Work of the Future Initiative Request for Proposals

Overview

J-PAL North America’s Work of the Future RFP supports randomized evaluations of strategies and innovations that aim to alleviate the challenges faced by workers across North America. Proposals may be related to:

  • Re-training or re-skilling workers; 

  • Supporting workers who have experienced job loss as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; 

  • Assessing innovative apprenticeship and sectoral employment programs; 
  • Developing alternative approaches for certifying skills and for vouching for worker quality; 
  • Facilitating worker transitions between occupations and industries; 
  • Deploying innovative organizational/business practices that improve worker productivity, skills, earnings, or employment prospects; 
  • Evaluating opportunities in alternative work arrangements and ‘gig economy’ jobs.

This list is not exhaustive: any proposal that explores forward-looking mechanisms for facilitating skills acquisition, job finding, employment stability, earnings and productivity growth, or work-life balance is potentially in scope. We are accepting applications for full research projects, pilot studies, and travel/proposal development grants.

If you have questions about the scope of the RFP, please contact Initiative Manager Toby Chaiken ([email protected]).

Types of Proposals

Full Research Projects

Full research projects are typically awarded $150,000 to $250,000, with a maximum budget of $400,000The award period may be up to three years. A full project proposal is one where applicants: 

  • Can propose a clear and well-developed research question 
  • Can provide detailed randomization design and power calculations (see below)
  • Can indicate outcomes of interest
  • Can provide proof of commitment from partner organizations (in the form of letters of support)

Full project proposals may be submitted for an ongoing study that has already begun without J-PAL North America funding. 

Pilot Studies 

Pilot studies may be awarded a maximum of $50,000The award period may be up to three years.  A pilot proposal is one where applicants: 

  • Seek to answer a particular research question but the design and implementation require further testing and development before a full project launches
  • Can clearly explain how the pilot will lead to a randomized evaluation in the future, although random assignment does not necessarily need to occur during the pilot
  • Pilot funds may also be used for activities intended to facilitate access to administrative data for designing or conducting an RCT.

STReaM

Researchers are strongly encouraged to apply for short-term research management (STReaM) when submitting their proposals. STReaM is a program that provides around six months of research management support from experienced J-PAL North America staff for either full studies or pilots. Support may include activities such as coordinating communication across stakeholders; refining randomization design and consent procedures; piloting design and implementation, and study implementation monitoring. More information can be found on the website, or by contacting [email protected].

Travel/proposal development grants

Researchers may be awarded a maximum of $5,000 for one year. Grants are to be used for early-stage research activities which may include travel, exploring access to administrative data, or other costs incurred while conducting fieldwork. Travel/proposal development grants are paid by direct reimbursement to the PI and cannot cover any activity that requires review by an IRB.
To apply, please submit an application via the portal and email [email protected] with any questions.

Eligibility Criteria

J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL post-doctoral fellows, and researchers invited by J-PAL North America (invited researchers) to participate in the initiative are eligible to apply for funding of any type. Applicants may submit a maximum of three proposals per 12-month period to a single initiative. PI and co-PI status are counted towards this limit.

Graduate students may apply for all types of funding. To apply, graduate students must meet the following criteria: 

  • They have a J-PAL affiliate on their thesis committee. The affiliate does not need to be based at the same university as the student. Note: having an invited researcher on a student’s thesis committee does not satisfy this criterion.
  • Pre-thesis PhD students may apply if they anticipate an affiliate will be on their thesis committee and the affiliate will supervise the proposed project. 
  • To apply for full funding, graduate students must have previously received a grant from J-PAL for the same evaluation or have documented evidence of successful piloting activities. Note, funding is limited to $50,000 per evaluation for graduate students.

Covid Guidelines 

The following modifications are in place as of October 29, 2020 until noted otherwise.

1. All applications must follow J-PAL’s Covid-19 response guidelines in regard to in-person interactions with subjects.

2. If your proposed project will feature in-person interactions with subjects, vendors, or partners, please note that the evolving situation could result in changes to these guidelines at a future date. Therefore, please be sure to include the following in your application materials, which are listed in more detail in the “How to Apply” section:

  • Budget Narrative: Include a discussion of what funds will and will not be spent in what timeframes if the proposed project is paused, modified, or dissolved because of Covid-19 related disruptions.
  • Proposal Narrative: Outline aspects of the proposed project that can be completed right away vs aspects dependent on the status of the Covid response more broadly. The proposal should also include plans for conducting fieldwork, and how this will evolve should Covid-19 prevent in-person contact.

3. Per MIT guidance, J-PAL North America will not be sponsoring travel for the foreseeable future. However, if you wish to include travel as a line item in your budget, please address as indicated in point 2 above. 

Timeline

Dates for upcoming RFP TBD

Future rounds are expected to occur once a year. In rare instances, J-PAL North America will consider off-cycle proposals for projects, including pilots, facing time constraints due to factors outside of their control. Decisions on these applications are typically made in about two weeks. We accept travel/proposal development grants at any time of the year.

Relevance to Public Policy and Issues of Poverty

  • Does the proposal make the case for how answering the proposed research question and/or evaluating the proposed intervention has the potential to generate benefits for the following populations? 
    • People who are low-income or living in poverty
    • People who have risk factors associated with falling into poverty
    • People who identify as members of racial/ethnic groups who are at greater risk of living in or falling into poverty due to economic marginalization produced through structural racism in North America, such as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)
  • Is the proposal addressing a pressing public policy issue in North America? How is this policy issue relevant to one or more of the populations described above?
    • Policy issue has a significant or disproportionate impact on low-income and/or economically marginalized populations
    • The intervention being studied is designed to improve or increase access to resources and choices for low-income and/or economically marginalized populations
  • Policy issue is one that, if unaddressed, could lead people to fall into poverty
  • Policy issue relates to issues of structural racism that economically marginalized specific racial/ethnic groups in the North America context. What information will the study provide to guide policymaking in this area?
  • Will lessons learned from this study have broader relevance or applications for policy or decision-making beyond this test case? 

You may find examples of evaluations previously funded by the Work of the Future Initiative here.

FAQ

Who will review applications?

The Review Board for the special Work of the Future RFP includes David Autor, Matthew Notowidigdo, and Lawrence Katz. Each proposal will be peer reviewed by one member of the Review Board and two researchers and/or policy experts not on the Review Board. The Review Board will meet to agree on final funding decisions.

Application Documents

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