Innovation in Government Initiative Request for Proposals

Overview

IGI issues requests for proposals to fund technical assistance to governments to adapt, pilot, and scale evidence-informed innovations that have been previously evaluated with a randomized evaluation(s) and found to improve the lives of people living in poverty. J-PAL affiliated and invited researchers and J-PAL post-docs can submit applications in collaboration with government partners, J-PAL regional offices, and other collaborators. Innovations can be new programs or policies, or changes to existing programs, policies, processes, or delivery systems. Proposals should clearly be demand-driven, be focused on issues that the government partner has identified as priorities, and have high potential for adoption at scale. Technical assistance can include support to governments to collect data about the nature and extent of a problem; determine whether evidence about potential solutions is relevant to their context and systems; adapt, pilot, and monitor evidence-informed programs; evaluate scalable versions of these programs when the government commits to using the results to inform their scaling decisions; and improve government monitoring and evaluation systems for programs at scale, among other forms of scaling support. IGI has a strong preference to fund partnerships in low- and middle-income countries.

IGI prioritizes three sectors where there are large bodies of evidence about designing effective programs and high government demand for collaboration: education, health, and social assistance. We also accept compelling proposals from other sectors.

IGI will also prioritize partnerships that explore one or more cross-cutting themes that we believe are important for effectively implementing programs at scale and drawing general lessons for others working to scale up evidence-informed social programs with governments: 

  • Technology- and data-enabled program delivery and monitoring: Phones, tablets, digital transfers, and other technologies have the potential to improve and reduce the costs of program delivery and monitoring.

  • Implementation science: Piloting and pressure-testing different implementation models before selecting one for scaling can help identify models that are both feasible to implement well and lead to sufficient take-up and use among program participants.

  • Cost analysis: The costs of various program or policy options are critical inputs for policy decisions, so collecting cost data early and systematically is critical.

Proposal Timeline

IGI is currently accepting proposals for its Fall 2021 RFP, with full applications due at 5:00 p.m. US ET on Tuesday, December 14, 2021 (extended from Dec 3). Please note that all applicant teams were required to submit a letter of interest by 5:00 p.m. US ET on Thursday, November 4, 2021 in order to be invited to submit a full application. Funding decisions will be announced in February 2021.
For projects facing a significant external time constraint or a time-limited policy window, IGI can also accept off-cycle applications for up to $75,000 on a rolling basis. Interested applicants should email [email protected]

Eligibility

All J-PAL affiliated researchers, eligible J-PAL invited researchers (as detailed in the Section 6 of the RFP Overview attached), J-PAL post-docs, and J-PAL offices are eligible to apply in collaboration with their government partners and other collaborators. J-PAL offices are required to have a J-PAL affiliated or J-PAL invited researcher involved in the project to apply. All proposals may include collaborators outside of this network including other researchers and NGO partners. 

Eligible applicants may apply for funding to adapt, pilot, and/or scale findings from evaluations in the J-PAL network, which includes any randomized evaluation funded by a J-PAL initiative, implemented by a J-PAL office, and/or that had a J-PAL affiliated or invited researcher as a co-PI.

Only projects with a specific government partner(s) will be considered. All IGI projects must be based on direct evidence from one or more randomized evaluations, at least one of which should have been conducted by a J-PAL affiliate or invited researcher and/or funded by a J-PAL initiative and the results of which must be available in writing (preferably in the public domain). For all IGI projects, the implementing partner has to be a government body or a non-governmental partner delivering services through government infrastructure (e.g. government schools, clinics, etc.) with the government actively involved in the partnership. Government partners can be national, state, regional, provincial, city, etc., including individual ministries or agencies. Governments must be the main recipients of technical assistance, but governments cannot be the receiving institutions of funds. Receiving institutions can include J-PAL offices, IPA offices, and other non-governmental partners working with the applicants.

The RCT results must be available in writing in a paper (published or working paper) or other write-up. For more information about this requirement, please see Annex III of the IGI RFP Overview (attached below).

If you are uncertain about whether your team is eligible to apply, please email [email protected].

Application Instructions

Letter of interest: All applicants are required to submit a short letter of interest (LOI) prior to submitting a full application. Please fill in the Letter of Interest form linked at the bottom of this page and submit it as a .DOC or .DOCX file to [email protected] by 5:00 p.m. US ET on Thursday, November 4, 2021. If you missed this deadline, please reach out to us at [email protected] to inquire about the possibility of submitting an LOI at this stage. 

Full proposals: The IGI team will notify you via email once we have reviewed your LOI and you are clear to begin your proposal. You may use the Application form linked at the bottom of this page to prepare your full application during any (brief) waiting period until you hear from the IGI team about your proposal eligibility; however, please do not submit your full application until you have been notified of eligibility. Upon receiving the notification, please fill in the Application form and submit it as a .DOC or .DOCX file to [email protected] by 5:00 p.m. US ET on Tuesday, December 14, 2021 (extended from Dec 3)

FAQs

Can regional offices apply for IGI support without a J-PAL affiliate or invited researcher involved in the proposal?

No. All IGI grants must have a J-PAL affiliated professor, invited researcher, or J-PAL post-doc included as a member of the proposal team. The J-PAL affiliate/invited researcher must also certify that they will be active, engaged, and responsive PIs dedicated to guaranteeing the quality control on all aspects of this project; and that their participation in this project is not merely to provide access to J-PAL resources and funding to anyone else working on this project who is neither a J-PAL affiliate nor invited researcher.

Can I submit a full proposal if I did not submit a letter of interest?

No, you will not be able to submit a full proposal unless your letter of interest is assessed for eligibility and IGI staff have sent you a notice of project eligibility. If you have missed the letter of interest deadline, please contact [email protected]

Can researchers partner with organizations other than J-PAL?

Yes, J-PAL affiliated or invited researchers and J-PAL post-docs can apply with partner organizations outside of J-PAL, including IPA, Evidence Action, or other organizations. The affiliate/invited researcher should submit the application on their behalf. In these cases, the J-PAL affiliate/invited researcher should be listed as the applicant with IPA listed as a lead partner in these cases. 

When a J-PAL office is not the institution that will receive IGI funds, the applicant is required to submit a letter of support from the Executive Director of the relevant J-PAL regional office with their IGI application (see Questions 6 and 7 below for more information, and the section on “Letters of Support” in the application form).

If my project is awarded funding, can I immediately re-apply for more funding for that project in the next round?

Yes. However, you would have to demonstrate that the vast majority of funding that was allocated to you in the first round either has been spent or will be spent by the time the second round of funding is released. 

The reason for staggering funding in this way is so that IGI can help the maximum number of promising projects take advantage of a tight policy window or fill a funding gap, not necessarily to be the primary source of funding. Therefore, in future rounds the Review Board would consider both how any allocated funds have been spent and other fundraising efforts. Caps for single rounds and the lifecycle of a project still apply.

Is it necessary for the government partner to have a financial stake in the project?

It is highly preferred. In exceptional cases, IGI may allow an exemption but must state why the government is not committing financial resources and what other types of support are being provided instead.

What should be in the letters of support?

IGI aims to enable governments to scale up effective programs that are relevant to their context, which requires long-term relationships among governments, researchers, J-PAL regional offices, and other implementing partners. Therefore, the proposal should clearly demonstrate a well-thought out partnership among all involved parties and explain how the proposed activities will help institutionalize the relationship beyond this specific project. 

Letters of support from the government are a crucial demonstration of a well-thought out partnership, and should clearly explain how the government feels the project can help inform policy and future action. Letters of support should state the government’s support for the activities proposed, how the government plans to use the results of the research or other activities to inform a scale-up decision or implementation, how it sees a long-term partnership with J-PAL (or our other partner organizations like IPA where appropriate) to be valuable, what costs will be shared by the government, and willingness to share program implementation and cost data.

The letter of support from the relevant J-PAL regional office should be informed by discussion with the regional Executive Director and/or lead policy staff to determine the appropriate role for the J-PAL office in this project. The scope of the J-PAL office’s role will differ depending on a number of factors, including the country where the project is taking place, the other partners involved, and the office’s capacity to participate in the project. Our six regional Executive Directors have requested at least 3 weeks of lead time for these discussions before the proposal deadline so that they have enough time to independently assess the strength of the potential partnership, how it aligns with JPAL’s mission, their capacity to support it, and the budgetary support required for JPAL staff’s activities.

For more details, see the section on “Letters of Support” in the application form.

How do I request a letter of support from the J-PAL regional office for my proposal?

Please email the Executive Director of the J-PAL regional office responsible for the country in which your proposed activities would take place. Be sure to email the regional Executive Director at least 3 weeks in advance of the RFP deadline for which you would like to apply in order to ensure that the office has enough time to produce the letter, which requires a thorough review of the proposal and budget. You can find the contact information for the J-PAL Executive Directors (EDs) of the regional offices at http://www.povertyactionlab.org/people/region-name/executive (e.g. http://www.povertyactionlab.org/people/africa/executive). If you cannot locate the contact information for the J-PAL ED, you can send the request to IGI staff ([email protected]). 

If a J-PAL regional office applies for IGI does the regional office still need to provide a letter of support?

Yes, IGI still requires a general letter of support from the Executive Director of the J-PAL regional office that is applying stating that the regional office supports this project, has the capacity to take it on, has approved the budget, and sees the government body as a strategic partner for the office. Regional offices do not have to submit additional letters of support from their host universities.

If my project is located in a region without a J-PAL office, do I need a letter of support from a J-PAL office?

If there is no J-PAL office in the region (e.g. none of J-PAL’s six regional offices cover China), you do not need a letter of support from a J-PAL office. However, since one of the primary goals of IGI is building long-term relationships between researchers and governments, the hurdle to get funding from IGI will be higher in such cases where there are no J-PAL offices to help institutionalize the relationship with the government partner. Therefore, the proposal should be sure to state clearly how the project will help inform policy and institutionalize the relationship with the government beyond this specific project.

How often can J-PAL offices invoice MIT?

As frequently as monthly.

Can IGI grants include some intervention implementation costs?

Proposals can include some implementation costs for projects in the pilot phase. IGI cannot fund implementation costs for a scale-up beyond the pilot phase, as this funding should be secured by the government or from another third-party source.

Can IGI backdate expenses?

It is possible for IGI to cover retrospective expenses when no IRB is required and the receiving institution is a J-PAL office, as long as you submit your proposal to IGI before you start incurring expenses on this project. IGI can backdate expenses to the date on which the application was submitted. 

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