Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal: Pioneering Ideas and a Culture of Health

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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Grant amount: US $3,000 - US $23,000,000

Anticipated deadline: Oct 15, 2019

Applicant type: Nonprofit For-Profit Business Government Entity College / University

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: United States

Location of residency: Anywhere in the world

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NOTE: Applications for the Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal Open Call for Ideas funding opportunity are accepted on a rolling basis. Applications for the current year are accepted until the deadline above. We review these applications on a rolling basis. Please allow up to eight weeks for a response.

Pioneering Ideas and a Culture of Health Grant

Throughout the year, we welcome Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposals that can help us anticipate the future and consider new and unconventional perspectives and approaches to building a Culture of Health.

The goal of the Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal funding opportunity is to explore; to look into the future and put health first as we design for changes in how we live, learn, work and play; to wade into uncharted territory in order to better understand what new trends, opportunities and breakthrough ideas can enable everyone in America to live the healthiest life possible.

While improving the status quo is vital to the health and well-being of millions of Americans now, the Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal opportunity reaches beyond incremental changes to explore the ideas and trends that will influence the trajectory and future of health. Ultimately, we support work that will help us learn what a Culture of Health can look like—and how we can get there.

What is a Pioneering Idea?

Good question! We don’t want to provide a checklist that limits your thinking—or ours. We do want to give you as clear a picture as we can about the kinds of proposals we hope to see, so you can best assess whether submitting an idea through our Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal process is the right next step for you. Our application form allows you to introduce your idea; if it seems to be a fit for our portfolio we will reach out for more information.

We share some examples below of Pioneering Ideas we have funded in the past to give you a sense of where we’ve been. Keep in mind that ultimately, we need you to challenge us, and to tell us where we should be going and what ideas have the most potential to transform the way we think about health. As you review the examples below, you may notice some shared themes or characteristics which:

  • Challenge assumptions or long-held cultural practices.
  • Take an existing idea and give it a new spin—or a novel application.
  • Offer a new take or perspective on a long-running, perplexing problem.
  • Apply cutting-edge ideas from other fields to health.
  • Explore the potential for emerging trends to impact our ability to build a Culture of Health.

RWJF Culture of Health

RWJF is developing an action model, with a set of tangible measurements, to help our nation broaden the discussion about health, set goals, and integrate efforts to move the needle forward. This framework, which the Foundation will release in late spring, translates the many actors, and the many facets, of a Culture of Health into four interconnected Action Areas:

  1. Making Health a Shared Value, measured by indicators such as the percentage of people who strongly agree that health is influenced by their peers and their communities and the percentage who indicate they have adequate social support from family and friends.
  2. Fostering Cross-Sector Collaboration to Improve Well-Being, denoted by measures like the number of local health departments that collaborate with community organizations and employers who promote better health in the workplace.
  3. Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities, using measurements such as the number of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and safe sidewalks in communities; the ratio of children attending preschool; and the affordability of housing.
  4. Strengthening Integration of Health Services and Systems, gauged by measures such as the percentage of people served by a comprehensive public health system and the percentage of physicians sharing electronic data with other clinicians, health systems and patients.

It’s our hope that these Action Areas will spark a productive national conversation about the physical, social, economic and emotional conditions that influence health. We also hope the Action Areas will kindle a greater sense of both individual and shared accountability and inspire different sectors to work together to improve outcomes and raise America’s health to the level a great nation deserves.

Our Focus Areas

While our economic, geographic or social circumstances may differ, we all aspire to lead the best lives possible.

From expanding health coverage to creating healthy communities, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is committed to helping everyone in America have an equal opportunity to pursue a healthier life.

We are working to help achieve health equity and expand opportunity to pursue the best health possible, through investments in four broad areas:

Healthy Communities

While each community is different, the healthiest ones all share certain elements. Across the nation, we support initiatives which are helping to change local conditions that allow communities and their residents to reach their greatest health potential. Read more

Healthy Children, Healthy Weight

We support research that is helping to expand our understanding of what shapes health, and programs to help enable all children to attain their optimal physical, social and emotional well-being, including growing up at a healthy weight. Read more.

Health Leadership

Addressing our nation's health challenges and creating healthier communities requires strong leadership and collaboration across multiple sectors and fields. We are helping to develop and connect a diverse array of leaders with a common desire to work together to build a national Culture of Health. Read more.

Health Systems

As a nation, our efforts to improve health have centered largely on health care. Working with hospitals, health departments, insurers and community groups, we are helping bring together numerous key health systems around a shared goal of better health for all. Read more.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The vast majority of our funding is to nonprofit organizations and public agencies.
    • Historically, less than one percent of our funding has been to for-profit organizations, and always in instances where the institution's project is an excellent fit with our strategies and we felt they were best suited to do the work.
  • We recognize that good ideas have no borders, and we fund grants that can help us learn from and adapt global ideas that can help build a Culture of Health in the U.S.
    • RWJF works with Charities Aid Foundation of America on grants to organizations located outside the United States.
    • Additional information about the role of Charities Aid Foundation of America will be provided to organizations invited to submit full proposals.


  • There are any number of reasons why RWJF may decide not to fund a specific brief proposal; however, some of the most commonly declined proposals are those that:
    • Fall outside of the Foundation’s general grantmaking guidelines.
    • Are similar to projects we are already funding.
    • Are not a new idea.
    • Are more appropriate for consideration through our Calls for Proposals process.
    • Are focused on incremental change.
  • We do not make grants to individuals, and very infrequently support foreign organizations or organizations that are not tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Specific activities we do not fund include:
    • Ongoing general operating expenses or existing deficits
    • Endowment or capital costs
    • Basic biomedical research
    • Research on drug therapies or devices
    • Lobbying of any kind