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                            EVIDENCE-INFORMED POLICYMAKING
                                         CALL FOR PROPOSALS
 
                                                          FOR
 
                      AFRICAN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS TO
                        ADVANCE GOVERNMENT USE OF EVIDENCE


The Hewlett Foundation’s Evidence-Informed Policymaking (EIP) strategy focuses on an ambitious, long-term goal: governments systematically use evidence to improve social and economic policies over time. We recognize African policy research institutions as not only integral to informing specific policies with the research they produce; they also are well-positioned to advance a broader culture and practice of evidence-informed policymaking.

The purpose of this call for proposals is to identify and support East and West African policy research organizations that want to help strengthen the capacities, motivations, and processes necessary for government actors to use many forms of evidence, not just evidence from their own organizations, in policymaking; and to more deeply connect with the broader field of actors working to advance evidence-informed policymaking in Africa.


Key dates:

  • May 8 – Deadline to submit clarifying questions about the call for proposals to EIPAfrica@hewlett.org
  • June 15 – First-round proposals due 9:00pm EST. No proposals will be accepted after this date.
 
The Hewlett Foundation will accept proposals from single African policy research organizations based in East or West Africa, or from multiple organizations working collaboratively on a joint project. All collaborative project proposals must include an East or West African Policy research institution as the lead.  See below for further details on eligibility.
 
Before you apply, please:

1. BACKGROUND: HEWLETT FOUNDATION EVIDENCE-INFORMED POLICYMAKING STRATEGY

The Hewlett Foundation’s Evidence-Informed Policymaking strategy focuses on an ambitious, long-term goal: governments systematically use evidence to improve social and economic policies over time. We envision policy processes in which decision makers and those who advise them regularly use relevant and high-quality data, research, and evaluation findings to inform decision-making about such important issues as public budget allocations and the design of social, economic, and environmental policies and programs. We are focused primarily on East and West Africa, as well as on global efforts that support greater evidence use at the country level in these regions.
Based on our experience as a partner in the ten-year Think Tank Initiative, we recognize African policy research institutions as critical to evidence-informed policymaking in their region. Many have deep experience generating context-specific, policy-relevant, and politically-timely research; building bridges among citizens, scholars, advocates, and governments; analyzing the effectiveness of development policies and programs; and convening policy actors. This means that policy research institutions are not only integral to informing specific policies with the research they produce; they also are well-positioned to advance a broader culture and practice of evidence-informed policymaking.

2. PURPOSE AND GOALS OF CALL FOR PROPOSALS

The purpose of this call for proposals is to identify and support African policy research organizations that want to help strengthen the capacities, motivations, and processes necessary for government actors to use many forms of evidence, not just evidence from their own organizations, in policymaking; and to more deeply connect with the broader field of actors working to advance evidence-informed policymaking in East and West Africa. Other actors might include organizations that produce other types of evidence (e.g. impact evaluation organizations, data producers and analysts, organizations that conduct public opinion polling, etc.), advocacy organizations, media, university centers, science councils, academies of science, and other organizations that might have a comparative advantage in at least one area that is needed to advance evidence-informed policymaking in a particular context.

This call for proposals is focused on evidence-informed policymaking as it relates to social and economic policy and does not have a sector or thematic focus. Applicants are invited to propose activities that align with national priorities such as advancing evidence use for issues related to national development plans/priorities, Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2063, etc. 

Applicants are invited to submit first-round proposals for activities that advance the goals outlined below. All proposed activities must be in compliance with the Hewlett Foundation’s legal restrictions on lobbying and electioneering.

All illustrative activities mentioned below are examples. We are interested to see applicants’ ideas for advancing these goals. We look forward to seeing proposals for activities we have not yet considered.

Goal 1: Strengthen systems: Contribute to improvements in policy processes, systems, capacities, and motivations that enable ongoing use of evidence in policymaking.

We are interested in promoting the institutionalized and ongoing use of evidence to set priorities, design programs, guide implementation, and enable monitoring and learning within both executive and legislative branches of government. Achieving this ambitious goal includes governments having access to high-quality and relevant evidence, but that is not enough. It also requires strengthening the capacities, systems, motivations, and partnerships necessary for government actors to use evidence for decision-making throughout the policy cycle. To this end, eligible activities will focus on increasing use of evidence, either at the government-wide or sector level, at any level of government. Activities might include but are not limited to strengthening capacity or motivations for government use of data and evidence; enabling collaboration with government evaluation or evidence units; or solidifying multi-stakeholder platforms that foster ongoing consideration and application of evidence for policy.
 
Goal 2: Contribute to the field: Fortify the emerging field of evidence-informed policymaking in Africa.
 
For data and evidence to systematically inform government policy over time, a culture of evidence use needs to be in place. This requires more than a set of individual actors working to promote uptake of their own data and research evidence. It requires a field of actors with common purpose that connect to share learning, demonstrate the importance of evidence use, and affect the broader conditions for evidence to be available, relevant and used by governments in an ongoing way. With this call for proposals we hope to help African policy research institutions more deeply connect with and contribute to the broader field of evidence-informed policymaking in Africa. Therefore, eligible activities might include, but are not limited to, promoting a values-based case for evidence through research on the opportunity costs of poorly-targeted or poorly-informed policies; collaboration with media and/or civil society groups on a campaign to raise awareness about evidence use (and the costs of failing to use evidence); testing new ways to foster collaboration or peer-to-peer learning among organizations specifically designed to advance the goals listed in this call for proposals; advocating for norms and policies that institutionalize government use of evidence; or learning about bottlenecks and successful approaches to fostering greater use of evidence.

Goal 3: Work on impact evaluation and/or the data revolution: Deepen connections among the Hewlett Foundation’s EIP focus areas.
 
The Hewlett Foundation’s EIP grantmaking program has three initial areas of focus. The first is to help Southern think tanks inform national, regional, and global policymaking, and more broadly promote evidence use in their countries. The second is to increase the use and usefulness of impact evaluations, with a particular focus on impact evaluations being responsive and relevant to the needs of policymakers and program implementers. We are interested in seeing more African institutions conducting high-quality impact evaluations and systematic reviews relevant to policies and programs, and facilitating their use in decision-making. The third is to support the generation and government use of high-quality, policy-relevant data, both from traditional and new sources, with particular attention to work that takes advantage of the “data revolution.” The data revolution refers to the exponential increase in the volume, quality, and types of data available, combined with new technologies that permit faster processing of larger data sets, enable new statistical methods, and allow new data sources (e.g. celtel or earth observation data) to interact with and complement traditional ones. The data revolution also refers to the growing expectation — at the highest political levels and among citizens — that both traditional and new sources of data will be available and used to make decisions and to design products, policies, and programs.

Our hope is to help break down silos among organizations working in these three areas, including by supporting policy research organizations that wish to build or expand work in the other two areas. Applicant organizations are invited to submit proposals to expand their existing work – potentially through partnerships – to systematically integrate policy-relevant impact evaluation into their work and/or to contribute to the data revolution. (Please refer to the Hewlett Foundation’s Evidence-Informed Policymaking strategy for more information about the focus areas.)
 
The following types of activities are NOT eligible under this call for proposals:

  • Stand-alone research projects.
  • Stand-alone training courses.
  • Workshops or expert working groups focusing only on the development of “research-to-policy” frameworks.
3. PROPOSAL PROCESS AND KEY DATES

The call for proposals will be used as a first screen for selection. Applicants first submit brief first-round proposals, using the online application form (sign in above to start the online form). Hewlett Foundation staff will review first-round proposals and invite some applicants to submit more detailed second-round proposals. Hewlett Foundation staff will make final decisions about whether to support applicant organizations based on second-round proposals and a phone or in-person consultation with applicants.

The Hewlett Foundation will accept proposals from single African policy research organizations, or from multiple organizations (maximum of three) working collaboratively on a joint project.
 
In the case of multiple-organization collaborations, please note: 
  • The proposal must identify an African policy research institution as the lead organization.
  • Lead organizations will be responsible for submitting most of the content for first-round proposals, in coordination with partners. Each lead organization can designate up to two collaborator organizations, representatives of which will be asked to respond to several questions specific to each organization.
During the application process, each organization will be asked to identify itself as one of the following:
  • Single organization: An African policy research institution that meets the eligibility criteria and is applying by itself.
  • Lead organization: An African policy research institution that meets the eligibility criteria and is applying as the lead organization for a collaborative project that includes other partner organizations.
  • Partner organization: Any organization that is part of a collaborative project that is not the lead organization. These organizations will be invited to contribute to application materials by the relevant lead organization.
Key dates in this process are:
  • May 1 Release call for proposals.
  • May 8Deadline to submit clarifying questions to EIPAfrica@hewlett.org.
  • May 11 –  FAQs updated to include responses to all clarifying questions.
  • June 15 First round proposals due 9:00pm EST. No proposals will be accepted after this date.
  • Aug 15, 2018 – March 15, 2019Applicants informed on a rolling basis if they are invited to submit second round proposal.
  • Oct 2018 – May 2019Applicants informed on a rolling basis if their second round proposals are accepted; grants awarded to successful applicants. 

Strong institutions are critical to effective program implementation and sustained influence. Therefore, for all African policy research institutions awarded grants under this call for proposals (either as single organizations or part of a collaborative project), we will seek ways to provide flexible institutional support in addition to funding the specific activities described in the proposal. Partner organizations under collaborative proposals that are not African policy research organizations will be eligible for project support only. Grants to organizations applying as a collaborative will take into account and offset the added cost of working in partnership.

4. ELIGIBLITY Any organization applying as a single organization or as a lead organization must meet the following requirements:

  1. Conduct social and economic policy research as a core part of institutional mandate.
  2. Be headquartered in East or West Africa.
  3. Meet at least of three of the following four criteria:
  •      Has been in operation for at least three years.
  •      Has had annual operating budget of at least $1 million in each of the last three years.
  •      Has received at least one grant from a U.S. private foundation, bilateral donor (including research councils), or multilateral development institution in at least one of the last three years.
  •      Is a registered charity in its home country.
Partner organizations may be almost any kind of organization because the intent is that lead organizations have the freedom to work with whomever they believe will best contribute to project goals. 
 
However, the following types of organizations are NOT eligible to apply as single, lead or partner organizations:
  • Scientific research organizations, including those with a focus on engineering; physical and biological sciences; animal, crop and forestry research; biomedical research; or national security. Organizations that conduct economic or social research related to scientific issues – for example, on human behavior-change related to disease prevention or climate change– ARE eligible to apply.
  • Government entities (other than research centers at public universities).
While we recognize that government actors are an important part of the evidence-informed policymaking field, we are not able to provide financial support to those entities under this call for proposals. However, because the goal is for governments to use evidence for policymaking, we do expect that many applicants will work closely with government entities throughout the grant period. 

5. CRITERIA FOR DECISION-MAKING 

The Hewlett Foundation recognizes that efforts to increase the use of evidence in the policy process are intrinsically shaped by context, including political context, and are unlikely to follow a pre-defined, linear path. While we expect applicants to articulate their planned outcomes and activities, we understand that all projects need room to be responsive to opportunities that arise, and revise plans based on what they are learning.

Alignment with Purpose

Applicants will be assessed on how well their proposed work aligns with the three goals outlined above, including:
  • Importance of the outcomes organizations seek to achieve during the grant period.
  • Likelihood that target outcomes will advance one or more of the three goals described above
Likelihood of success

Applicants will be assessed on how well-positioned they are to achieve the outcomes they seek, including:
  • Importance of the outcomes organizations seek to achieve during the grant period. 
  • Likelihood that target outcomes will advance one or more of the three goals described above. 
  • Applicants will be assessed on how well-positioned they are to achieve the outcomes they seek, including:
    • Likelihood that proposed activities will contribute to the target outcomes applicants seek.  
    • Strength of assessment of the landscape of actors relevant to meeting the target outcomes, applicant organizations’ experience working with them, and position relative to them.
    • Institutional strengths and capacities relevant to achieving target outcomes.
    • [For multi-organization proposals only] Rationale for and expected mutual benefit of collaboration.
    • [For multi-organization proposals only] Clarity of division of labor among participating organizations and added value of each.
Overall quality

All applications will be assessed in their overall quality, including:
  • Clarity of language and concepts used in the proposal.
  • Originality of proposed work in terms of approaches, methods, audiences and/or partnerships.
6. RECOMMENDED READING

As you develop a first-round proposal, we recommend that you review these materials: