Frequently Asked Questions

We’re calling on innovators, educators, policymakers, and employers to share ideas to significantly increase wages as part of the $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge. The goal is to raise the annual wages of 100,000 low- or middle-income US workers by $10,000 by 2021.

What types of organizations are applying?

JFF has seen interest from all different types of organizations and is especially encouraged to see consortiums of nonprofits and community partners apply together.

Ideas are diverse and include examples such as:

  • A statewide community college system that partners with local employers to develop job-specific curricula and guarantee employment upon graduation
  • A non-profit start-up that curates online, low-cost training to upskill un- and underemployed workers for technical roles
  • A community fund that gives money to help low income students finance career and technical training
  • An advocacy organization that works to build coalitions around worker-related initiatives such as raising the minimum wage

What kinds of ideas does the Challenge seek?

JFFLabs seeks ideas that meet either of these criteria:  

  • Existing ideas to scale up: ideas that have a proven track record of success, have most of the right partners in place, and are ready for scaling
  • Experimental ideas to pilot: well-thought-out ideas with a strong research base of support that are ready for piloting

We seek a broad range of ideas that can significantly increase wages, including but not limited to submissions focused on: education and training; work structure and scheduling; worker ownership and agency; and policy. We welcome all bold, creative, and innovative ideas that can meet the goal of increasing the wages of 100,000 US low- and/or middle-income workers by $10,000 each, for a total of $1 billion in wage gains by the end of 2021.

Whose wages does the Challenge aim to increase?

The Challenge is focused on raising the wages of low- and/or middle-income workers in the US and its territories. Our goal is to strengthen the economic power of the American middle class, so the wage gains must be sustainable. There is no official definition of middle class, so in the spirit of open ideation, we encourage applicants to define low and/or middle income. You might consider the Pew Research Center’s definition of middle-class adults: those with an annual household income that is two-thirds to double the national median, after adjusting incomes for household size. In 2014, that range was $24,000 to $72,000 for an individual and $54,000 to $161,000 for a family of five. Other scholars note a range of ways to define the middle class that go beyond income.  

Does the $10,000/worker goal include total compensation, such as benefits like paid leave and vacations, or only wages?

This goal covers total direct compensation, which includes wages or income, paid time off (sick leave, family leave, vacation time), benefits (health insurance, etc.), and other non-wage compensation provided directly to workers. These components of a compensation package can be vital for workers. Access to quality, stable, non-wage compensation is especially important for workers with irregular hours. And, while small businesses and organizations may not be able to significantly raise wages, it may be possible for them to provide non-wage compensation.

Why apply? What’s in it for the award winners?

The award package is multidimensional and includes:

  • Visibility with funders, investors, and JFF partners: Up to 10 finalists will be selected in 2019 by a panel of reviewers—philanthropic funders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and subject matter experts who can amplify and potentially invest in the ideas (implementation funding is not guaranteed). All finalists will be invited to participate in a pitch event in 2019 with funders and investors.
  • Catalyst Coaching: In 2019, finalists will receive support from JFF, JFFLabs, and relevant partners to sharpen ideas and prepare for the 2019 pitch event. These supports may include individualized coaching, mentoring, and consulting with subject matter experts. Finalists may also be connected to project-related networks and other resources.
  • Opportunities to meet new partners and peers: All finalists will have opportunities to connect with relevant JFF local and state partners as well as other leaders, initiatives, and networks that may help to strengthen and improve ideas.
  • National recognition: Finalists will be recognized in a national awareness campaign focused on ideas that can be plausibly achieved, becoming the domestic moonshot of our time.

How will the Challenge work?

JFFLabs will accept submissions from September 24 at 12:00 a.m. ET through January 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET.  We encourage applicants to share their ideas with others before making their final submissions to solicit potential partnerships and resources.  Use the application period and platform to grow and strengthen your idea(s). The platform allows applicants to submit attachments. These attachments should be in PDF or other static format (i.e., not a Google doc or other type of document that can be changed after the deadline closes).

Submissions will be reviewed in January by a diverse panel of reviewers including funders, investors, successful entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, and thought leaders. Up to 10 finalists will be selected during this process. All finalists will receive national recognition and “catalyst coaching”, including individualized coaching, mentoring, and connections to networks, resources, and subject matter experts to sharpen ideas and prepare for the final pitch event in 2019. 

Will winners get funded?

We cannot guarantee funding at this time; however, the external reviewers who will be scoring the ideas are a group comprised of program officers from traditional/ corporate philanthropy, VC’s, investors, successful entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, etc. who are all very interested in the ideas proposed.

How to apply

Participants must complete the online submission form no later than 11:59 p.m. ET, January 13, 2018. There are no exceptions or extensions to this deadline. By submitting your idea, you agree to the terms and conditions of this Challenge. Visit our website to register and submit an application.

Here are the application questions, to be completed in English:

Idea Types

Indicate whether your idea is for scaling or piloting (checkboxes):

  • An existing idea for scaling: ideas that have a proven track record of success, have most of the right partners in place, and are ready for scaling up.
  • An experimental idea for piloting: well-thought-out ideas with a strong research base of support that are ready for piloting.

Basic Information

  • Name of lead organization or company (Required)
  • Organization or company mission (Required)
  • Names and websites of additional partner organizations (Optional)
  • Organization or company website (Optional)
  • Contact first name (Required)
  • Contact last name (Required)
  • Contact email address (Required)
  • Contact telephone number (Required)
  • Provide a concise description of your idea(s) (three to five sentences). (Required)
  • How did you hear about the $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge? (Option [drop-down]: Horizons 2018, press release,, social media, email, JFF staff, other. (Optional)

About Your Idea(s)

  • Describe the core features of your idea(s) and how it works, using plain language and no jargon. Specifically, how will your idea(s) achieve the goal of raising the annual wages of 100,000 US low- and/or middle-income workers by $10,000 each, for a total of $1B in wage gains by the end of 2021?  (Required)
  • Describe the population(s) of US workers targeted in your idea(s).  (Required)
  • Describe the basis of evidence for why you think this idea(s) will work. Include a short description of how your idea(s) has been informed by users/workers, as relevant.  (Required)
  • What makes your idea(s) interesting/innovative and capable of moving us beyond the status quo?  (Required)
  • How will you track the progress of your idea(s) toward meeting the stated goals : raising annual wages by $10,000 for 100,000 people by the end of 2021?  (Required)
  • For existing ideas, describe your medium-term growth and sustainability plan (sustainability of both the wages and the idea(s). For pilot ideas, describe your strategy for scaling beyond initial pilot. (Required)
  • What are the key barriers threatening the actualization of your idea(s)? How do you plan to address those barriers/mitigate those risks? (Required)

About Your Team and Partners

  • If you have a team in place, who is on it? Describe the capacity of this team to implement this idea(s). (Optional)
  • If you have partners, list and describe them, including their roles and capacity for implementing the idea(s). (Optional)
  • Who are dream partners you would like to recruit to work with you to implement this idea(s)? (Optional)

Why Are You Applying?

  • How would selection as a finalist make a difference for your proposed idea(s)? (Required)
  • What types of advice, resources, connections, and/or partnerships would you ideally want to advance your idea(s)? (Required)


  1. Upload a designated image to represent your idea. This can be a team photo, logo, or designed graphic that will be used to visually represent your idea on the idea platform website. This images could be a logo, team portraits, etc. The image should be JPEG, JPG, or PNG. Maximum file size is 5MB. These images will be used publicly.
  2. If you would like to supplement your application with a pitch deck, business plan, budget, etc., upload a single PDF. (Optional). This attachment will remain private and not be shared publicly.
  3. Share a link to a video (90 seconds maximum) that explains your idea. (Optional)

How will my intellectual property be treated?

Each challenge idea proposed may potentially include pre-existing intellectual property that applicants are entitled to obtain protection under intellectual property laws. It is the obligation of the applicant to decide whether, and to what extent, to disclose its intellectual property in connection with its entry. The $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge application consists of two components: (1) an online application, responses to which will be available for public view on the Challenge website; and (2) an “Optional Attachment” that can be used to share information that is labeled as “Proprietary” and will remain private and available for view only by JFF, JFFLabs, and duly appointed reviewers and judges. All reviewers and judges will be required to execute a non-disclosure agreement with JFFLabs that will protect any proprietary information your organization submits to JFFLabs from unauthorized disclosure. Again, each applicant has sole discretion and responsibility to protect and manage any intellectual property rights associated with its proposal, and should determine what, if any, protected information should be submitted in the Optional Attachment.

Applicants are cautioned regarding disclosure of unprotected intellectual property in the online application for which they might later desire to obtain protection. Applicants represent and warrant that they own all intellectual property rights in and to the material included in their proposal, and that no other party has any right, title, claim, or interest in the information presented, except as expressly identified in their proposal.

How will my confidential information be treated?

The $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge application includes two parts: (1) an online application, in which the answers will be available for public view on the Challenge website; and (2) an attachment option for information that should remain private and available for view only by JFF, JFFLabs, and duly appointed reviewers and judges. All reviewers and judges will be required to execute a non-disclosure agreement with JFFLabs that will protect any proprietary information your organization submits to JFFLabs from unauthorized disclosure. Notwithstanding that the distribution of information submitted via the Optional Attachment will be tightly controlled, JFF does not guarantee the privacy and/or confidentiality of any information disclosed in the online application. JFF recommends applicants withhold any information from the online application that might be damaging or harmful if made public or that is restricted through an existing agreement with another party. It is the responsibility of the applicant to assess and protect any information it wishes to keep confidential to ensure no unwanted or unauthorized public disclosure.

How will my email be used?

When applicants create accounts on the ideas platform they are required to submit an email as part of registration. This email will be used to communicate information related to the $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge and broader JFFLabs related projects. Users may choose to unsubscribe at any time in the footer of emails that they receive.

What is JFF?

JFF is a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems. For 35 years, JFF has led the way in designing innovative and scalable solutions that create access to economic advancement for all. Join us as we build a future that works.

What is JFFLabs?

JFFLabs is the innovation engine of JFF. We team with innovative entrepreneurs, employers, and funders to spur rapid industry change through companies, partners, and moonshot initiatives.

Who is Schmidt Futures?

Schmidt Futures advances society through technology, inspires scientific breakthroughs, and promotes shared prosperity. As a venture facility for public benefit, we invest risk capital in the most promising ideas and most exceptional people across disciplines.

The competition is supported by Schmidt Futures, and will be complementary and connected to its efforts in the Alliance for the American Dream. Schmidt Futures works to advance society through technology, inspire breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, and promote shared prosperity. As a venture facility for public benefit, Schmidt Futures drives discovery through investment in people, platforms, and partnerships.