Partner with Fels

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Nonprofit organizations and government agencies can submit proposals for Fels Lab projects. Our Masters of Public Administration students can select these projects to complete as a capstone project for their degree program. Your organization receives professional advice, recommendations, or research at no cost. In a survey of recent Fels Lab partners, 100% of participating organizations said that our students produced quality work for them and enabled them to meet their organizational needs and goals.

To partner with Fels, please read the overview below and then click the red button to submit your project proposal. If you have additional questions, contact Lauren Russell at lrus@sas.upenn.edu.

Submit a Fels Lab project form

Fels Lab overview for partner organizations

What kind of projects should I submit?

All projects must focus on a clearly defined problem or need. As a clearinghouse of opportunities for collaboration with community organizations, Fels Lab welcomes a diverse set of projects. Projects can touch upon any area of public policy, such as criminal justice, education, energy, international relations, or social policy. Some projects involve providing targeted, practical assistance through strategic plans or fundraising support. Other projects involve quantitative analysis, process tracing, or program evaluation. Our students are also taking classes while completing their capstone projects, so the project should be narrow enough in scope that it can be completed in about six months by a single student working about 5 hours per week.

How many projects can my organization submit?

Organizations are welcome to submit multiple projects, but community partners with two or more matched projects may be capped in their participation in Fels Lab.

What kinds of organizations should submit a Fels Lab project proposal?

We encourage all nonprofit organizations and government agencies to submit proposals! A priority is placed on sharing projects from local, nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia, Camden, Wilmington, and neighboring communities. Submissions and matches are encouraged for community partners with limited resources, strong technical assistance needs, and missions to serve disadvantaged populations.

What kinds of projects are students most likely to select?

Fels Lab seeks out a diverse set of projects, but since unique student interests drive the project matching process, some projects may be more likely to “match” than others. Based on a recent student interest survey, we believe that Fels Lab projects involving policy analysis, strategic planning, program evaluation, and performance management have the highest likelihood of student selection.

How much time will my organization need to invest if selected?

Students and community partners should determine how frequently, and whether, in-person meetings, fieldwork, and other on-site trips should occur. If the project is based near Philadelphia, a student may seek to meet with a community partner in-person on a regular basis. At minimum, students should actively keep in touch with community partners via regular phone conversations and email exchanges. Students work remotely most of the time but must have reliable and consistent access to information and contacts at the organization.

How can my organization best provide support to the student completing our project?

Community partners can best support students by clearly identifying a need, setting expectations regarding project deliverables, giving access to all relevant information or data, being responsive throughout the project, and offering feedback on interim or final products. Community partners should help the student understand their perspective and meet their goals without closing themselves off to external, objective review. Students engaging with community partners through the Fels Lab will be doing so as a part of their final capstone project. Students completing the project as a capstone project should not be paid for their efforts.

When can I expect a project deliverable from the student to be submitted?

Most Fels Lab projects are completed in fulfillment of students’ capstone requirement. Capstone projects are due in either May or August (depending on if the student is a full-time or part-time student). Please indicate in your project proposal what completion timeline works best for your project. Partner organizations are encouraged and invited to come to campus to hear their student’s capstone presentations on the last day of class.

My project might be better for an intern rather than for a student’s capstone project—how should I proceed?

If your organization needs support, but those needs are not as focused on a singular project as a Fels Lab project should be, you may simply benefit from a Fels intern. We are always looking for internship opportunities to share with our students. Please send your internship job description to Colleen Bonner at cobonner@upenn.edu to add to our internships listing.

My project proposal is more research-based than problem-focused—should I still submit my proposal?

Yes, you can still submit this type of proposal.

Submitting a Fels Lab project proposal

How do I submit my Fels Lab project proposal?

All community partners must submit their Fels Lab project proposal through the Fels Lab Submission Form webpage.

When are Fels Lab project proposals due?

There are two submission cycles each year. For projects to be completed by May, Fels Lab project proposals must be submitted by April 30 (about a year in advance). For projects to be completed by the end of August, Fels Lab project proposals must be submitted by September 30 (about a year in advance). 

How will my project proposal be evaluated?

Proposals are evaluated based on:

  • Clarity: Are project needs and goals clearly specified?
  • Feasibility: Can this project be reasonably undertaken by a student?
  • Practicality: Can a student learn or gain useful skills from this experience?
  • Impact: Can this project make a valuable public service contribution?
  • Timeline: Does the timeline of the project match the students’ timelines through capstone or internship experiences?
  • Deliverable: Does the project have a clear deliverable that students will complete? Does the organization have a firm enough understanding of what a “finished” project will look like?

What happens after I submit my project proposal?

Following submission from the online form, a project proposal is reviewed by a committee of Fels staff and faculty members. The committee then decides to approve, reject, or invite revision and resubmission of the proposal. We aim to inform organizations of decisions within ten days of submission.

Student match process

If my project is approved, how will I be matched to a student who will work on my project?

After your project is approved, it is available for students to view and select as a capstone project. We cannot guarantee students will take on your project, but we encourage those who would be a good fit. For the Spring submission cycle, you will be notified by no later than June with an update on whether your project matched. For the Fall submission cycle, you will be notified no later than November.

What if no student selects my project?

While a project may be approved by Fels administration, there are no guarantees students will select it. We contact all organizations to provide an update even if your project is not selected. 

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326
felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu

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