Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future
We live in a dynamic world. Major health events, new technologies, scientific discoveries, climate change and economic and demographic shifts shape where and how we live, learn, work and play. These changes profoundly impact health equity in our society. What dramatic changes might we see in the next 5 to 15 years? What can we do today to create a better, more equitable tomorrow?
We seek to answer these questions and support unconventional approaches and breakthrough ideas that can help lead the way to a future where everyone in America has the opportunity to live their healthiest life possible.
This funding opportunity seeks proposals primed to impact health equity moving forward. We are interested in ideas that address any of these four areas of focus: Future of Evidence; Future of Social Interaction; Future of Food; Future of Work. Additionally, we welcome ideas that might fall outside of these four focus areas, but which offer unique approaches to advancing health equity and our progress toward a Culture of Health.
We want to hear from scientists, anthropologists, artists, urban planners, community leaders—anyone, anywhere who has a new or unconventional idea that could alter the trajectory of health and improve health equity and well-being for generations to come. The changes we seek require diverse perspectives and cannot be accomplished by any one person, organization, or sector.
Total to be Awarded
- The average Pioneer Grant in 2019 was $315,031.
- However, there is not an explicit range for budget requests.
- Grant periods are flexible, though generally range from 1 to 3 years.
Eligibility & Selection Criteria
Preference will be given to applicants that are tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and are not private foundations or Type III-supporting organizations. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories. Submissions from teams that include both U.S. and international members are eligible, but the lead applicant must be based in the United States.
Applications will be evaluated based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:
- Strength of health equity focus: How will this project increase opportunities for everyone to live their healthiest life possible, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make?
- Strength of insight: How will this project help us anticipate, adapt to, and influence the future in 5 to 15 years?
- Strength of idea: Is this project pioneering in one or more of these ways?
- Offers a new take or perspective on a long-running, perplexing problem;
- Challenges assumptions or cultural practices;
- Takes an existing idea and gives it a new spin—or a novel application;
- Applies ideas from other fields;
- Explores how an emerging trend will shape the future; and/or
- Describe in which other way you see your project as pioneering
Key Dates & Deadline
Proposals will be accepted throughout the year on a rolling admission.
Proposals for this solicitation must be submitted via the RWJF online system. [Visit www.rwjf.org/cfp/pioneeringideas2020] To apply, use the application button located on the left-hand side of this page. If you have not already done so, you will be required to register at my.rwjf.org before you begin the application process.
Here’s an overview of the review process: Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health proposals go through up to three rounds of reviews upon receipt of submission and before a decision is made to either turn it down or request a full proposal.
First review: An RWJF staff member reviews the brief proposal to ensure it falls within the guidelines of what the Foundation funds and the broad scope of the Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health call for proposals. Eligible submissions move to the second review.
Second review: Eligible brief proposals are reviewed by at least two RWJF Pioneer team members who each make a recommendation as to whether there should be further consideration of the proposal at a full Pioneer staff meeting.
Third review: The brief proposal is discussed by the larger Pioneer team. After this review, either a full proposal will be requested, or the applicant may be contacted by a Pioneer program officer for additional information in order to determine if the proposal will move to the full proposal stage. Additional information requested may include responses to questions that emerged during the third review.
Full Proposal Stage
If a full proposal is requested, we will send a link to our online proposal management system and ask the applicant to fill out a full proposal application. This will require detailed information on the funded project’s goals, activities, and sustainability, as well as a more detailed budget and budget narrative.
Once a full proposal has been submitted, we will send it to up to two external and two internal experts for review. Reviewers may be experts in the field of study of the proposed work or may be reviewing the proposal with an additional equity lens. The full proposal will also be reviewed by RWJF’s legal and finance teams. After these reviews, there may be additional questions or conversations with the applicant before a final recommendation for funding will be made.
The Pioneer team prioritizes timely communication with prospective grantees and we strive to keep applicants updated on the status of their application as it moves through our review process. Applicants will be notified by email when the project reaches any of the following stages: turndown; third review stage as outlined in FAQ #2; invitation to submit a full proposal. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question about the status of your application.
Because we want applicants to share their unique ideas as envisioned and not be influenced by past proposals, we intentionally do not share examples of previously submitted proposals.
Be creative, or keep it simple: It’s up to you—and all okay by us. We want to assure you that you do not need to be a professional grant writer or a tenured professor in order for your idea to receive a fair review. The application contains guiding questions to help ensure we get the right kind of information to evaluate all proposals fairly. Please see the full Call For Proposal (CFP) and application for detailed information about what we look for.
Please read our CFP and application thoroughly to get a good sense of what we look for. You may find that one of RWJF’s other current funding opportunities may be a better fit for your work.
Visit RWJF’s Awarded Grants to view all awards in the Pioneer portfolio. These include grants that come through the “Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health” call for proposals and grants sourced by program officers.
Visit our Pioneering Ideas to learn more about the Pioneer team’s approach to understanding emerging trends and our current and previous explorations into the future.
Please note: as we are constantly exploring new ideas and spaces, the examples we share are not indications of new funding priorities.
Yes! The changes we seek require diverse perspectives and cannot be accomplished by any one person, organization, or sector. We want to hear from scientists, anthropologists, artists, urban planners, community leaders—anyone, anywhere—who has a new or unconventional idea that could alter the trajectory of health, and improve health equity and well-being for generations to come.
If you think your idea is a good fit for our funding opportunity after reading the full CFP, submit!
Please note the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation generally cannot make grants to individuals. That said, we can help applicants who are individuals and who reach the full proposal stage find a fiscal sponsor through which the grant may be funded.
The “Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health” call for proposals is only one of the ways we discover pioneering ideas to fund. We have staff devoted to learning about emerging ideas and trends that may offer great potential to help build a Culture of Health. These staff members seek and develop ideas for funding in a variety of ways, including but not limited to review of proposals submitted to our CFP. In addition to funding projects through our CFP, we engage with people and places on social media, at conferences, and through our networks to look far and wide for potential grantees.
Yes. If your specific project team is working on more than one pioneering idea OR if there are multiple groups at your organization interested in submitting brief proposals, please feel free to submit more than one application.
Please note that each application should represent a unique project. Submitting multiple applications for the same project or for a set or series of projects is discouraged and will not improve likelihood of funding.
We only accept submissions from U.S. applicants at this time for “Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health” CFPs.
We recognize that good ideas have no borders, and we occasionally offer funding opportunities that are open to organizations outside the United States that can help us learn from and adapt global ideas that can help build a Culture of Health in the United States. Non-U.S. organizations should check the eligibility requirements within the particular CFP of interest to determine if the funding is limited to organizations in the United States and its territories.
To learn more about RWJF’s global learning efforts, visit Global Ideas for U.S. Solutions and sign up for email alerts to be notified when funding opportunities from the Global Ideas for U.S. Solutions team are available.
RWJF does not offer individual guidance to applicants submitting proposals. Each proposal received is reviewed by foundation staff. Due to the volume of proposals we receive, RWJF does not provide feedback or written reviews of the proposals we receive under this solicitation. Please review information found in the “Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health” CFP and on our website for all information related to submitting a proposal.
No. The “Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health” CFP funds proposals on a rolling basis and is open year-round. Depending on when an application is submitted, the funding decision itself may not be made until the next calendar year due to the steps in our review process, but the likelihood of success is not affected by the time of year submitted.
We receive a large number of brief proposals, more than 1000 annually. While we do not cap the number of grants made through our open call for proposals, historically, we fund less than 1% of those. To put this number into context, the overwhelming majority of submitted applications do not fall within the guidelines of either what the Foundation funds or the broad scope of the Pioneer team as described in our CFP. Only about 49 of the 1201 submissions received in 2019 made it to the third review (see FAQ #2).
To optimize your chances of funding, please review the full CFP, selection criteria, and sample application and ensure this CFP is the right fit for your project before submitting your proposal.
In 2019, we made 39 awards. Over the last three years, we made an average of 34 awards per year. These include both awards that have come through our previous call for proposals and proposals sourced by program officers (see FAQ #8). There is no cap on the number of grants made through the “Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health” CFP.
Applications go through up to three rounds of reviews with different RWJF staff members. If a full proposal is invited, that application will be seen by at least one external non-RWJF staff reviewer who is an expert in the field or topic, and additional RWJF staff members. We do not share applicant ideas or information with any others without permission. Please see FAQ #2 for more details on our review process.
If you have a question that is not answered in these FAQs or in RWJF’s general FAQs , please feel free to email us at email@example.com. If you have already applied to the “Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health” call for proposals,” please be sure to include your applicant ID, the name of the applicant organization, the project director, and the applicant organization’s contact information in your communication.