Grant proposals are considered at meetings of the Foundation’s Board of Directors in April, July, and December. Deadline dates are:

Proposal Deadline 

August 9, 2017 

December 5, 2017

April 11, 2018

Board Meeting

November 2017

April 2018 

July 2018

Email letters of inquiry, proposals, and grant reports:

Applicants are strongly encouraged to plan their application and proposal submission process for the April or July meetings, since most grant funds will be distributed at those times.

For the Culture Program:

Joyce Awards Letter of Intent (LOI) Deadline: 
April 12, 2017

Artists and arts organizations interested in applying for the Joyce Awards can get more information here.

What We Fund

Our program areas are Culture, Democracy, Education, Employment, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention and the Joint Fund for Education and Employment. We focus our grant making on initiatives that promise to have an impact on the Great Lakes region, specifically the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Generally, we do not support capital proposals, endowment campaigns, religious activities, commercial ventures, direct service programs, or scholarships.


  • Culture grants are primarily focused in the City of Chicago, except for the Joyce Awards, which extend to other Midwest cities.
  • Education grant making in preK-12 focuses on Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis.
  • The Employment Program primarily focuses on federal and state policy grants, but will make some grants to support targeted metro-level progress in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
  • A limited number of Environment grants are made to organizations in Canada.
  • The Gun Violence Prevention Program focuses on the states of Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

The Joyce Foundation is committed to improving public policy through its grant program. Accordingly, the Foundation welcomes grant requests from organizations that engage in public policy advocacy. Federal tax law prohibits private foundations from funding lobbying activities. The Foundation may support organizations engaged in public policy advocacy by either providing general operating support or by funding educational advocacy such as nonpartisan research, technical assistance, or examinations of broad social issues. The Foundation encourages grant applicants to describe the nature of advocacy activities in their grant applications and reports, so the Foundation can ensure that it is in compliance with federal tax laws. For further information on the relevant federal tax laws, grant applicants should consult their tax advisors.

See Grantmaking Guidelines


Explore our resources for grant making.

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How To Apply

Learn about our submission process for applying for a grant.

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Advocacy Rules

Read our guidelines for organizations working in public policy.

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Our Grantees

See what our grantees are working on.

Learn more

Grantmaking Guidelines



Please tell me more about your focus on public policy.

We focus our grant making on initiatives that promise to have an influence on public policies. This includes advancing the public debate about important policy issues, development and testing of new policy ideas, and evaluations that help policymakers understand how policies are working and where improvements are needed. We believe such policy initiatives can lead to broad, systemic changes that affect the most people over the long run.

Do you fund communications (e.g., books, publications, videos, documentaries, web sites)?

We look for a strong communications plan in any proposal designed to influence public policy. We generally don’t fund communications efforts that are unrelated to specific policy initiatives.

Do you fund research?

We fund research that is likely to have a strong impact on public policy in our program areas. See individual programs for more information. We do not fund basic research.

Do you fund scholarships, fellowships, capital or endowment campaigns, buildings, religious activities, or small business startups?


Do you fund government agencies and programs?

We generally make grants only to nonprofit organizations. However, we occasionally fund government initiatives that promise to lead to statewide policy changes.

Do you fund national organizations?

We make grants to national organizations for projects that promise to have a significant impact on public policies affecting the Great Lakes region.

Do you make grants outside the United States?

Our grant making is limited to organizations whose work affects the Great Lakes region of the United States. A few grants are made to Canadian environmental organizations working on Great Lakes issues.

Do you provide general operating support or must we apply for specific project funds?

We generally fund projects, but in rare cases we provide general operating support.

Do you do program-related investments?

No, not at present.

Whom can I contact to talk to about my proposal?

Please start by reviewing our program areas or our How to Apply page to get a sense of how your proposal fits with Joyce funding priorities. If your proposal fits with our priorities, please send an email to the attention of the appropriate program officer to

How long does it take from the time I send a proposal until a decision is made whether to fund it?

For information on schedules, please review our review process.

Is it really necessary to send a letter of inquiry? Can’t I just save time and send the proposal?

Yes, sending an inquiry letter is required. It helps applicants target proposals better and saves time that would otherwise go into preparing and reviewing proposals that may not fit within our funding priorities.

Would it help if I contacted a member of your board of directors?

The directors of the Foundation have requested that they not be contacted individually regarding proposals.

Is there a maximum size for grants?

No. The size of grants depends on the organization’s overall budget and the scope of the proposed work. To get a sense of the range of our grants, we suggest you review previous grants made by the Joyce Foundation.

How long after a grant is approved will we get the money?

Grant payments are normally made at the end of the month following the board meeting at which the funding decision was made.

Where did the Joyce Foundation get its money?

The Joyce family wealth was based on lumber and sawmill interests. More background is available here.


Research shows that too many students, especially low-income and minority children, fail to complete high school, and those who do graduate often lack the knowledge and skills necessary for college success. The problem begins at a young age, where research shows an achievement gap between poor and non-poor children exists by kindergarten entry. The problem is exacerbated in elementary and high school when disadvantaged students often have the least effective teachers. The Education Program works to ensure all students—especially those who are low-income and minority—are prepared for life success by improving the quality of teachers they encounter in school, enhancing early education policies, and supporting policies that ensure high school students have a seamless transition from high school to college and careers.

Teacher Quality: We support efforts to improve federal, state, and district policies to ensure students, especially those in high-need schools in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis, have access to teachers who are highly trained, properly evaluated, and well supported. Joyce supports efforts to develop policies that help attract high-caliber candidates into the profession, ensure they are properly trained and evaluated, and provide educators with the support and career opportunities they need.

Kindergarten Readiness: The Foundation supports policy initiatives that ensure all children, particularly those who are low-income and minority, are academically and developmentally ready to succeed when they enter kindergarten. Efforts include research, public education, policy development, and advocacy to:

  • Develop cost-effective ways to engage families and help strengthen parent-child interactions and early learning outcomes; and
  • Ensure preschool children have access to excellent teachers.

Education FAQ

Can you contribute to our scholarship (or fellowship) program?

We do not fund scholarships, fellowships, school voucher programs, and similar programs that primarily benefit individuals. Our focus is on school change strategies affecting public schools.

Can you help us build our new school by contributing to our capital campaign?

We do not fund capital campaigns.

Do you fund private schools? Religious schools? Home schooling programs?

Our funding is limited to programs affecting public schools.

Do you fund schools or school districts?

The Foundation does not directly fund individual schools or school districts. We fund institutions and organizations that strive to improve education in public schools.

Do you fund research?

We fund research that is likely to have a strong impact on public policy.


The Environment Program is committed to speeding the Midwest’s transition to a thriving, low-carbon economy; protecting and restoring a healthy Great Lakes environment which sustains the millions of Americans and Canadians who live along and depend upon the Lakes; and broadening the base of support for strong environmental policies in our home region.

Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency remains the fastest, cheapest way to reduce Midwest carbon pollution and offers many co-benefits such as job creation and cost savings. Policy and market failures currently prevent energy consumers and energy utilities from capturing the full value of energy efficiency, but they can and should be fixed.

The Joyce Foundation will support opportunities to dramatically reduce carbon pollution from the Midwest power sector between now and 2030 by maximizing the use of energy efficiency alongside cleaner power generation in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Proposals will be considered for projects:

  • Leveraging state policies—including energy efficiency resource standards, power sector carbon pollution standards implementation plans, smart grid deployment, and new utility business models—to reduce carbon pollution through increased and more effectively targeted utility investments in building energy efficiency; and
  • Building on Chicago’s leadership in energy efficiency deployment, including scaling up building efficiency efforts within Chicago and disseminating lessons learned from those efforts to increase adoption of energy efficiency in other communities.

Great Lakes: The Joyce Foundation will seek and support funding opportunities to protect and restore the Great Lakes by considering proposals at the local, state, regional, and national levels that address the following areas:

Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species into and around the Great Lakes Basin

  • Strengthen federal and state ballast water policy.
  • Prevent movement of aquatic invasive species into and around the Great Lakes, and between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins 
  • Increase state collaboration on aquatic invasive species prevention and management.

Reduce Polluted Runoff

  • Reduce nonpoint source pollution from urban landscapes (Milwaukee).
  • Reduce nutrient pollution from agricultural landscapes (Western Lake Erie Basin).
  • Explore market-based, legal, and regulatory strategies for reducing polluted runoff from agricultural lands.
  • Support strategic pilots and policy shifts to: (a) promote green stormwater management infrastructure; or (b) demonstrate highly effective nutrient management programs.
  • Promote water quality monitoring, science, and research.
  • Increase collaboration among public and private actors to reduce polluted runoff.

Make the Great Lakes a Policy and Funding Priority

  • Ensure effective Great Lakes Compact implementation.
  • Support state and regional groups to defend and advance policies to protect and restore the Great Lakes.
  • Support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other federal and state Great Lakes funding efforts.
  • Convene critical partners to enable maximum progress on these issues.

Building Public Will for Environmental Protection: The Joyce Foundation understands that the current base of support in our region for effective environmental public policies is too weak and too narrow to ensure success in the coming years, especially as the Midwest population becomes more diverse along with the rest of the United States. The Foundation will support a limited number of targeted interventions to educate, engage, and mobilize potentially influential constituencies in support of our environmental policy priorities.

Environment FAQ

Do you fund environmental education?

Our focus is on improving public policy. We generally don’t fund environmental education, videos, etc., either through educational institutions or aimed at the general public.

Do you fund local cleanup efforts?

The Foundation generally does not support local-impact projects such as environmental cleanup activities.

Do you fund conservation projects, either of wildlife or of land?

We generally do not fund efforts to preserve individual species or to restore or purchase land. Our priority is public policies that affect the environment of the Great Lakes region more broadly.

Do you support scientific research on environmental problems?

We generally do not support basic scientific research. We do fund some research projects that are closely linked to efforts to impact public policy.

Given your focus on the Great Lakes region, do you give grants to national organizations?

We make grants to national organizations for projects that target public policies affecting the Great Lakes region.

Do you fund conferences?

We rarely fund conferences. Exceptions would be made only in connection with broader projects the Foundation is already funding.


Economic opportunity is a core American value. However, recent economic trends, including the widening income gap and the rise of involuntary part-time and contingent work, coupled with the evidence of weak economic mobility, raise serious concerns. The economy is changing rapidly and disadvantaged adult workers with few skills may face even more trouble accessing good job opportunities in the future. We seek to expand economic opportunities for disadvantaged individuals, and promote competitiveness and economic vitality in the Great Lakes region.

Research shows that skills and credentials are correlated with positive life outcomes for individuals and families. Therefore we focus on two key issues:

  • Building foundational skills necessary for underprepared adults to succeed in college and other forms of training necessary to access good jobs;
  • Supporting the creation of partnerships between industry and education and workforce development entities so they can respond to labor market changes with nimble and creative placement and training solutions.

Foundational Skills: To improve the basic skills and technical training of underprepared adults in the region, the Foundation supports the evaluation and scaling up of promising adult education efforts, with a particular focus on technology-based solutions. These skills are essential for success in the twenty-first century work environment.

Industry Workforce Partnerships: To ensure that occupational training for underprepared adults  is addressing what employers need, the Foundation supports efforts to (1) expand partnerships between industry groups and educational organizations; (2) promote the integration of work-based learning into education and training programs; (3) conduct research on the value of employer investments in employee skill development, particularly among entry-level and low-wage workers; and (4) reform federal and state policy around enabling and incentivizing such policies.

Cross-Cutting Data and Policy: To improve policies that support the expansion of foundational skills and industry workforce partnerships, the Foundation supports a limited number of projects that aim to improve workforce data collection and use in the policymaking process and federal and state policy advocacy.

Joint Fund for Education and Employment: In order to support more children, youth, and adults in becoming college and career ready, the Joint Fund focuses on: 1) creating clear paths within and between secondary and postsecondary institutions that incorporate academics and real world learning applications; 2) building personal success skills necessary for academic, work, and life success; and 3) promoting strategies to increase student engagement in learning. More information can be found here.

The program does not accept proposals to support direct-service programs.

Employment FAQ

What are the priorities of the Employment Program?

We seek to expand economic opportunity for disadvantaged individuals, and promote competitiveness and economic vitality in the Great Lakes region. In doing so, we hope to establish the Midwest as the leader of the most innovative and effective employment, education and training strategies in the country. Grant making specifically supports efforts to help adults build the foundational skills necessary to succeed in post-secondary education, training and work; and expand access to quality training through engaging businesses as part of our country’s skills and employment challenges.

Can you support our job-training program?

We do not provide operating support for direct services, including job-training and placement services. Our funding concentrates on initiatives designed to develop and shape public policies.

Do you fund government agencies and programs?

We generally make grants only to nonprofit organizations. However, we occasionally fund government initiatives that promise to lead to statewide system or policy changes.

Do you fund community economic development?

Only where there is clear overlap with our focus on public policies that support workforce development, education, and job training.

Can you help pay for me to get education or training?

The Foundation does not provide direct support for individual training, scholarships, or fellowship programs.

Can you fund our school-to-work program?

The Joyce Foundation ended its support of school-to-work programs in 1997.

Gun Violence Prevention

Gun violence is a serious public health and safety challenge, with more than 100,000 Americans injured or killed by guns every year. Mass shootings are becoming more frequent, and the daily toll of gun crime, homicides, suicides and accidental shootings impacts families and communities from large cities to small towns. Firearms policy is a critical component of efforts to improve public health and safety and build sustainable communities. Research demonstrates the link between access to guns and gun violence: where guns are more readily available, rates of gun death and injury are higher than they are in places where gun access is more strictly regulated. The Joyce Foundation makes grants to strengthen evidence-based public policies to reduce gun violence, in the following areas:

  • State Policy Reform: In order to strengthen state gun violence prevention policies to reduce access to firearms by persons who pose a danger to themselves or others, we support state-based policy research, advocacy, coalition building, grassroots engagement, messaging, media and communications, and legal support for organizations working in Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and in select other states that present unique opportunities. The Foundation also supports strategies to protect and defend policies from legal challenges.
  • Stakeholder and Public Engagement: The Foundation supports efforts to build engagement by key stakeholders and the public in gun violence prevention, especially law enforcement and other groups impacted by gun violence.
  • Research and Data Collection: The Foundation supports efforts to build the body of research and data to inform gun violence prevention policy and practice. We will consider projects that concern gun violence in all its forms, including suicide, homicide, criminal use of guns, and gun accidents, and that are likely to result in policy-relevant information, to assist policy development, evaluation and enforcement.
  • Innovation/Opportunity Grants: A small portion of program funds is reserved for promising emerging policy-oriented opportunities to reduce gun violence.

Gun Violence Prevention FAQ

Do you fund school or community based programs in violence prevention?

We generally do not fund such programs.

Do you fund programs related to crime and criminal justice?

We seek to address gun violence as a public health issue, looking for strategies that can prevent gun violence before it occurs. We support efforts to engage law enforcement leaders and other stakeholders in gun violence prevention and gun policy reform.

Do you fund state or local gun violence prevention initiatives outside the Midwest?

The Gun Violence Prevention Program makes grants to select initiatives in Pennsylvania, and in other states that present unique opportunities.

Do you fund grassroots organizations in the Midwest?

We fund such groups only for projects we consider likely to have a substantial impact on public policy. Requests from Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are given priority.

Please tell me more about your focus on public policy.

We focus our grant making on initiatives that promise to inform policy development, advocacy and implementation. That includes advancing the public debate about important policy issues, most notably those that reduce access to firearms by those at greatest risk of violence. We believe such policy initiatives can lead to broad, systemic changes that affect the most people over the long run.

Do you provide general operating support, or must we apply for specific project funds?

We generally fund projects, but we also occasionally provide general operating support.


The Culture Program works to improve communities through the arts, support art that reflects and challenges the community, and make art accessible to diverse audiences. We fund organizations working toward this end in the following areas:

Promoting Access: This funding category supports cultural institutions with concrete measurable plans to increase the participation of people of color in their audiences, boards, and staff through systemic analysis, interventions, and long-term change.

  • Strategies: We seek proposals and projects around racial equity training, board training/recruitment and placement, staff professional development, artist-driven community engagement projects, exhibitions/performances by artists/performers of color, and salary support for arts administrators, fellowships, internships, and artists of color.

Capacity Building: This funding category supports initiatives to strengthen infrastructure and human capital of ALAANA (African Latino Asian Arab Native American) arts organizations, meaning organizations that are for, by and about ALAANA culture.

  • Strategies: We seek proposals and projects that strengthen boards,  fiscal expertise and improve strategic planning. Additionally, we will seek proposals that address human capital development—meaning recruitment and retention of top talent, compensation strategies, on–the–job training, critical skill building, mentoring middle managers for senior leadership, and succession planning.

Creativity: This funding category supports artists of color to create new work in partnership with nonprofit organizations. We will consider residencies, scholarships and other efforts to nurture artists’ work throughout their careers.

  • Strategies: Staff will seek proposals and projects around art school scholarships, artists’ residency programs, professional development, and commissions on a smaller scale outside of and in addition to the Joyce Awards.

Culture FAQ

Do you support arts education programs?

No. Arts education is not a programmatic priority. However, we may support some education outreach programs as a part of an organization's overall audience development plan.

Do you fund the work of individual artists?

We do not award grants to individuals. Grants are made to organizations for projects that support the work of individual artists.

Do you fund capital development projects?

We generally do not make grants for capital campaigns.

Do you fund endowment support?

We do not make grants for endowment support.

Do you fund arts organizations outside Chicago?

Culture grantmaking is limited primarily to organizations in the Chicago city limits. The one exception is the Joyce Awards program, which includes Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

What percentage of funds needs to be allocated to the artist for the Joyce Awards?

We do not have a specific guideline for the funds allocated to the artist.

When would we know if we have received a Joyce Award?

Organizations are notified after projects have been approved by our board of directors at the winter meeting, generally in early December. Notification of approval is confidential as we work to make a single announcement of all the awards.

Does a Joyce Award-winning artist have to be from the Midwest?

No. The nominated artist can be from anywhere in the world.

Are there page limits/requirements for the Executive Summary or Project Description for a Joyce Awards application?

There are no page limits or requirements for the proposal.

Can we submit a CD or PowerPoint presentation of artist images for a Joyce Awards application?

Links are preferred.

Does a Joyce Awards proposal have to arrive in your office on the deadline?

Yes. The proposal, as well as all supporting documentation, should be in the office by the deadline. Emailed submissions are preferred.

Do you provide general operating support, or must we apply for specific project funds?

Occasionally, but most grants are for specific projects.

What should be included in my LOI?

For the culture program, include an overview of the organization, the category (Access, Capacity Building, Creativity) for which you are applying, the reason it is a fit, and what the dollars would be allocated toward. For the Joyce Award LOI, please include information about the organization, the artist, the proposed commission, timeframe, budget and why this is an important piece to be created at this time, in this place.

Can I receive feedback on my LOI?

Due to demand, we cannot offer feedback on how best to prepare an LOI or on why it was declined. However, should a full proposal be invited we will schedule a lengthy call to provide feedback from the review panel.


The goal of the Democracy Program is to preserve and strengthen those values and qualities that are the foundation of a healthy democratic political system: honesty, fairness, transparency, accountability, competition, informed citizen participation, and policy decisions made in the public interest. Accordingly, the Foundation seeks to support efforts to strengthen democracy in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin in one or more of the following policy areas:

  • Campaign Finance: Increase transparency in campaign financing; foster electoral competition; encourage greater participation in government and politics by voters, donors, and candidates; and make it easier and more affordable for all candidates to communicate with voters about their qualifications and policy views.
  • Election Administration: Guarantee election integrity by vesting election administration authority in nonpartisan and independent agencies; improve registration systems; and certify the security, accessibility, usability, and reliability of voting devices.
  • Electoral Systems: Offer voters a meaningful choice by fostering competitive elections, provide for fair or proportional representation for communities of color, women, and political parties, and enhance accountability of legislators to constituents.
  • Fair Courts: Safeguard the independence, impartiality, integrity, and diversity of state courts through the adoption of new judicial selection procedures and clearer standards of conduct.
  • Voting Rights: Establish a fundamental right to vote; extend the franchise to all adult citizens; reduce barriers to participation, including discriminatory purging, stringent identification requirements, and voter-challenge procedures.

Democracy FAQ

Given your principal focus on Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, do you make grants to national organizations?

Grants to organizations not in the Great Lakes region must be for projects that strengthen the capacity of state-based groups in our region.

What campaign finance reform strategies do you support?

Our grantmaking seeks to ensure that all citizens have a voice in the political process, not just those who can afford to make large contributions to political campaigns. This can include a variety of reforms, such as campaign finance, election administration, voting rights, judicial independence, and electoral systems. We generally support efforts to put campaign reform on the state and national agenda through public education, policy advocacy, news media outreach, community organizing, and litigation.

Do you fund grassroots organizing?

We fund organizing efforts that are part of broader initiatives, consistent with our program guidelines, to improve public policies.

Do you provide general operating support, or must we apply for specific project funds?

We generally provide funds for specific projects.

Special Opportunities

The Special Opportunities Program gives the Foundation a measure of flexible funding with which to respond to important opportunities outside or across the Foundation’s core giving programs, or to develop new ideas and promote innovation in how the Foundation and its grantees operate.

Special Opportunities fund is used to explore or support:

  • Communications and media-related grants to raise the visibility of Joyce issues and grantees with policy makers, journalists, and opinion leaders
  • Efforts to help Joyce grantees use new media tools for education and engagement
  • Exploration of cross-programmatic innovations

Special Opportunities FAQ

Does any project qualify for support, or must my project fall within Joyce funding priorities?

The Special Opportunities Program gives the Foundation a measure of flexible funding with which to respond to important opportunities outside or across the Foundation’s core giving programs, or to develop new ideas and promote innovation in how the Foundation and its grantees operate.

Special Opportunities fund is used to explore or support:

  • Communications and media-related grants to raise the visibility of Joyce issues and grantees with policy makers, journalists, and opinion leaders
  • Efforts to help Joyce grantees use new media tools for education and engagement
  • Exploration of cross-programmatic innovations

Do you make grants to individuals?


Are special opportunity grants renewable?

Special Opportunity grants are generally non-renewable.

Who do non-profits direct a Special Opportunities LOI to?

Please send to

Joint Fund for Education and Employment

While high school graduation rates have risen  over the past two decades, too many high school graduates are not academically prepared for college and do not complete a degree. Approximately two-thirds of high school seniors are not proficient in reading or math. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of entering community college students end up in developmental education; there, many fall off the college path. Without a college degree, those students’ prospects for family-sustaining wages and career stability dim dramatically. This problem will only become more severe. Due to changes in the economy, employers are demanding ever-increasing skills, both cognitive and personal success skills, and workers will need to be more resilient as dislocations occur at an increasing pace. Innovations in teaching and learning have strong potential to help increase student engagement, teach a combination of cognitive and personal success skills, and improve education and employment outcomes.

The Foundation therefore invests in three areas:

  1. Pathways. Bridge the gap between high school and college to: (1) build high school students’ academic preparedness for college and (2) encourage students to enroll in and persist through college. Our focus will be on efforts that align K–12 and postsecondary pathways and promote career exploration through exposure to the world of work and real-world simulations.
  2. Personal success skills. Build individuals’ personal success skills (interpersonal and intrapersonal skills) in ways that promote academic achievement, social and emotional well-being, college retention, and/or workplace success. We will strive to understand how the non-academic skills crucial to individuals’ success can be measured and taught by building on the most recent research in this field.
  3. Teaching and learning. Improve teaching and learning in ways that will promote academic preparedness, college attainment, and skill-building. It seems increasingly likely that current teaching approaches will need to evolve if all students are to acquire the full set of cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills necessary for academic and workplace success. We are interested in approaches that emphasize real-world application of skills, develop learner agency, personalize learning, and use technology intelligently within a well-designed overall learning experience. We will support efforts to identify, document, measure, and spread promising approaches.

The program does not support direct-service programs.