How Can We Advance Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Policies and Laws?

Sep 3, 2019, 2:00 PM, Posted by

NOTE: The funding opportunity described in this post is now closed.  

Law and policies should address, not compound, inequities. This is personal and something I carry with me.

I was 10 years old when a man in my northern New Jersey community was beaten to death outside a neighborhood cafe. Soon after, another community member was beaten and sustained brain damage. The number of victims—all of whom were of South Asian descent—grew over the years. The violence ranged from verbal abuse to brutal assaults and murder. It wasn’t uncommon for my home and other South Asian homes to be vandalized while having to hear racial slurs.

Officials denied that these attacks were hate crimes and ethnically motivated. Research and data on discrimination and hate crimes against South Asians simply did not exist, and there wasn’t much diversity among local officials. It was therefore difficult for community members to get the protection we needed. It wasn’t surprising that there were subsequent and repeated acquittals of people who perpetrated the violence. Even living in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, we didn’t feel a sense of freedom to live our healthiest lives because our laws didn’t do enough to stop racially motivated violence. It was years later when hate crime laws took effect.

The chronic stress stemming from discrimination and unsafe communities has an undeniable impact on health. At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), we are working to broaden the discussion about what shapes health. We believe that includes deepening our understanding of how policies and laws can be more inclusive. We need more representation among lawmakers and researchers, as well as more diverse and disaggregated data to improve policies that support health equity. By building and sharing evidence, people from all walks of life will have a fairer chance at living safe, healthy, productive lives.

It’s in this spirit that we announce a funding opportunity: Advancing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Policy and Law Research.

Funding Opportunity

Policies for Action, an RWJF research program, has issued a call for proposals to study an existing policy or policy change from a new lens. We seek to elevate diverse perspectives in policy and law research.

The policy or policy change that you examine should have long-term impacts on health and well-being for a population of people. For example, policies increasing Medicaid access may affect children’s life trajectories for years to come. Workplace family leave policies may also have an indelible effect on lives. We welcome all research ideas but will prioritize studies that align with RWJF’s focus areas.

In addition to research funding, this opportunity includes working with mentors of your choosing as well as receiving professional development support from Policies for Action.

An important part of this grant is to usher the research findings into real change. By publishing, speaking about, or otherwise sharing your research, you will help to spread what works so many others can benefit.

Two-year grants of up to $250,000 each will be awarded to six researchers (two of whom will be New Jersey residents).

What Do We Mean by Laws and Policies?

We are interested in any type of law, legislation, policy, or governing rule that impacts a significant population. This could be a local, state, or federal law. It could also be a corporate workplace policy. It has to be an existing policy or a policy that is being revised. It can address a troubling inequity, but it doesn’t have to; the policy can be studied from an equity lens. I invite you to review our previously funded projects to understand the scope of what we study.

Who Should Apply?

The ideal candidate will bring personal experience that sheds light on the health implications of a policy or law, coupled with an academic background to inform the research.

Eligible candidates include, but are not limited to, individuals from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups in research disciplines, first-generation college graduates, people from low-income communities, and individuals with a disability. Make a case for how you bring a diverse perspective; we will consider all proposals.

We seek junior faculty members (with fewer than 10 years’ experience) on a tenure-track at an accredited college, university, or independent research institution.

You should name two mentors on your application. The first is a senior researcher at your institution who can guide you in your career, and the second is a senior academic in your field who can guide you in your research.

It’s our intention that by working with early-career researchers with diverse backgrounds, we can help inform what makes laws—and the research field at large—more inclusive.

Learn more about the Policies for Action program.


About the author

Mona Shah

Mona Shah, a senior program officer in the Research-Evaluation-Learning unit, joined RWJF in 2014. Drawing on her deep commitment to research and its potential to impact health and health care, she praises the Foundation’s work in making its extensive research accessible to the public and policymakers alike. Read her full bio.