Catalyst Grant Program

Request for Proposals and Application


Racism and racial biases are deeply embedded in the criminal legal system, leading to disproportionate harm to communities of color. People of color, particularly Black people, experience arrests and vehicle and pedestrian stops at higher rates than white people. Moreover, Black people are detained at higher rates than white people and incarcerated for longer periods. Even brief incarceration can result in lost employment and housing, burdensome fines and fees, and destabilized family relationships. Criminal legal system involvement exacerbates existing challenges for many people of color and contributes to a compounding cycle that criminalizes them.

Local organizations are at the forefront of systemic change in the criminal legal system. Improving communities’ access to relevant data and technology can help them inform and improve policies and practices that make the criminal legal system more equitable. 

The Urban Institute and the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative are collaborating on the Catalyst Grant Program to help organizations use data and technology to advance racial equity and reform at the front end of the criminal legal system. 

We are seeking project proposals that advance the focus areas of the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative, which include supporting policies, programs, and practices that prevent unnecessary system involvement and decrease racial and ethnic disparities in policing and prosecution. We are building on the two previous cohorts that consisted of 39 grantees across the country.

You can access the full Request for Proposals here  (PDF).  

Proposals are due December 2, 2022.

The Request for Proposals contains program details, example projects, application questions, a budget template (XLS), and information about Microsoft technology benefits. 

You can also refer to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs – revised 11/4/2022). 

Sign up through this form to be notified about new FAQs and reminders of key dates. 

Send any questions about the program to catalystapplications@urban.org

Summary of Program, Key Dates, and How to Learn More

Purpose of Solicitation

To support local activities related to advancing racial equity and reform in the front end of the adult criminal legal system through data and technology.


Lead Organizational Eligibility

Locally embedded 501(c)(3) organizations based in the US, excluding colleges and universities. We have a focus on those organizations embedded in communities of color, particularly Black communities. Lead organizations may include in their proposals partner organizations that do not meet lead organization eligibility criteria.


Award and Benefits

Selected applicants will receive $40,000 in grant funds; assistance on data, policy, and community engagement from the Urban Institute; access to Microsoft technology and related support; and peer learning opportunities.


RFP Issue Date

Monday, October 10, 2022


Deadline for Proposals

Friday, December 2, 2022, 8:00 p.m. eastern time


Application Process and Content

You will need to register and submit your application through the grant application website: catalystapplications.urban.org. A full list of application questions and instructions are in appendix A of the RFP. Given word limits for the 10 narrative questions, application responses are expected to total roughly five pages. After starting an application, applicants may save it as a draft to return to later before submitting.  


Project Topic Requirements

Projects must focus on reform and racial equity in the front end of the criminal legal system (i.e., prevention, policing, and prosecution). Projects must also incorporate data and technology and be locally focused. Additional information on eligibility is in the RFP section on Project Topic Requirements.  


Grants will not be given to projects that specifically focus on:  

  • people under 18 years of age;  
  • people who are currently incarcerated;  
  • people returning from incarceration; or 
  • activities at the state or national levels.

Register for Grant Program Updates

Sign up  to receive notifications for updated FAQs, webinar reminders, and other deadlines. This registration is not required to apply for the grant.


Webinar: RFP Overview 

An optional informational webinar was held October 25, 2022 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. eastern time. Download the recording and slides. 


Microsoft Technology Use: Benefits and Workshop

Projects are not required to use Microsoft technology, but projects that use Microsoft technology in ways that are integral to the proposed data and technology activities will be eligible for additional in-kind technology access and support. We held workshops to learn more about relevant Microsoft technology on October 27th and November 2, 2022. Download the recording  and slides.


Deadline for Questions

You may send any questions to catalystapplications@urban.org. The deadline for submitting questions about project topics, eligibility, or other RFP content is Wednesday, November 23, 2022, at 8:00 p.m. eastern time. We will regularly post FAQ updates to the grant application website. The Urban Institute will continue to answer technical questions related to the grant application website until the proposal deadline.


Notice of Decision to Applicants and Project Award


April 2023

Timing of Project Activities


May 2023–December 2023

  • Preparation phase: May 2023–June 2023
  • Project execution (with technical assistance and cohort activities): July 2023–December 2023


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