building

State agencies make use of ideas proven in one state and enhance, expand and extend with other states.  These could, for example, include unemployment to reemployment portals, multi-state education to workforce dashboards, or the evaluation of the effectiveness of training programs within correctional institutions.   The funding level would be approximately $250-300k and the project timeline will be approximately 8 months.

Tier 3: Innovation and Product Development

State agencies would work to expand the integration of the data across multiple agencies and other states to create new data assets.    They would develop and use a training program as an innovation sandbox to test new products using those data assets – approximately $500k and the project timeline will be approximately 1 year.    


September 15, 2021

Interested applicants should submit a letter of intent (LOI). LOIs will identify the tier and describe how the proposed team will respond to the required criteria.

October 15, 2021

Invitations for full proposal sent.

December 15, 2021

Final proposals submitted.

January 15, 2021

Awards made.


Letter of Intent (LOI)

  • Product feasibility, innovation, and usefulness
  • Evidence of existing work using the proposed data in the ADRF
  • Prior history of collaboration across the proposed partners, which should include both state agency staff and a capacity building partner such as a university or nonprofit organization. 
Final Proposal
  • The final criteria may change depending on the LOI submissions, but we expect them to include all of the above, plus
  • Detailed budget
  • Scalability
  • Timeliness
  • Sustainability model

Letter of Intent Requirements

  • Proposed tier
  • General outline of the approach that responds to the selection criteria
  • Key personnel for each institution, including their roles and their CVs