Systems for Action: Systems and Services Research to Build a Culture of Health

2021 Call for Proposals

    Release Date: February 17, 2021 | Application Deadline: Wed, 9 Jun 2021

Systems for Action (S4A) is a signature research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that builds a Culture of Health by rigorously testing new ways of connecting the nation’s fragmented medical, social, and public health systems.


Achieving racial equity and health equity in American communities requires effective solutions to the "wrong-pocket problem": we invest in systems that are designed to improve social and economic conditions—such as housing, transportation, education, income, and employment assistance; child and family supports; and legal and criminal justice services—but the financial benefits of these often flow elsewhere, in reduced costs for medical care from diseases and injuries prevented. This creates imbalances in power, information, and financial resources that exist across medical, social, and public health systems—a fundamental problem that confronts many attempts at meaningful cross-sector collaboration. Such solutions must allow collaborating organizations to equitably share in the costs and the benefits of multisector collaborative initiatives, and to share in the power and influence that govern these initiatives.

This call for proposals (CFP) will provide funding for new research to rigorously test and evaluate innovative solutions to the wrong-pocket problem that persists across health and social service systems.

Each study funded under the S4A program will undertake the following activities:

  • Design and implement the proposed study that evaluates the impact of an innovative solution to a wrong-pocket problem involving social service systems, medical systems, and/or public health systems.
  • Engage local, state, and/or national stakeholders in the design, implementation, and translation of the research project.
  • Work collaboratively with the S4A national coordinating center and other S4A research investigators to identify and leverage potential synergies across research projects and to disseminate results broadly.
  • Participate actively both in research dissemination and translation mechanisms organized by the national coordinating center and RWJF, including research-in-progress webinars, blogs, podcasts, research meetings, and policy briefings.
  • Identify and pursue opportunities for research expansion, replication, and follow-on studies from RWJF and other research funding agencies.
  • Attend RWJF’s Annual Sharing Knowledge Conference and 4Action Conference each year the grant is active.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

  • Applicants must be either public entities or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and are not private foundations or nonfunctionally integrated Type III supporting organizations. The Foundation may require additional documentation from applicant organizations. 
  • Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories. Awards will be made to organizations, not to individuals. 
  • Multi-organizational consortia are encouraged to apply as long as a single eligible organization is designated as the primary applicant responsible for maintaining consortium agreements with other participating organizations. The primary applicant organization must have a demonstrated history of successfully managing funds awarded by foundation or government sources.
  • We welcome applications from organizations whose staff on the project includes people of all personal and professional backgrounds. We especially encourage applications that include:
    • Individuals having backgrounds and life experiences that are underrepresented on research teams.
    • Individuals and institutions who are new to RWJF and have not received funding previously.
    • Individuals from disciplines outside of the health professions and medical sciences, including but not limited to: architecture; business; communications; computer science; criminal justice; design; economics; education; engineering; finance; geography; law; political science; psychology; public administration; public policy; social work; sociology; transportation; urban and regional planning.
    • Individuals from nonacademic settings including government agencies, professional associations, and community-based organizations.
    • Interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research teams that include individuals with both scientific expertise and operational experience.  

Because S4A is a research program, all applicants should make sure that their team includes individuals with relevant expertise in scientific research design, data analysis methodologies, and scientific publication. Applicants from nonacademic settings, which do not have an embedded research unit, are strongly encouraged to partner with a research institution to provide this expertise. As part of this funding award, RWJF may suggest that selected applicants get training and technical assistance from one of several excellent resources like those at RESDAC, SHADAC, All-In, and AcademyHealth. 

Key Dates

  • March 17, 2021 (12 p.m. MT or 2 p.m. ET)  

Informational webinar for applicants. 

  • April 30, 2021 (3 p.m. ET) 

Deadline for receipt of one-page letter of intent (optional) to

  • June 9, 2021 (3 p.m. ET)

Deadline for receipt of full proposals via RWJF online system.*

  • Final week of August 2021 (subject to change if review period runs longer than expected)

Applicants receive notification from RWJF.

  • October 15, 2021 (subject to change if review period runs longer than expected)

Grant start date.

*All proposals for this solicitation must be submitted via the RWJF online system. Visit and use the “Apply Online” link. If you have not already done so, you will be required to register at before you begin the proposal process. All applicants should log in to the system and familiarize themselves with online proposal requirements well before the final submission deadline. Staff may not be able to assist all applicants in the final 24 hours before the submission deadline. 

Application is Now Closed

Application closed as of:
June 09, 2021, 3:00 p.m. ET

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