Overview Apply FAQ Current Competition Awards


Applications for the AY23 Competition are now closed.


  • The AY23 competition is open to teams of Columbia University students or recent alumni (within the past five years).
  • At least one member on each team must be a current student at SIPA.
  • At least 3 students per team, and no more than 10. We suggest about 6 students per team.  (If there is a reason why your team does not yet have three members, but you will add the remainder later, please explain in your proposal.)
  • The Program encourages cross-disciplinary teams that unite students in public policy and other fields, such as computer science, engineering, architecture, business, etc.
  • If you are an individual seeking a team, or a team seeking an additional member with specific skills, you can post your information to this Google spreadsheet. There are tabs for students and teams, respectively.  You will need to be signed in to your Lionmail account to access.  Please do not alter any entries except for your own. Please note that Challenge Grant staff is not involved in pairing teams or students through this spreadsheet.  It is incumbent on students and teams listing their information on the spreadsheet to identify fellow teammates and reach out on their own.


Timeline & Deadlines

The SIPA Public Policy Challenge Grant Program consists of three rounds of increasingly demanding competition.  The rounds correspond approximately with the “concept,” “design” and “pilot” phases of enterprise development.  Winners of each round will receive progressively more robust and targeted support and mentorship. 

Applications for the AY23 Competition are now closed.


Round One Proposal

Applications for the AY23 Competition are now closed.

Teams should submit proposals describing an innovative project that uses ICTs and/or data analytics to advance a public policy objective

This Challenge Grant is designed to identify and support new ideas; proposals that have been submitted to other competitions are eligible, unless they already have secured significant funding. 

Proposals should consider issues such as the following:

  • What data and/or technology will be utilized?
  • If your project includes the development of new technology, how will you assemble the team and resources to do so?
  • What value will be created, and who will be served?
  • How might implementation be achieved?
  • What are initial thoughts about piloting and scaling the project?
  • What are the costs and potential revenue streams?
  • What is the model for sustainability (market-based, public/philanthropic support, or mixed)?
  • How will you test your model for sustainability?
  • In the language of “lean start-ups,” what are the key hypotheses to be tested?
  • How would the team test its hypotheses?

The proposal should also include preliminary thoughts about how the team would use the time in each subsequent Round to develop and refine its proposal and, if appropriate, prototype.  

Documents to submit for round one: startup competition

Applications for the AY23 Competition are now closed.
1. SIPA Startup Idea 2. 1-Minute Pitch Video 

3. Team Resume Book

Format: PDF
Naming Convention: TeamName_SIPA_Challenge.pdf

  • 3 pages or less including text, charts, and digrams.
    (Typed and double-spaced, 12 point font, and 1-inch margins on all sides)

Format: Youtube Video
Naming Convention: TeamName_SIPA_Challenge.pdf

  • The video should be one minute long and should be uploaded to YouTube.
  • The video should only contain team members talking.

Format: PDF
Naming Convention: TeamName_SIPA_Challenge.pdf

  • The booklet should contain a one-page resume for each team member.


Judging Criteria

Winners of Round One will be selected based on criteria that include:

  • Significance of the problem, both in its severity and those affected.
  • Convincing evidence that better information/proposed solution could lead to improved outcomes.
  • Potential impact of the initiative.
  • Precision with which the data/technology and approach are identified.
  • Clarity of plans for testing hypotheses and securing  feedback from potential partners, funders/supporters, customers/users, and others.
  • Plausibility of preliminary plans for using the subsequent two phases of the Challenge Grant Program to develop and refine its proposal and, if appropriate, prototype.