Frequently Asked Questions

A Better Chicago, in partnership with The Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund), the University of Chicago (UChicago) Education Lab, Chicago Public Schools, and the City of Chicago, is launching the Chicago Design Challenge to accelerate equitable learning recovery and dramatically reimagine post-pandemic schooling.

Who can apply for a Chicago Design Challenge grant?

We will consider a diverse set of applicants for grants, including:

  • Nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) tax exemption
  • Schools/groups of schools (District, Charter, Faith-Based)
  • Collaboratives of nonprofit organizations, schools, and related support organizations (support organizations can include for-profit organizations

Individuals are ineligible to apply. We will consider organizations not yet operating in Chicago.

I am a current grantee of A Better Chicago. May I apply for Chicago Design Challenge funding?

Yes. Current Catalyst, Venture, and Growth Fund grantees are eligible for Chicago Design Challenge funding. As they have already gone through due diligence, they will participate in a differentiated application process. Former and Emergency Relief Fund grantees should apply through the application on the website.

I have previously applied for funding from A Better Chicago. May I apply for a Chicago Design Challenge grant?

Yes, prior participation in A Better Chicago’s due diligence process will not impact a prospective Chicago Design Challenge grantee’s application.

Where do I apply to the Chicago Design Challenge?

Once the application window opens, applications will be accepted online here.

To preview the Chicago Design Challenge application, please click here.

When are Chicago Design Challenge grant applications due?

A Better Chicago will be begin accepting applications on Friday, February 26 and will close the application window on Monday, April 5. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

What is the application review process?

A Better Chicago, along with Chicago Design Challenge partners, will review grant applications. Once an application is submitted, A Better Chicago will complete an initial review against the rubric shared above.  A Better Chicago will be in touch with follow-up questions and to discuss next steps with applicants continuing in the process. A Better Chicago will also engage community leaders for additional feedback and perspective on proposed interventions to inform award decisions. Throughout the selection process, candidates who will not be moving forward will be notified as soon as possible.

When will we know if our grant application is successful?

Planning award decisions will be made in June 2021. We anticipate most implementation funding will be awarded by September 2021.

How much funding is available through the Chicago Design Challenge grants?

As of February 10, we have raised $6.5 million for this initiative. The size of initial planning grants and implementation funding will depend on the scope and scale of proposed efforts. We continue to fundraise for this effort.

If awarded, what supports beyond funding are A Better Chicago and the Chicago Design Challenge partners providing?

At the start of the planning phase, A Better Chicago will work with each grantee to determine the supports necessary to achieve execution readiness. Though individual plans may vary, general categories of supports include:

  • University of Chicago (UChicago) Education Lab will provide support to help grantees use data to evaluate progress and measure the impact of the interventions
  • The Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund) will lend its experience in supporting youth-centered innovation to assist prospective grantees, especially those who hope to work in partnership with educators in schools
  • Additional capacity-building support necessary to build out the infrastructure and processes to deliver the program

Ongoing thought-partnership and capacity-building support is core to A Better Chicago’s model and will be part of long-term partnership with Innovation grantees.

What are the data and reporting requirements for the Chicago Design Challenge grants?

Multi-year investments will be contingent on meeting mutually agreed upon annual performance milestones, and ongoing data tracking will help grantees reflect and iterate as they implement their new programs. Grantee-specific measurement plans will help answer the following:

  • Is the organization serving its target population? What are the demographic, socio-economic, and/or academic characteristics of students served?
  • Is the intervention being implemented as intended? Are participants substantively engaged in programming (e.g., attendance, attrition)? What are their and other key stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of the initiative?
  • What is the impact of the initiative on students? What outcomes do the students achieve after participating in the initiative?

Specific grant reporting requirements such as format and timing will be provided as part of a grant agreement with A Better Chicago.

What is the role of the various partners?

The challenge will be fueled by a powerful collaborative effort across sectors with A Better Chicago spearheading the day-to-day work of sourcing, vetting, and funding grantee organizations. As mentioned above, The Fund serves as a key partner to inform both selection criteria and supports for grantees through the planning grant period. UChicago Education Lab will serve as a data partner and technical advisor on research and evaluation, while Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago will help identify needs they are observing in schools and among young people and serve as pathway to scale innovative and successful interventions.

Who are the funders of the Chicago Design Challenge?

Visit www.chicagodesignchallenge.org for a list of donors supporting the Challenge.