New Call for Proposals: Pioneering Use of Behavioral Economics

Mar 4, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by

Lori Melichar Lori Melichar

We have announced our second Call for Proposals in the field of behavioral economics. We’re actively seeking ideas that will help us to better understand how to discourage the consumption of low-value health services — those that provide more harm than benefit or which provide only marginal health benefits. In addition to improving health outcomes, this knowledge could contribute to lowering health care costs for us all.

Behavioral economics is an area of study by which I’ve personally grown increasingly intrigued and in which the Foundation has recently begun to invest.  We all know, for example, that we need to exercise, eat right and be actively engaged in our own health care. But we don’t always do what we know we should do; knowing the “right” decision to make does not guarantee that we make that decision. The goal of behavioral economics is to uncover insights that could enable people to make better — more “rational” — choices for their health.


It's not a given that the behavioral economic-driven solutions that have been shown to, for example, increase 401k savings will prove to be true when applied to the challenges of health and health care. But it's a risk we want to take because we sincerely believe — if it does — that it could lead to the profound social impact that the Pioneer Portfolio, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a whole, is seeking.

So, will the idea you submit in response to the call for proposals make us sit up and take notice and potentially receive funding? Consider the following criteria, which we believe contributes to making something “pioneering.”

  • Is it original? Are you sharing a new idea or applying what may be an already established idea in a new way?
  • Is it unconventional? Are you challenging us to shed our prejudices and look at the problem — or the solution — through an entirely new lens?
  • Is it transformational? Could what you are proposing radically change — and improve — the fields of health or health care?
  • Is it interdisciplinary? Does your proposal reflect a partnership that brings together “unusual suspects”? Are you considering or applying perspectives culled from other industries, fields or sectors?
  • Is it sizeable or transferable? Does it address a large-scale social problem or have the potential to be adapted in a manner that could address a wide range of issues?
  • Finally, is it sustainable? Could what you are proposing produce outcomes that would compel others to support and adopt them?

Good luck with your proposals. We’ll be hosting a webinar later in the month that will provide you with the opportunity to pose questions you may have regarding the call for proposals. In the meantime, please read this post about why we're doing this CFP now and some of our thoughts about what we are hoping to find. And, of course, you may also pose questions in the comments section of this post.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.