2020 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund – Open Competition

U.S. Embassy Zagreb announces an open competition for alumni of U.S. Government Exchange Programs and Scholarships to submit applications to the 2020 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF 2020).
The topic of the competition is advancing the essential role of women in peace, security, and governance. The deadline for applications is March 2, 2020 by 12:00 p.m.

U.S. EMBASSY ZAGREB – PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE

2020 ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT INNOVATION FUND

[Notice of funding opportunity for alumni of U.S. Government-funded exchange programs]

U.S. Embassy Zagreb announces an open competition for past participants (“alumni”) of U.S. government-funded and U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs to submit applications to the 2020 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF 2020).  We seek proposals from teams of at least two alumni that meet all program eligibility requirements below.  Exchange alumni interested in participating in AEIF 2020 should submit proposals to zagrebalumnigrants@state.gov by 12:00 p.m. on March 2, 2020.

A. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

AEIF provides alumni of U.S.-sponsored and -facilitated exchange programs with funding to expand on skills gained during their exchange experience to design and implement innovative solutions to global challenges facing their community.  Since its inception in 2011, AEIF has funded nearly 500 alumni-led projects around the world through a competitive global competition.  This year, AEIF 2020 will support the U.S. commitment to working with our partners around the world to advance the essential role of women in peace, security, and governance.

U.S. Embassy Zagreb will accept public service projects proposed and managed by teams of at least two (2) alumni that support themes such as:

  • Strengthening the role of women in peace, security, and governance;
  • Engaging women as partners in preventing terrorism and countering radicalization and recruitment;
  • Promoting the protection of women and girls from violence, abuse, and exploitation; and/or
  • Supporting women’s political and civic participation.

B. FEDERAL AWARD INFORMATION

Announcement posted:  January 15, 2020
Closing date for applications: by 12:00 p.m. (noon) March 2, 2020.  Late submissions will not be considered.
Proposals must be submitted:  Via e-mail to ZagrebAlumniGrants@state.gov
Expected size of individual awards:  Between $5,000 to $25,000.
Funding type:  Small grant awards
Decision date: July 2020
Program Performance Period:  Proposed programs should be completed between August 2020-August 2021.

C. ELIGILIBITY INFORMATION

  1. Eligible Applicants:

The following individuals are eligible to apply:

  • Applicants must be alumni of a S. government-funded exchange program (https://alumni.state.gov/list-exchange-programs) or a U.S. government-sponsored exchange program (https://j1visa.state.gov/).
  • Projects teams must include teams of at least two (2) alumni.
  • Alumni who are U.S. citizens may not submit proposals, but U.S. citizen alumni may participate as team members in a project.
  • Alumni teams may be comprised of alumni from different exchange programs and different countries.
  • Applications must be submitted by exchange alumni. Not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and academic institutions are not eligible to apply in the name of the organization but can serve as partners for implementing project activities.
  1. Grant Program Area:

Proposals must address women in peace, security, and governance as described in section A. Program description above.  Proposals that do not address the theme as outlined in the program objectives will be deemed ineligible.  All project activities must take place outside of the United States and its territories.

  1. Other Eligibility Requirements

Approved grants will be processed with an organization that is a partner in the project and that organization must have a unique entity identifier (Data Universal Numbering System/DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet), as well as a valid registration on www.SAM.gov.  Please follow the registration steps:

Step 1: Apply for a DUNS number and an NCAGE number (these steps can be completed simultaneously)

DUNS application:  Organizations must have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number from Dun & Bradstreet.  If your organization does not have one already, you may obtain one by registering at https://fedgov.dnb.com/webform

NCAGE application: https://eportal.nspa.nato.int/AC135Public/scage/CageList.aspx

Instructions for the NCAGE application process: https://eportal.nspa.nato.int/AC135Public/Docs/US%20Instructions%20for%20NSPA%20NCAGE.pdf

Step 2: After receiving the NCAGE Code, proceed to register in SAM.gov by logging onto: https://www.sam.gov.  Please note that obtaining your username and password does not complete the registration.  This only allows you to enter the database and register your organization.  SAM registration must be renewed annually and is free of charge.  Please visit https://www.sam.gov/SAM/ for help with registration.  We cannot provide support related to SAM.gov registration.

Partner organizations must have a commitment to equal opportunity employment practices and to non-discrimination practices with regard to beneficiaries, without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

D. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Applications and budgets must be submitted using the official AEIF 2020 proposal and budget forms attached below.

Please follow all instructions below carefully.  Proposals that do not meet the requirements of this announcement or fail to comply with the stated requirements will be deemed ineligible.

Please ensure:

  • The proposal clearly addresses the goals and objectives of this funding opportunity;
  • The proposal addresses all questions in the official AEIF 2020 proposal form;
  • Project proposal and all documents are in English;
  • The budget is in U.S. dollars and is submitted using the designated AEIF budget form;
  • Your submission is on time (late submissions will not be considered);
  • All pages are numbered.

The following documents are required:

  1. Mandatory application forms:
  1. Proposal:  The proposal should contain enough information so that anyone unfamiliar with the topic would understand exactly what the alumni team wants to do. Proposals include the following.

Proposal Summary:  Short narrative that outlines the proposed project, including project objectives and anticipated impact.

Alumni Team Information:  There must be at least two exchange alumni team members for a project to be considered for funding.  Along with the name and contact information, please describe the role each team member will have in the project and their experience, qualifications, and ability to carry out that role.  Indicate what proportion of their time will be used in support of the project.

Problem Statement:  Clear, concise and well-supported statement of the problem to be addressed and why the proposed project is needed.

Program Goals and Objectives:  The “goals” describe what the project is intended to achieve.  The “objectives” refer to the intermediate accomplishments on the way to the goals.  These should be achievable and measurable.

Local Program Partners:  List partners who will support your project.  Please note if you have an existing relationship with your partner organization(s) and describe their role in the project.  If you do not have an existing relationship, explain how you anticipate establishing a partnership with the organization(s).

Program Methods and Design:  A description of how the project is expected to work to solve the stated problem and achieve the goal.

Proposed Project Schedule and Timeline:  The proposed timeline for the project activities.  Include the dates, times, and locations of planned activities and events.

Project Monitoring and Evaluation Plan:  The Monitoring and Evaluation component of the proposal will outline in detail how the proposal’s activities will advance the program’s goals and objectives (listed above).  A strong proposal will include:

  • Any outcomes the grantee expects to occur because of their program. Outcomes could include: change in knowledge, awareness, and attitudes; improved quality of services; increased capacity at a school, group; etc.  Proposals should also include how the grantee will know those outcomes are occurring (surveys, interviews, observations, etc.)
  • For example: If the program expects that a teacher-training program will improve the skills of a teacher, a proposal may explain the skills the teacher would gain and plan to perform a survey before the program and a survey following the program that would show a change in understanding due to the program.
  • A plan to include the grantee’s reflection of how their program contributed to the program’s goals. As applicable, a strong final report would include success stories, behaviors changed, lessons learned, and results obtained.

Sustainability:  Explain how you plan to continue the program beyond the grant period, or the availability of other resources, if applicable.

Communication Plan:  Explain how you will promote your project.  Include social media, websites, print news, or other forms of media you intend to use to share information about your project to beneficiaries and the public.  Communications should include AEIF 2020 and U.S. Embassy branding.  These include training materials, materials for recipients or materials to communicate or promote with foreign audiences a program, event, project, or some other activity under an agreement.  Note: Exceptions to the branding requirement are allowable under certain conditions.  If an applicant is notified that their award has been chosen for funding, the Grants Officer will determine, in consultation with the applicant, if an exception is applicable especially in the case where branding would adversely affect the safety and security of the beneficiaries.

  1. Budget Justification Narrative: Applicants must submit a detailed budget and budget narrative justification utilizing the template provided.  Line item expenditures should be listed in the greatest possible detail.  Budgets shall be submitted in U.S. dollars and final grant agreements will be conducted in U.S. dollars.

Budget Restrictions: AEIF 2020 does not support the following activities or costs, and the selection committee will deem applications involving any of these activities or costs ineligible:

  • Airfare to or from the United States and its territories
  • Activities that take place in the United States and its territories
  • Sustained staff salaries, office space, and overhead/operational expenses exceeding 10% of total operational costs
  • Large items of durable equipment or construction programs
  • Alcohol, excessive meals, refreshments, or entertainment
  • Academic or scientific research
  • Charitable or development activities or the provision of direct social services to a population
  • Support or opposition of partisan political activity or lobbying for specific legislation or programs
  • Programs that support specific religious activities
  • Fund-raising campaigns
  • Programs intended primarily for the growth or institutional development of the organization
  • Venture capital, for-profit endeavors, or charging a fee for participation in the project
  • Individual scholarships
  • Personal development
  • Social travel/visits
  • Gifts or prizes
  • Programs that duplicate existing programs

E. REVIEW AND SELECTION PROCESS

Evaluation Criteria:  The Public Affairs Section at U.S. Embassy Zagreb will use the criteria outlined below to evaluate all applications.  After this initial review, the Public Affairs Section will submit the top proposals from their country to the global AEIF 2020 competition.  The proposals will be reviewed by a Selection Committee comprised of regional and exchange program experts at the Department of State in Washington, DC. Panelists will use the criteria below to review and evaluate applications.

Purpose and summary, description, and implementation plan:  20 points
When developing the purpose, summary, description, and implementation plan, applicants should aim to make all descriptions clear, concise, and compelling.  Reviewers will judge the proposals based on the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the community where it is undertaken.  Does the project address an important gap of understanding or need?  If the aim of the project is achieved, how will existing knowledge or practice be improved?  What audience do the applicants hope to reach with this project?  How many people will participate and how will they be selected?

Relevance of the project to women, peace, and security:  10 points
AEIF 2020 will provide resources for alumni-led projects around the world that advance women’s and girls’ safety and their meaningful participation in peace and security processes. Throughout the proposal, applicants will need to demonstrate how your project will strengthen the role of women as agents of peace, reconciliation, development, growth and/or stability.  In developing the project, applicants should keep in mind the safety of alumni and project beneficiaries, including unintended impacts the project may have on their security.

Degree of alumni involvement:  10 points
Projects must include at least two (2) alumni team leaders.  More than two alumni may comprise the team, however, the minimum is two. As the team leaders, the alumni must be closely involved in project planning, implementation, etc.  Applicants should ensure that the proposal includes the following information for each alumni team member: first name, last name, e-mail address, exchange program, country of citizenship, and roles and responsibilities.

Participation and support from reliable local partners:  10 points
A successful application will demonstrate buy-in and support from the community where the project will take place.  The involvement of local partners is a strong sign that there is community support and that the project will engage a broad array of experts, such as subject matter experts, community centers, academic institutions, businesses, local/national government, non-governmental organizations, American Spaces, etc.

Evaluation and impact of the project:  10 points
Proposals must include a plan to monitor and evaluate the project’s success, both as the activities take place and at the end of the project.  Overall, the quality of monitoring and evaluation plan will be judged on how well it 1) specifies the intended outcomes and how these outcomes will be achieved, 2) gives clear descriptions of how each outcome will be measured, 3) identifies when the outcomes will be measured, and 4) explains how outcomes will be collected (such as surveys, interviews, or focus groups).  Successful monitoring and evaluation depend heavily on setting clear goals and outcomes and consider potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success.  Interim and final reporting is required for winning AEIF projects and winning applicants should have a reporting plan to share information about the success/impact of the project.

Sustainability:  10 points
Project activities should continue to have a positive impact after the end of the project.

Communication, media and outreach plan:  10 points
The project includes a plan to share information about the project.

Budget and budget narrative 20 points
The budget and narrative justification are sufficiently detailed. Costs are reasonable in relation to the proposed activities and anticipated results.  The budget is realistic, accounting for all necessary expenses to achieve proposed activities.  The results and proposed outcomes justify the total cost of the project.  Budget items are reasonable, allowable, and allocable.

Total: 100 points

Disclaimer: This notice is subject to availability of funding. U.S. Embassy Zagreb does not guarantee availability of funding by receiving applications under this announcement.  Only successful applicants will be contacted.  The Embassy cannot reimburse for costs incurred before the grant is signed.

F. FEDERAL AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

The grant award will be written, signed, awarded, and administered by the Grants Officer.  The assistance award agreement is the authorizing document and it will be provided to the recipient for review and signature by email.  The recipient may only start incurring program expenses beginning on the start date shown on the grant award document signed by the Grants Officer.

If a proposal is selected for funding, the Department of State has no obligation to provide any additional future funding.  Renewal of an award to increase funding or extend the period of performance is at the discretion of the Department of State.

Issuance of this NOFO does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government, nor does it commit the U.S. government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of proposals.  Further, the U.S. government reserves the right to reject any or all proposals received.

Reporting Requirements: Recipients will be required to submit financial reports and program reports.  The award document will specify how often these reports must be submitted.

G. FINAL PROVISIONS

Grant proposals should include all information requested in the application guidelines.  Proposals must be in English, and budgets must be calculated in U.S. dollars.

For more information on how to develop project proposals and apply to the AEIF 2020 please consult the attached AEIF 2020 Guidance for Exchange Alumni (PDF 355 KB).

Proposals must be submitted by 12:00 p.m. (noon) on March 2, 2020 via e-mail to ZagrebAlumniGrants@state.gov.

Questions about the open competition can be addressed to Nina Vranesevic Marinic, Cultural Affairs Assistant, marinicn@state.gov.