Inclusive Financial Innovation Initiative Request for Proposals


J-PAL SEA’s Inclusive Financial Innovation Initiative (IFII) is calling for proposals to evaluate ideas, programs, and policies to utilize digital financial services (DFS) in supporting financial inclusion in Indonesia. IFII invites proposals from J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL postdocs, IFII invited researchers, and PhD students advised by a J-PAL affiliate or IFII invited researcher for full research projects, pilot studies grants, and proposal/project development grants. Short Expressions of Interest (EOIs) were due by 11:59 p.m. ET on November 23, 2020. Full proposals should be submitted to [email protected] and were due by 11:59 p.m. ET on January 17, 2021.

Focus Themes and Areas

Funded research will address research priorities that are identified in the initiative white paper, which combines an overview of existing evidence in digital finance for development with a detailed assessment of the Indonesian policy landscape. Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the white paper to get an idea of the Indonesian context and promising research opportunities. The following key themes will guide research topics that IFII will fund:

  1. Optimizing G2P transfers: The Government of Indonesia is committed to scaling and improving the design of digital social protection payments. Research under this theme will assist policymakers in answering pressing design questions while contributing to the global evidence base on G2P transfers.
  2. Harnessing DFS and E-Commerce for Development: While DFS and e-commerce are growing rapidly in Indonesia, much of the expansion has been concentrated in urban, better off areas. Research under this theme will identify ways DFS can better reach and benefit low-income, marginalized populations. Areas of opportunity include strengthening Indonesia’s agent network, encouraging and growing digital remittances, leveraging e-commerce to support micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) growth, and accelerating use of digital banking products.

All funded research must take place in Indonesia. Researchers are encouraged to submit proposals for research conducted in the key themes. As long as proposals fall within at least one of these themes, IFII does not prioritize proposals from one research area over the other. While IFII funding is prioritized for research targeting the poor, micro-enterprises, and women in rural areas within Indonesia, IFII will accept proposals for interventions that have the potential to increase financial accessibility and induce financial inclusion more broadly.

Research funding opportunities

  1. Full Research Projects: These grants are for research projects at a mature level of development. Not only must the research question be clear, but applicants must also demonstrate a commitment from implementing partners, a method of randomization, well-defined instruments, and sample size estimates. Proposals can also be submitted for funding the continuation of research projects that have already started without IFII funding (including those for which field data collection has been completed). The expectation is that these projects will result in a paper publishable and can be scaled-up into an actionable program or policy for Indonesia. The total amount awarded to a single project is up to $400,000. In rare circumstances, proposals with compelling reasons for requesting more may be considered on a case-by-case basis. The total amount awarded to a single project, including any IFII funding for proposal development or piloting, will not exceed $750,000. Suggested period of performance is up to 24 months.
  2. Pilot Grants: These grants are meant for studies with clear a research question, but for which the design and implementation requires further testing and pilot data. Pilot proposals should lay out a clear path to future randomized evaluations, the expectation is that these projects will ultimately develop into full-scale randomized evaluations. The maximum amount awarded for pilot studies is $75,000 and for PhD students advised by a J-PAL affiliate or IFII invited researcher is $50,000. Suggested period of performance is one year.
  3. Proposal/Project Development Grants: These grants cover exploratory work related to preliminary research ideas, such as conducting background research, developing partnerships, visiting field sites, and collecting preliminary data. The expectation is that these funds will be used to support costs related to research personnel support from the SEA office to help PIs develop clear research questions and potential intervention for the proposal of a pilot or full-scale randomized evaluation during a subsequent call for proposals. Please note these grants are provided on a cost-reimbursable basis. The maximum amount awarded for project development is $10,000. Suggested period of performance is 6 months.


J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL postdocs, IFII invited researchers, and PhD students advised by a J-PAL affiliate or IFII invited researcher are eligible to apply for the research grant. Please note that IFII invited researchers are nominated and reviewed based on the researchers’ previous research with a particular emphasis on randomized evaluations related to DFS. All proposals may include collaborators outside of this network.

In addition, PhD students may be eligible to apply for up to $50,000 in pilot or full-scale funding. To be eligible, PhD students must have a J-PAL affiliate or IFII invited researcher on their thesis committee at their host university. This adviser must provide a letter of support and indicate willingness to remain involved in a supervisory role throughout the lifetime of the project. In addition, in order to apply for up to $50,000 for full-scale funding, graduate students must provide documented evidence of successful pilot activities.

IFII requires each project to have Indonesian local researchers as a team member and close partnership with government agencies. If the research team needs help getting a local researcher on-board or to identify relevant government agencies or implementing partners, please mention it in the short EOI form so that the IFII team can assist.


  1. Short expression of interest (EOI) deadline: 23 November 2020
  2. Proposal submission deadline: 17 January 2021
  3. IFII Review Board meeting: 22 February 2021
  4. Funding decision announced: 19 March 2021

Application Documents

Expression of interest: IFII's expression of interest form was due by 11:59 p.m. ET on 23 November 2020.

Full proposals: Full proposals should be submitted via email to by 11:59 PM ET on 17 January 2021. All application materials and submission instructions for can be found in the proposal materials section below.