Worker Prosperity Initiative Request for Proposals

Overview

J-PAL North America’s Worker Prosperity Initiative RFP (formerly called the Work of the Future Initiative) supports randomized evaluations of strategies and innovations to increase opportunities for workers, reduce the economic barriers and social challenges in labor markets, and address the problems associated with the changing nature of work.  These strategies and innovations may be related to:

  • Retraining, reskilling, and sectoral employment;
  • Alternative approaches for certifying skills and vouching for worker quality
  • Supporting worker transitions and displaced workers;
  • Organizational best practices that benefit workers, e.g. by improving skills, earnings, or employment prospects;
  • Interactions between the gig economy and workers, including the impact of gig work on well-being and the provision of benefits and protections in the gig economy and other non-traditional work arrangements;
  • The role of caregivers in the economy and the impacts of care work on economic mobility;
  • Policies and practices that can aim to support entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and/or increase economic resiliency of entrepreneurs and small businesses.

This list is not exhaustive: any proposal that explores forward-looking mechanisms for facilitating skills acquisition, job finding, employment stability, earnings and productivity growth, individual entrepreneurship, or work-life balance is potentially in scope. If you have questions about the scope of the RFP, please contact 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.

Research Management Support

Researchers are strongly encouraged to apply for research management support (RMS, formerly known as STReaM) when submitting their proposals. RMS is a program that provides around six months of 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.
All J-PAL NA travel/development grants are reviewed and funded by the Social Policy Research Initiative (SPRI). Please review the instructions under the "Application Documents" section, and submit materials to [email protected].

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, for graduate students the total amount of funding they may receive across time is capped at $50,000 per initiative, regardless of the number of projects funded.

Covid Guidelines 

  1. Proposals should discuss any COVID-related risks to the ethics and feasibility of the project, and share how the team will mitigate these risks in the proposal narrative. If significant amounts of the proposal budget include in-person activities (such as travel), please include a discussion of potential changes to how and when funds will be spent if the proposed project is paused, modified, or dissolved because of Covid-19 related disruptions. 
  2. If funded, J-PAL expects PI to proactively consult and comply with all local, state, and federal guidelines to ensure the safety of study personnel and participants. 

Timeline

March 30, 2022 – RFP is issued
June 8, 2022 – Proposal Submission Deadline
Week of August 8, 2022 – Awards Announced

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 Worker Prosperity Initiative 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.

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