Under a variety of designations (virtues, life skills, soft skills, social and emotional skills, learning mindsets, developmental assets, non-cognitive factors), character strengths and skills in young people have long been considered essential for social, personal, and vocational success. Yet despite the promise of character, very few evidence-based approaches to cultivating character in K-12th grade students are available for broad dissemination today.

Request for Proposals

In an effort to move what we believe to be a promising field forward, Character Lab will award a total of up to $1.2 million in grants to support the execution of two-year, school-based research projects focused on character development interventions during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. Each proposal may request up to $300,000.

Proposals must focus on advancing one (or more) of the following character strengths and skills: Curiosity, Gratitude, Grit, Optimism, Purpose, Self Control, Social/Emotional Intelligence, and/or Zest. Special attention will be paid to proposals focusing on interventions for kindergarten to fourth-grade (K-4) classrooms and the following subset of our target skills and strengths:

  • Curiosity - the disposition to recognize and actively search for new knowledge and experience.

  • Social/Emotional Intelligence - the ability to understand and label your own and other’s feeling and emotions, and to use this understanding to inform decisions and actions.

  • Optimism - the disposition to be hopeful about future outcomes, coupled with the belief that future outcomes are connected to hard work.

  • Zest - also referred to as vitality — an approach to life filled with excitement and energy.

Key Dates

  • July 1 - September 1, 2015 - Letters of intent are due.

    October 5, 2015 - Applicants notified of invitation to submit full proposal.

    November 16, 2015 - Full proposals are due.

    December 21, 2015 - Up to 10 full proposal applicants invited for interview. Others notified that they will not be moving forward.

    January 18, 2016 - Interviewed applicants notified of any requests for revision.

    February 8, 2016 - All revisions and responses are due.

    March 7, 2016 - Interviewed applicants notified of award decision.

We are no longer accepting letters of intent for this RFP.

Questions about the RFP

  • Can proposals focus on more than one strength?

    Yes, though we are looking for interventions that have a clear, focused theory of change and will make efficient use of school time, rather than interventions that list many strengths as potential targets with a blurrier argument for how each will grow.

  • Do Principal Investigators (PIs) have to have school-based research experience?

    No, this RFP is open to researchers who have never worked in school settings before. Character Lab will help support school/research team matches through meetings and toolkits.

  • Can PIs who have had school-based research experience still apply?

    Yes, this RFP is open to researchers of all levels of experience with school-based research.

  • Do proposals need to include an advanced graduate student or post doc?

    No, but we will view those that do favorably.

  • Do proposals need to include interventions?

    Yes. This RFP is intended to fund the evaluation of specific interventions to grow character strengths in K-12th grade settings.

  • Will you consider funding proposals that have been tested in schools before?

    We are looking for school-based interventions that have not yet been rigorously tested in K-12th grade school settings.

  • Can this RFP fund program evaluation?

    No. We are looking to fund new ideas and interventions, and are not able to support evaluation of existing programs.

  • I created a program to grow strengths in schools, but I am not an academic. Can I apply for this RFP?

    Yes, we encourage applications that match program designers with academics, as long as least one PI has a Ph.D. and is affiliated with an accredited college or university in the United States.

  • Who should I contact if I have additional questions about the RFP?

    You can email us at