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Meet the Winners of Justice Innovation Prize!

Questions & Answers

Answers to the most frequently asked questions.
What is the Justice Innovation Prize?

Sponsored by Dream.Org, the Justice Innovation Prize is an open call for innovative, impactful, feasible, and scalable ideas to end the cycle of mass incarceration. The Prize will identify up to five Finalists, each of whom will receive $50,000 planning grants to help refine their ideas and prepare for an in-person pitch event on Tuesday, October 24, 2023 at SOCAP23 in San Francisco, CA. From that Finalist pool, three Awardees will receive grants of $250,000 each to advance projects over a one-year period.

Who can participate?

Proposals are welcome from eligible organizations, entrepreneurs and startups anywhere in the world, and teams are highly encouraged. Each team must designate an eligible Lead Applicant that will be responsible for any grant award. Please note that while individuals may register and participate, Justice Innovation Prize funding cannot go directly to an individual. Individual participants will be required to establish or partner with an eligible organizational entity by the time awards are selected to receive funding.

We strongly encourage individuals who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to participate as Lead Applicants and/or core members of a project team. Teams may partner with nonprofits, grassroots community organizations, volunteer groups, government agencies or other public partners, and/or any private sector entities.  

Proposed projects must be implemented within the United States. Please see the Prize rules for more information on eligibility.

Can currently incarcerated individuals apply for the Justice Innovation Prize?

Dream.Org centers justice-impacted people in our work, with ninety percent (90%) of those on our team being directly impacted.  Incarceration in and of itself does not exclude an individual from applying. That said, a currently incarcerated person would not be able to apply if specifically prohibited by the laws of the state or jurisdiction in which they are incarcerated, restricted per policy or regulation of their facility or as a condition of sentencing or judge's order.  Additionally, if they did apply, they would still need to meet all requirements of an individual applicant, i.e., would need to establish an organization (501c3 or LLC) or secure a lead organization / fiscal sponsor to receive funds.

What types of projects are you looking for?

We’re aiming for projects that have a novel, bold vision for how to tackle the cycle of mass incarceration in the United States. Their core ideas should be unique and/or adapt existing work in an unconventional way. Projects must also make lasting change in the lives of individuals, their families, and/or communities most affected by the criminal justice system. We’re particularly interested in those that have the potential to adapt to varying geographic and political contexts.

How do I apply?

You must first assess your fit and eligibility for the Justice Innovation Prize, then register no later than Wednesday, April 5, 2023 at 5pm Eastern Time. Registration is required and is a simple two-step process. First, create a username and password, then check your inbox to confirm your registration. Next, complete the online registration form. Once you are registered, submit your application online no later than Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 5 pm Eastern Time.

How will submissions be assessed?

Once the submission deadline passes, the Justice Innovation Prize team will perform an administrative review to confirm each submission meets the rules and application requirements before advancing to the required Peer-to-Peer Review.

During Peer-to-Peer Review, each lead applicant will be required to score and comment on five applications from other organizations. Top-scoring applications will move on to the Evaluation Panel and receive an additional review and comments from five judges. All reviewers will use the scoring rubric, and all scores will be statistically normalized to ensure fairness.

Dream.Org will review the top-scoring submissions and request additional information as needed to select up to five Finalists based on considerations that may include, but are not limited to, Evaluation Panel resulting rank order, peer feedback, organizational capacity, geographic diversity, and feasibility.  

Finalists will receive a $50,000 planning grant and several weeks to revise their proposals and prepare for a live pitch to the Selection Committee on October 24, 2023 at SOCAP in San Francisco, CA. The Selection Committee will make a final awardee recommendation to Dream.Org, and three awardees will receive $250,000 each to bring their ideas to life.

May current Dream.Org grantees participate in the Justice Innovation Prize?

Yes. Current or former grantees of Dream.Org may apply with projects that represent significantly different concepts than those already funded.

Will you consider funding a proposed solution in the early, pilot stages?

Yes. We’re seeking groundbreaking ideas, and welcome early-stage concepts that: (a) meet the criteria laid out in the scoring rubric; and (b) can be implemented within twelve months of funding. Per the scoring rubric, successful proposals will balance innovation with feasibility. Formal studies validating the proposed approach are not required, but teams will need to clearly and persuasively articulate why they believe their project will work. Formal or informal studies, observations, and other indicators of change as defined by the impacted communities are welcome, as are references to external sources.

How can we use the Justice Innovation Prize award?

Funds must be used for the solution described in the application, and may not be used:

  • To carry on propaganda or otherwise to attempt to influence legislation within the meaning of Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) Section 4911
  • To participate in or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office
  • To undertake any activity that is inconsistent with Competition Sponsor’s charitable purposes or other exempt purpose specified in section 170(c)(2)(B) of the Code
  • For loans or microloans
  • For the creation of any endowment or for the aggregation of philanthropic capital
  • For the creation of a venture capital fund, or pooled funds to invest in or distribute to for-profit organizations

While lobbying is not an allowable expense, advocacy activities not otherwise prohibited above are permissible.

What should I expect from Peer-to-Peer Review?

Peer Review is a unique feature of this Prize that aligns with a broader goal of ensuring that the process of participating is inclusive of input from those closest to the work. It allows all participants to receive feedback on their ideas from diverse perspectives working toward a similar vision. It also exposes each participant to five other organizations who aim to achieve the same goal.  

All participants who submit valid applications will be required to participate in Peer-to-Peer Review in order to remain eligible for the Prize. During this phase, participants will be asked to read and provide feedback on five other submitted applications. This should take approximately 5-6 hours over the course of a three-week period (Wednesday, May 31 through Tuesday, June 20).

Webinar training and additional resources will be provided in advance of Peer Review.

May award funds be applied toward overhead?

You are permitted to spend the prize money on overhead, but judges will look unfavorably on an application that appears to direct a large share of the potential prize money for that purpose. Per the scoring rubric, the ultimate goal is make lasting change in the lives of individuals, their families, and/or communities most affected by the criminal justice system.

May we use this Prize to support advocacy and/or lobbying activities?

Per the Rules, the following is prohibited:

  • To carry on propaganda or otherwise to attempt to influence legislation within the meaning of Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) Section 4911
  • To participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office

Advocacy is permitted provided it does not fall within the scope of what is outlined above. Applicants should consult with their own legal counsel regarding what may or may not constitute lobbying. If you advance as a Finalist, Dream.Org  may require additional information to determine if one of your proposed activities is in fact ineligible, and, if applicable, may provide guidance on how best to comply.

How do I sign up to receive competition correspondence like deadline reminders and application status updates?

Once you have registered and throughout the competition, we will send important notifications to the email address associated with your account, as well as the primary and secondary contacts listed on your registration form. There are three critical steps you can take to make sure these messages are received promptly: 

  • Add the Justice Innovation Prize email to your contacts. 
  • Whitelist the Justice Innovation Prize. Here are instructions to whitelist using most major email providers.
  • Update your registration form right away if one of your contacts changes. If you need to make a contact change after the application window has closed, please email us and we will assist you. 
Let’s transform the criminal justice system and usher in a new era that actually protects communities and keeps families whole.
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