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We believe that the cultivation of good character enables people to create lives of purpose and meaning. We also believe that people who practice good character are motivated to serve others and work for the common good. Yet, we still have much to learn about the process and practice of character development.

The Character Virtue Development area funds research to advance the science and practice of character, with a focus on moral, performance, civic, and intellectual virtues such as humility, gratitude, curiosity, diligence, and honesty. We believe these virtues enhance human flourishing by helping all of us to create lives of beneficial purpose focused on serving others.

Research we fund promises greater insight into the developmental science of virtues and character, including the identification of relevant precursors, correlates, and developmental trajectories, as well as the assessment of potential interindividual differences.

We also provide support to organizations such as schools, religious institutions, and community organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate applied and translational research on character and virtue.

Our current priorities include applied research and programmatic work on:

1.)  Intellectual Humility. Our plans for this priority include, but are not limited to, support for the following activities:

    • Investigating aids and impediments. We fund research that aims to discover more about the factors that enhance and inhibit intellectual humility, as well as research that identifies practices and interventions that foster such humility.
    • Developing Causal Models. We will support efforts aimed at developing, consolidating, and otherwise improving causal models of intellectual humility. We are interested in further understanding the causes and consequences of intellectual humility.

2.)  Love is critically important to advancing the John Templeton Foundation’s mission to support human flourishing. We seek to strengthen the conceptual and empirical work on love. We are especially interested in research that engages more than one academic discipline. We will prioritize research and programs that focus on how individuals can extend love beyond their close relationships (e.g., coworkers, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies).

3.) Cultivating Character in the Digital Age. Advances in technology are rapidly changing the way children and adolescents learn and interact with others. How will these changes influence the development of character virtues? How can we strengthen character offline, to protect against potential negative interactions online? How might programs be able to leverage technology to promote character development? Can digital platforms be designed in a way that promote virtuous use? How can we promote the cultivation of positive norms and narratives in online contexts? To address these and related questions (and many more), we seek proposals from university partners, youth-serving organizations, faith-based institutions, tech-focused not-for-profits, and movement builders who are interested in helping youth thrive in the digital age.

Congratulations to the 23 winners of the Character Through Community funding competition!

We received over 800 Online Funding Inquiries in response to the call, 46 of which were invited to submit a full proposal. The proposals were reviewed by a panel of seven experts as well as internal grant officers. Based on these reviews, the Board of Trustees ultimately awarded 23 grants that represent just over $20M in funding.

Learn more about the awarded grants.

Featured Grants

Character Virtue Development
Project Leader(s): Steven Sandage, Jesse Owen
Grantee(s): Trustees of Boston University
Public Engagement
Project Leader(s): Dacher Keltner, Jason Marsh
Grantee(s): Regents of the University of California at Berkeley
Character Virtue Development
Project Leader(s): C. Daryl Cameron, David DeSteno
Grantee(s): Penn State University
Character Virtue Development
Project Leader(s): Tiffany Shlain
Grantee(s): Let it Ripple, Inc
Character Virtue Development
Project Leader(s): Sara Algoe
Grantee(s): The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Character Virtue Development
Project Leader(s): Daphna Shohamy, Jonathan Schooler
Grantee(s): Columbia University