We are a platform for social and research entrepreneurship, implementing policy ideas brought to us by partners in the US and abroad.
We offer research, logistical, and strategic support to our collaborators in order to turn ideas into action. Our goal is to foster an ecosystem of innovative approaches to society’s challenges.
We identify and vet cutting-edge or underdeveloped ideas, conduct research to assess their potential benefit, and design pilots and policy ultimately aiming to implement and scale them for maximum social impact.
We work at all levels to realize solutions to social problems; our public sector research and design attempts to improve legislation and government action, while our private sector efforts — incubating new entities, designing software, structuring investment — model and scale promising alternatives.
Our process draws on these fundamental capacities: Pilot and policy design; policy analysis, including microsimulation, macroeconomic modeling, and sociological and political economy analysis; empirical research evaluations, including RCTs and mixed-methods designs; database management and analytics; custom software and modeling; media strategy; policymaker communications; and incubation and operationalization of new social-impact organizations.
HOW WE CHOOSE OUR PROJECTS
We pick initiatives that are urgent and tractable, likely to make major impact in a certain domain, but not necessarily bound by a certain discipline. We regularly assess new project ideas and interventions in social policy — drawing on our own work and partners in government, industry, academia, and other sectors.
We put each potential project through a structured evaluation that involves scoring the idea on its timeliness, empirical and theoretical strength, impact-to-effort balance, existing ecosystem of expertise, and potential for foundational change.
Many of these projects may take years to reach implementation and scale.
Please contact us if you have a proposal for a novel policy or organization to support it. You can find out more about partnering with us on our Partner With Us page.
Our first metric is direct positive impact on people’s lives. Pilots and policies designed or evaluated by JFI have served tens of thousands of people in the US and abroad. We also measure ourselves on progress towards building effective new institutions and social infrastructure in the public and private spheres, creating a new knowledge base around urgent social questions, informing policy, and laying foundations for new prosocial equilibria that will outlast our direct work. For any project we choose, even partial success must have some value. And for any project we choose, we must work across several attachment points in theory and practice.
Find out more in our annual letters.
Modeling and Staffing for the Student Freedom Initiative
Robert Smith partnered with JFI’s implementation team to build the Student Freedom Initiative, which disburses funds to students at dozens of HBCUs and MSIs. With flexible income-contingent financing and student supports, this program alleviates student loan burdens, which disproportionately affect Black and minority populations. JFI created the program’s design and analytics.
Lessons from Maricá, Brazil’s Solidarity Economy
JFI partnered with political leaders and researchers in Brazil to assess a 42,000-recipient guaranteed income policy. Working with Maricá’s mayor, Fabiano Horta, formal federal senator Eduardo Suplicy, and researchers from the Universidade Federal Fluminense, JFI’s empirical team designed a study to scrutinize the unique effects of the world’s largest and richest city-based cash transfers.
Center for Active Stewardship
Launched in 2022, the Center for Active Stewardship studies the relationship between the asset management industry and private sector action on climate change. Its first major project, a rating system of mutual funds and ETFs, highlights proxy voting as a mechanism for environmental action. A private philanthropist approached JFI with the Center’s theory of change, seeking our help with staffing, structure, research support, and strategic advice.
The Global Data Access Initiative
JFI is a partner of the Global Data Access Initiative (GDAI), an initiative of UN Global Pulse that aims to gather and make public third-party data in service of humanitarian and development goals. A member of GDAI’s steering committee, JFI provides guidance on ethics, oversight, and applied research as part of our AI for the Public Good affiliate initiative.
Millennial Student Debt
In this ongoing research series, JFI’s Higher Education Finance team has built a country-wide analysis and visualization of student debt and its relationship with demographics, schools, and labor market characteristics, and how these relationships have changed over the past decade. This uniquely rich and granular data project has informed Congressional committees, major media analyses, and the work of student-advocacy coalitions.
The Strategic Decarbonization of the European Union
For this affiliate initiative, in partnership with the Atlantic Council, JFI has designed a series of convenings in Europe to take place over 2023. Our fellows are providing research, framing, and policymaker outreach to build strategies for a future of sustainable and secure energy in the EU.
Brazil’s Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds
The Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds in Brazil builds innovative pathways for increasing the capacity of publicly-held assets to fund bold new social programs. Led by VP Paul Katz, JFI has worked with Brazilian partners to launch the forum, bringing together fund managers and political leaders into conversation with experts from academia and finance, and building the modeling capacity of the member funds.
Our current projects focus on social and governmental policy, as well as market structures, here and abroad. Core topics include guaranteed income and the social safety net, higher education finance, and social wealth, while we have conducted long-term inquiry into digital ethics and governance, solar geoengineering governance, and ESG.
We build pilots, design policy, and conduct research on guaranteed income alongside international partners in government, philanthropy, and academia.
We focus on designing financing for the labor and education markets, with expertise in income contingent financing capital structuring, program design, and underwriting.
We build tools, conduct research, and develop partnerships to help transform public assets into long-term financial portfolios in service of the public interest.
We design and incubate affiliate initiatives brought to us by partners in the US and abroad.
Phenomenal World is a publication focused on political economy.
We publish rigorous and innovative writing on economics, history, finance, policy, and politics. A publication of JFI, Phenomenal World explores political economy from a range of social scientific disciplines, and work with emerging and established scholars in and outside of JFI’s projects.