The Think Forward Initiative Research Challenge

Call for Proposals
Posted on October 18, 2017

Are you interested in joining an initiative committed to using research insights to make impact? Becoming part of a movement aimed at helping people make better financial decisions? If so, then this call for research proposals is for you.


The Think Forward Initiative (TFI) is a multi-year movement bringing together experts representing governments, academics, consumers, and the financial and technology sectors. It revolves around identifying and resolving gaps in our understanding of decision-making, and then turning those insights into actual tools that will help people.

To be most effective, TFI is set up with a research hub that will “discover” issues, an accelerator that will use innovation to “solve” them and a community to support the process and share the solution.

We are now launching TFI’s research challenges, where we’ll award funding to research projects selected to deliver insights to be used in impact-driven innovation.

We conduct research and develop solutions in three areas: daily financial affairs, finance for the future, and financial literacy. You can find what TFI research teams have been up to by visiting the research section of our website. We have two research tracks, one long-term and one for our quick-output research challenges. 

“Through the TFI accelerator, insights from the research challenge will be built into a proof of concept or validated by deeper research with consumers in a market setting.”


Most of the time, researchers and academics present their ideas to other researchers. The TFI research challenge presents researchers with a set of problems and invites them to suggest how these can be solved.

Through the TFI accelerator, insights from the research challenge will be built into a proof of concept or validated by deeper research with consumers in a market setting. Authors of work completed in the research challenge and then adopted by an accelerator team may be invited to join that team. This opens the possibility of researchers helping bring their ideas to market.

All completed research from the TFI research challenge will become part of TFI’s online collection of research. Your work will be read by the TFI network and beyond, freely accessible for all. We hope that people from a diverse range of organisations will use the unique TFI research to empower people in their financial decision-making.

Once the application period closes, a selection group consisting of the TFI Research and Innovation Board will discuss the feasibility of proposed projects in answering the challenge at hand, as well as the potential for solutions to be developed based on the research. 

“We are sourcing proposals in three realms of inquiry”

The challenges

In our first research challenge we are sourcing proposals in three realms of inquiry:  

Research challenge 1:
Non cash payments - money relationships

Increasing use of non-cash payments changes people’s relationship with money. Does this improve or impair people’s ability to manage their financial future?

Challenge: Does the form of money change financial opportunities for people? Many people already use contactless payment systems rather than cash. Payments using mobile phones are becoming more common and voice activated payments are technically possible using existing technology (e.g. Amazon Alexa and Google Home). Will increasing adoption of non-cash payments improve access to loans for low income groups because information on their spending and income patterns can be understood more easily? Will people be more in charge of their finances or not?

Research challenge 2:
Social warnings- links to consumer trust

Information from social media and other sources of information can be used to warn people of financial behaviour that carries a higher than usual risk to their financial wellbeing.

Challenge: Would this work? What are the ethical problems involved in using data / behaviour in this way? How could such information be mis-used by banks and other institutions? If a solution were to come from this research, would consumers trust it? What are the factors which influence consumer trust?

Research challenge 3:
Financial vulnerability assessment

Can people see their own predisposed vulnerability in financial decision making? Can people readily identify or measure their capability to take risk? How financial risk is defined, can be subjective. Are there accurate ways to measure attitudes to financials that can be understood by and made useful for individuals? What are ways to empower people to assess their own risk tolerance and to find the most suitable financial products for them?

Challenge: Are some groups more vulnerable to taking risk? Would helping people have a better understanding of how much personal financial risk they have actually change their behaviour? Is there evidence that people who actively avoid financial risk damage their financial future, for example by being unwilling to invest using equities rather than bonds or leaving money in bank accounts? And the opposite – are three those who take too much financial risk?

* The TFI is open to wildcard submissions:

Is there a realm of inquiry not mentioned that you believe has potential for impact? Please submit your proposal as a wildcard, clearly indicating so. 

“Research should be designed in such a manner than it can be completed in three months. ”


Research applications are due Monday, 6 November. Candidates will be contacted by 20 November about the status of their application. Please see the specific requirements of proposals in the following application form. 

Research should be designed in such a manner than it can be completed in three months. 

If awarded research funding from TFI, we would be eager to explore with you how you could update the TFI community on the status of your research mid-project – between November and January, and at completion in the form of a blog post or vlog.

Additional Information  

If you have any enquiries about the aim or the application procedure, please contact Stefan van Woelderen by email at, or Ian Bright at

If interested to apply, please complete the attached grant application form by 6 November, 2017 and submit it to Dagmar van der Plas at

Learn more about Lean Start-up from Joep Arends, on how to move from research to acceleration from Hugo Raaijmakers, or let Marc Alba tell you how innovation & digitilisation changes the way business works.