Open Funding Opportunities

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Human Trafficking Research Initiative Seed Grants | Round 3 Request for Proposals

IPA’s Human Trafficking Research Initiative

Due to the gravity and pervasiveness of human trafficking, it is of vital importance that practitioners, policymakers, and researchers strengthen the evidence on what programs work to reduce trafficking and protect victims. Innovations for Poverty Action established the Human Trafficking Research Initiative (HTRI) to work with researchers and partner organizations to expand the evidence base on effective solutions to reduce modern slavery and human trafficking.

From IPA’s experience developing and carrying out more than 900 randomized evaluations, we know that strong research partnerships and high-impact studies take time and effort to build. To generate a more expansive pool of high-quality research proposals focused on human trafficking, in this funding round, IPA seeks to support early-stage activities to develop partnerships, carry out exploratory research, and demonstrate the feasibility of larger-scale studies evaluating the effectiveness of current or planned counter-trafficking interventions.

Funding priorities for the partnership, piloting, and seed grants are guided by HTRI’s Research and Learning Agenda, which outlines key research gaps under the 4 Ps (prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership). This agenda was developed in the first year of the project with the input of top counter-trafficking practitioners, policymakers, and researchers around the globe. HTRI is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Program to End Modern Slavery and guided by scientific advisors Dr. Cecilia Hyunjung Mo and Dr. Guy Grossman.

Call for Proposals for Seed Grants for Partnership Building, Pilots, and Data Analysis

IPA invites proposals from researchers and organizations that intend to design and carry out impact evaluations exploring interventions to reduce human trafficking or respond to the needs of human trafficking victims but need some additional time and support to push the research project to the next stage. The objective of these small grants, ranging between $10,000 and $50,000, is to advance early-stage discussion between researchers and implementing organizations to the point where they have viable research project designs and plans that can lead to a full impact evaluation in the future. For more information about impact evaluations, please visit our Rigorous Research webpage.

These early-stage grants are expected to generate a set of meaningful partnerships and refined evidence that can support applicants to become viable applicants for full-scale studies at a later stage. The grants are intended to support research costs and not project implementation costs, though modest implementation costs will be considered. HTRI expects to fund a total of six to nine proposals in this round that cover a range of different activities addressing any or all of the four Ps (prevention, protection, prosecution, partnership). Applications that do not intend to use this seed funding to assess the feasibility of future randomized control trials (RCTs) or other rigorous experimental designs as their methodology for causal inference will NOT be considered for funding. While quasi-experimental and natural experiment designs will be considered, preference will be given to seed grant applicants that focus on preparing for future randomized evaluations.

In this round, the HTRI will consider proposals that include:

  • Small research pilots of promising interventions: These are grants that would fund the cost of a small pilot to assess the feasibility and value of a larger research project. These grants are intended to be the first step of formal research for promising interventions and anti-trafficking activities. Programs with monitoring and evaluation data, administrative data, and/or sound theories of change that indicate promising impact would be a good fit for this grant. We anticipate funding between $10,000 to $50,000 per pilot.
  • Seed money for a travel grant or staff time to build on nascent research ideas: These grants are to develop preliminary research ideas and help researchers develop subsequent proposals for pilots or full randomized evaluations. Activities may include travel, relationship development, descriptive analysis, observational analysis, and data development or collection. These grants are primarily meant for junior faculty, PhD students, and other researchers who do not have other sources of funding for travel and exploratory work. We anticipate funding between $10,000 and $15,000 per award.
  • Small grants for data work using existing sources to examine program impact: These are small grants that will support researchers to use a partner’s administrative data or other existing data sets, conduct desk research to deepen previous research analysis, or create new analysis to help inform research project design and viability. We expect to see applications either explain how existing analysis could be improved or potentially be used to draw additional conclusions. Preference will be given to applicants who chart how their results can influence future research (specifically impact evaluations). We anticipate funding awards of up to $10,000.

Interested applicants are instructed to read HTRI’s Research and Learning Agenda and refer to the specific research gaps identified in the Research and Learning Agenda that their research is intended to address. For researchers interested in partnering with an IPA office to implement research, country office contact information is included in the submission guidelines. Additional information about HTRI and the competitive fund can be found in this FAQ document.

Eligibility Criteria

All researchers must meet the terms of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons eligibility requirements. For more details, please review the General Terms and Conditions section of the submission guidelines. Please note that research grants provided by HTRI must focus on one or both forms of trafficking in persons as defined by the Trafficking Victim Protection Act:

  • Sex Trafficking – when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person to engage in a commercial sex act or when a trafficker causes a child who has not attained 18 years of age to engage in a commercial sex act.
  • Forced Labor – when a trafficker recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains a person for labor or services by using force, fraud, or coercion.

All projects must benefit people and communities for lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Please note that project activities and interventions can take place anywhere, but the intended beneficiaries must be from LMICs.

HTRI is funded by the Program to End Modern Slavery (PEMS) in the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Given current PEMS investments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, HTRI will pay special attention to applications that benefit the people of the following countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Zambia.

The Human Trafficking Research Initiative will give preference to underrepresented researchers in the field. We encourage applications from minority researchers, such as women, junior scholars, first-generation college graduates, and citizens of lower- or middle-income countries. Local researchers and local organizations are necessary for the success of many human trafficking programs and assessments; this will be incorporated into our proposal assessment.

We strongly encourage current and upcoming IPA projects and/or affiliated researchers to apply. If you are not affiliated with IPA but are interested in working with an IPA country office, please refer to the RFP guidelines for information on the engagement process and country office contact information.

How to Apply

Applicants should submit their completed application and all supporting materials using our online portal before midnight, US Eastern Standard Time, on Friday, March 31, 2023.

If you have any questions about the application or are interested in being matched with a relevant researcher or implementing partner, please reach out to