Food Security and Nutrition Network

Proposed Changes to the FY 2016 RFA for Development Food Assistance Programs

Proposed Changes to the FY 2016 RFA for Development Food Assistance Programs

Posted by Patrick Coonan on 8 Sep 2014

Food for Peace hopes to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the development RFA process and improve it based on your ideas and brainstorming.

On August 7,  TOPS hosted a consultation with members of the implementer community on possible changes to the content of the FY 2016 request for applications (RFA), award process (with the introduction of a technical presentation for apparently successful applicants), and shifts/changes to actual activity implementation for FY 2016.  The impetus to hold this discussion came from feedback you’ve provided over the years -- during the comment periods, from interactions you’ve had with the Agreement Officer’s Representatives (AORs), from field exchanges and more. Questions discussed during the consultation included: 

  1. What would an abbreviated proposal look like? What components would be least harmful to the integrity of the process to remove?
  2. Should there be milestone/benchmarks to document/validate the refinement period/process? What would these be?
  3. How would the PREP (Pipeline and Resource Estimate Proposal) at the end of year one be different? What would it look like?
  4. Considering the revised time frame, what proposed timing of the midterm and final evaluation makes the most sense? 

Specific changes that were proposed by FFP at the consultation and being considered for FY 2016 include: 

  • a refinement period at the beginning of a project in which partners could undertake further analysis, refine their theory of change, engage the communities, wrap up the baseline evaluation and finalize partnerships to prepare for implementation. The refinement period could be approximately six to twelve months in length depending on progress and key implementation factors
  • after the refinement period, a "check-in" between awardees and FFP to ensure that the theory of change is sound and the project planning is on track before full implementation move ahead
  • at the mid-term, a "check-in" between awardees and FFP to consider whether FFP will approve an extension of the award beyond the typical five years in length (for example, up to seven to ten years). 

What are your thoughts and feedback on these proposed changes or on the questions raised by FFP above?

(Any comments shared before September 26, 2014 will be shared directly with FFP.)

Additional questions

Posted by ktabaj on 16 Sep 2014

I was unable to attend the consultation session and have more questions rather than recommendations. 

It is understood that applicants have to devote their own resources to the proposal process.  Would the applicant also be expected to provide resources during the refinement period, for example? Regarding the refinement period, would the applicant be responsible for the collection and analysis of baseline data or would this continue to be done by a third party?  From a staffing perspective, how would organizations staff projects given the refinement period?  If the refinement period was extended, this could create bottlenecks with modifications to work contracts, high turnover etc.  Also, how would this potentially impact program quality?  Most people are looking for long term work and if it is unknown how long a project will last or if the employment periods are short (i.e. six months during the refinement period) then people initially hired may leave for longer contracts.  If there is a potential for high turnover, then an organization is spending a lot of time onboarding staff rather than focusing on quality program implementation.

The idea of a refinement period is appealing for a few reasons.  First, it would allow staff to become more deeply involved in the program's theory of change and to further understand the purpose of integrating activities for food security gains.  From a gender perspective, I've heard implementers say they would prefer to have time and space to conduct assessments and analysis prior to program implementation to have a more comprehensive understanding of the situation.  

Also, gaining community buy-in during the refinement period could lead to improved impacts as I imagine stakeholders and beneficiaries would have greater input into the design of program strategies and activities.  Given the size of the programs, six months seems too short for the refinement period.  

How would commodity management and rations fit into this new model?  Or will this mechanism shift as well?  

What would be the criteria to determine program extension?

How does FFP see this transition occuring with the old and new process?  Would there be additional staff to support or would programs falling under the new process be in a pilot stage and therefore the number of awards limited to help balance workloads?  Obviously the same is asked for implementing partners as they too might be balancing responsibilities between implemented and new programs.

Many thanks,

Kristi

updated response

Posted by Juli Majernik on 23 Sep 2014

From last week:  Thank you for your comments and questions.  FFP hopes to provide you with additional information soon.  

Updated response:  These are great questions.  Thank you for your interest.

Although at this time - during the information gathering stage - a clear outline of the application has yet to be developed, FFP envisions that applicants will submit a detailed refinement strategy and budget as a part of the initial application. In developing the new approach for the RFA for fiscal year 2016, FFP anticipates that the evaluation criteria will be updated.

FFP has yet to determine who will carryout the baseline study but it will be an independent baseline study funded through the project resources. 

Ideally, FFP would most likely sign a five year cooperative agreement with the successful applicant and would participate in the refinement phase. From what you write, it seems that if an awardee is serious in refining the project design and carrying out all of the assessment(s) and analytical activities as planned, it is less likely that a prolonged refinement period would be required.   

For now, it's envisioned that an extension of a project's life beyond five years would be based on the performance of a project, which will be determined through an evaluation conducted most likely by an independent evaluation firm.  It is hoped that the evaluation would focus on immediate outcomes. Perhaps, based on a predetermined performance threshold, FFP could decide whether an extension has the potential to maximize return to investments. The nuts and bolts of this process have yet to be set; we are in the information gathering stage of how to approach FY 2016.  However, one presumes that if the evaluation shows that a project failed to achieve the threshold, the project would not be extended.

As you have indicated in your comment, FFP also is considering the importance of community consultations during the refinement phase; for example, awardees may conduct extensive community consultations to refine and validate its theory of change, identify barriers and factors that inhibit food security, refine activities to overcome them, and invest on staff capacity to effectively transfer knowledge, skills and technologies. This process could also promote greater buy-in and community ownership of the project and we hope increase the likelihood of sustainability of the outcomes.

Internally, FFP has been discussing its level of involvement in the refinement phase and the implications.  Your comments will be taken into account.  Thank you.

I agree that the inception

Posted by SChetail on 19 Sep 2014

I agree that the inception period would be useful - while we usually include it informally within the program, it takes away some time from the real implementation period.  So the inception phase would have to be in addition to the 5 year implementation.  This is very much in line with the DFID model, and it seems to be working.  It would also allow for better preparation and increase program quality.

I am not sure about the extension period - are we talking no-cost or cost extension?  while in principle it is good and would allow to potentially increase impact, it also locks out other potential partners that may contribute new and innovative ideas.

Sandrine

cost extension, if appropriate

Posted by Juli Majernik on 19 Sep 2014

Hi,

Thank you for your post.  Any additional years would be based on results as well as resources.  It's possible that there might be some carryover (no cost extension) along with additional resources (cost extension).  FFP  hopes to provide you with more information in the next few business days.  

Best.

Please see response above

Posted by Juli Majernik on 23 Sep 2014

Hope the additional information to previous posting helps.  

Q3 of FY2016

Posted by rcsaha on 7 Nov 2014

Appreciated to add the PREP structure and it may not be different at the end of the year. After approval of PREP, estimated PREP unutilized resource may forward to next year for utilization  and allow time to PVO for this.

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