Applications closed

Economic Opportunity and Digital Platforms request for proposals


The emergence of new digital marketplaces has revolutionized commerce, transportation, and information dissemination. Digital platforms have made it easier to start a business, find a job, market a new product, or connect your business to customers. In addition to creating new avenues for economic opportunity and growth, these platforms have also created a new set of economic challenges. These include the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities in access to opportunity, particularly for those who lack digital skills.

Part of Facebook’s mission is to empower individuals to build community and to ensure that these communities create opportunity for everyone. Facebook has invested in training, technology, tools, support, and research to help people and small businesses around the world. These include investments in our training programs Facebook Community Boost, Boost Your Business, and our online learning hub Blueprint. We’d like to understand how these programs could be more effective and reach more people, as well as enable more research into who is being left behind in the digital economy and how to help them.

The goal of this RFP is to enable research into how (and whether) the digital economy and online platforms create opportunity and encourage social mobility, as well as identify and address inequalities in opportunity in the United States. Another area of focus is how tools and programs could help disadvantaged groups (including those who lack digital skills) transition into careers that require more digital skills or create and grow their businesses. Examples include digital skills training, tools for small businesses, job finding platforms, information for low-wage workers, and others.

Award Recipients

Tufts University

Laura K. Gee

University of Nebraska Omaha

Margeret Hall

Princeton University

Eszter Hargittai

University of Washington

Kurtis Heimerl

University of Antwerp

Freya De Keyzer

Carnegie Mellon University

Beibei Li

California State University, Chico

Jason Schwenkler

University of Pennsylvania

Julia Ticona

Applications Are Currently CLosed

Application Timeline

*Note: Technical reviews took longer than expected, so we have not yet notified submitters of their proposal status. We will send email notifications to all applicants as soon as we can.

Launch Date

June 12, 2019


August 19, 2019

Winners Announced

November 2019

Areas of Interest

While Facebook cares deeply about supporting economic development around the world, the scope of this particular RFP is to focus primarily on impacts in the United States. Research proposals do not need to be about Facebook programs or apps but research findings should be broadly applicable for practitioners in this area.

Topics of interest for this RFP include, but are not limited to:

  • Economic opportunity, social mobility, and income inequality – The role of digital platforms in economic opportunity, social mobility, income inequality, and the impact of inequality on people and communities. Additional research questions include:
    • Is social mobility changing/shifting through digitization?
    • How are digital platforms affecting social mobility for the middle class, women, and historically disadvantaged groups?
    • What is the economic impact of digital platforms?
  • Digital skills training and job finding – The impact and effectiveness of digital skills training and job finding platforms. Additional research questions include:
    • What makes training programs effective and who benefits the most from digital skills training?
    • How should one design job finding platforms to reach, and be effective for, low- and middle-wage workers or disadvantaged populations?
  • Small businesses and online tools – The use of online tools by entrepreneurs and small businesses to create and grow their businesses. Additional research questions include:
    • What is the economic impact of the small business digital economy?
    • Is there a differential impact of these tools on women and historically marginalized groups?
  • Inequalities in digital access – What populations or groups lack access to connectivity, digital skills, or the digital economy. Additional research questions include:
    • What groups of people are being left behind from digitization, including the middle class?
    • What is the economic impact of providing greater connectivity?

Successful proposals will demonstrate innovative and compelling research that has the potential to advance science and understanding in the research topic areas and provide value to policymakers, practitioners, and organizations working in these areas.


To apply

Applications should include:

  • Summary of the project (1-2 pages): Include an explanation of the area of focus, a description of techniques, any relevant prior work, and a timeline with milestones and expected outcomes. Please also include a clear and concise statement of the scientific contribution and routes to eventual deployment.
  • A budget description (1 page): Include an approximate cost of the project and explanation of how funds would be spent. Please also include funds for travel for the PI to attend a workshop in Menlo Park to discuss findings with the Core Data Science team in 2020.
  • Curriculum Vitae(s): Provide the names of the principal researcher(s) involved in the proposed work with their CV/resume or links to Google Scholar pages.
  • Previous collaborations: Indicate any previous or current connections/collaborations with Facebook (in which case please name the Facebook contacts).
  • Administrative Information: Include the institution’s tax ID # and details for both a finance contact and authorized authority that can sign award documentation.
  • Keywords: Please select from the following keywords to include in your proposal: Economic Opportunity, Social Mobility, Income Inequality, Digital Skills Training, Small Businesses, Job Finding, Inequality, Digital Access.


  • Organizations must be an accredited academic institution or a non-governmental organization with recognized legal status in their respective country (equal to 501(c)(3) status under the United States Internal Revenue Code).
  • Applicants must be the Principal Investigator (PI) on any resulting award. All funding will be directed to the PI’s institution.
  • Applicants may submit one proposal per solicitation.
  • Awards must comply with applicable U.S. and international laws, regulations and policies.
  • Facebook will not provide access to any Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp data for awarded projects. Any data collected by research teams must comply with Facebook’s terms and policies and the institution’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Please be aware that Facebook does not allow the automated scraping of public information from the platform.

Budget and Payment

  • Award amount can vary but is typically up to $50,000.
  • Payment: The award will be made to the PI’s host institution as an unrestricted gift. Overhead is limited to 5% for gifts.

Additional Information

Award recipients will be invited to a workshop in Menlo Park, California to discuss their findings/insights with Facebook researchers in 2020. Please budget travel for 1-2 PIs to attend as a part of the proposed project budget.

We encourage the winners to openly publish any findings/insights from their work. Successful awardees will be also listed on the Facebook Research website.

For additional questions related to this RFP, please email

Frequently Asked Questions

Terms & Conditions

  • By submitting a proposal, you are authorizing Facebook to evaluate the proposal for a potential award, and you agree to the terms herein.
  • You agree that Facebook will not be required to treat any part of the proposal as confidential or protected by copyright.
  • You agree and acknowledge that personal data submitted with the proposal, including name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of you and other named researchers in the proposal may be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by Facebook for the purposes of administering the website and evaluating the contents of the proposal.
  • You acknowledge that neither party is obligated to enter into any business transaction as a result of the proposal submission, Facebook is under no obligation to review or consider the proposal, and neither party acquires any intellectual property rights as a result of submitting the proposal.
  • Any feedback you provide to Facebook in the proposal regarding its products or services will not be treated as confidential or protected by copyright, and Facebook is free to use such feedback on an unrestricted basis with no compensation to you.