Aid Connect Q&A with DFID

Applications for UK Aid Connect 2017 are now open. There are eight themes and organisations are expected to bid as part of a consortium.

On Thursday 20 July and Monday 14 August representatives from DFID took part in Q&A sessions. They have also provided us with a list of FAQs, which you can view here [PDF]. A summary of the dialogue and discussion meetings are on the DFID website.

The questions and answers and some of the FAQs are listed below - use the red box to the right to sort by topic.

Please note some questions have been omitted to avoid duplication. We will update this page with further answers from DFID as we get them.

Bidding

How do you expect partners to come together in a consortium and submit a programme design within such a tight deadline? (from the FAQs)
We do not expect consortia to submit proposals with a fully designed programme.  

A strong proposal will demonstrate quality ideas that are directly relevant to addressing the development problem set out in the terms of reference and will answer the question of why the problem is best answered by your consortium. It will also articulate how the ideas will bring about lasting change in innovative ways. The ambition of those ideas is more critical to selection than very specific programme detail.  

If a consortium is successful, and following the award of a grant, DFID policy teams will work alongside the consortia to further develop the programme design during a six-nine month co-creation phase.

Can organisations be part of multiple bids under the same theme, for example as the lead in one and as a secondary partner in another?
Yes.

Can organisations be part of multiple consortia under different themes?
Yes.

Will priority be given to those consortia and project designs which are led by developing country partners?
No priority won’t be given but we are strongly encouraging engagement from partners from the global South.

Can our southern based partners be in competing bids?
Yes

DFID would like to see consortia including a broad range of organisations. Should the bid include all agreed consortia members? If so, do they all need to complete Section 3 2-pagers if not managing DFID funding? Or is DFID expecting to only see core partners in the bid, with reference to other partners with whom organisations may decide to work with during the co-creation phase?
Yes, the bid should include all proposed consortium members and complete the 2-pages accordingly. The more information provided on the proposed consortium and all members the better. A strong bid will demonstrate what all members bring to the table.

Does the make-up of the consortium have particular requirements, for example is it a requirement to have private sector partners and if so do they need to be international or local etc (same question would equally apply to think tanks, research organisations and foundations)?
The pre-requisite is that the consortia members are able to demonstrate real added value to the proposed intervention whether it be by virtue of their technical capacity and skills or geographic location. DFID does not want to be prescriptive on this front. However, in recognition of the rationale for UK Aid Connect that problems are broad and complex and are better addressed by a coalition of diverse partners, we would expect bids to reflect this but we are not insisting that, for example, the private sector has to be included. We would, though, strongly encourage partners from the global south included wherever possible.

The ToRs set out very substantial problems which apply to many countries of the world. But the resource available is slender. Does DFID have any priorities within the very wide scope on offer, given the discrepancy between the size of the problem and the means to address it?
We want to leave it as open as possible – bids will be assessed on the strength of consortia to present and address innovative ideas with the potential to bring about lasting change.

To what extent should proposals avoid overlap between programme themes?
We recognise that there is overlap between the different thematic areas and that it will be impossible to avoid this.

The Guidance Notes imply that DFID has a preference for funding only one consortium per theme. To what extent is a bid expected to address all impact, outcome and output areas outlined in each ToR?
A consortium does not need to meet all the impact, outcome and outputs areas outlined.

How is DFID intending to address intersectionality? Can a consortium put forward a proposal across one or more themes?
We recognise that there is considerable intersectionality across these thematic areas and we recognise that proposals for one thematic area will include work addressing some of the other thematic areas.  

The consortium partner template asks for information about the organisation’s ‘fund management ‘ history. Does this refer to all restricted grant funds received or DFID funds only?
It refers to all funds.

Is DFID expecting to see the names of experts/key staff in the technical and budget proposals?
No

Bearing in mind that you wish the consortia to be made up of a range of stakeholders - e.g. private companies, think tanks, philanthropic organisations and so on - will any of those types of organisation be involved in assessing the applications?
The proposals will be assessed by DFID staff who have experience of working with those organisations.

Consortia

Will DFID get involved in the final creation of the winning consortia selecting organisations among different consortia members?
There will be a co-creation stage where we will be discussing the skills and capacity needed but DFID will not be directly involved in creating the final consortia.

Can we know which other organisations are forming a consortium so that we can see if we can contribute complimentary aspects?
It would not be possible for DFID to do that. Bond has a page on it's website where you can share your details to be put in touch with other organisations on the same theme: www.bond.org.uk/aid-connect-2017 [please note submissions for this are now closed]

What are the expectations regarding split of work between different members of the consortium?
The pre-requisite is that the consortia members are able to demonstrate real added value to the proposed intervention, whether it is by virtue of their technical capacity and skills or geographic location.

From past DFID experience what is a size of consortium that works well? Five or six members?
During our discussion and dialogue with CSOs we received feedback highlighting a range of opinions on the most effective size for consortia. A number of people providing feedback indicated that a smaller number of consortia members can be easier to manage.

Could you confirm what the minimum size for a consortium is?
We are not specifying a minimum number of partners, but are leaving that up to the consortium to make the case for what they feel is the best size.

Can a consortium's membership change after proposal submission and during co-creation phase (e.g. adding a member)?
Yes, there will be opportunities to modify consortia membership during co-creation phase.

Is there a preference for geographic vs technical complementarity among consortia members.
The pre-requisite is that the consortia members are able to demonstrate real added value to the proposed intervention whether it be by virtue of their technical capacity and skills or geographic location. We would, though, strongly encourage partners from the global south included wherever possible.

What does Aid Connect expect in terms of engagement and the role “southern” (national or local) NGOs in consortia building.
This, will in part, be determined by the thematic challenge, however, we would strongly encourage engagement with partners from the global south both in terms of developing local capacity and the added value they can bring to an intervention.

There are going to be quite a few overlaps between themes. For example, if we looked at the human trafficking of those who identify as LGBTQI, this could fall under three themes. What is the plan for managing this? Will consortia be talking to each other throughout?
Yes we will endeavour to ensure that there is discussion and dialogue between the different consortia.

How is DFID expected to engage in the co-creation phase – both at HQ level and at country-level? And how should consortia include DFID related costs in their bids?
UK Aid Connect is a centrally-managed programme, with the Policy Team Leads based in HQ. Selected consortia will work with the HQ Policy team leads during the co-creation phase.

DFID is encouraging diverse partnerships in order to tackle the most challenging development problems. These types of non-traditional groupings will carry a degree of risk as their modes of working and ways of prioritising process and resultsmay diverge. What is DFID's appetite for taking on the risk of a truly multi-sector consortium?
Yes we understand that there will be risks involved in this work.  It is important that the consortia show that they understand the risks involved and have plans to mitigate and address these risks.

Eligibility

Are non-UK based organizations eligible to apply to UK Aid Connect? (from the FAQs)
Yes. The only pre-requisite is that the consortium must nominate one lead organisation who will be the grant-holder to DFID.  The consortium lead must be a registered non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation which supports the delivery of poverty reduction.

Can a UN Agency be nominated to lead a consortium? (from the FAQs)
No. UK Aid Connect is specifically set up for the award of accountable grants.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) arrangement with the UN or any other multilateral agency would not fall in line with the principles of UK Aid Connect. However, DFID strongly encourages agencies who fall into this category to join a consortium and put in place a separate arrangement with the consortium-lead.

Can a private sector organization be nominated to lead a consortium? (from the FAQs)
No. UK Aid Connect is specifically set up for the award of accountable grants to non-governmental, not-for-profit organisations.   However, DFID strongly encourages private sector partners to join a consortium and put in place a separate arrangement with the consortium-lead.

Is it mandatory that my organization needs to be based in the DFID priority countries? (from the FAQs)
UK Aid Connect grants will be awarded to consortia for work in or for the benefit of people in countries ranked in the bottom 50 countries in the Human Development Index and/or those on DFID’s fragile states list. The Consortia do not need to be based there.

What is the elegibility criteria for consortium members - legal status and geographical location? 
DFID does not want to be prescriptive on this. The eligibility of consortium members is their demonstrated skills and capacity to add value to the intervention.

Location

India was previously on the list of eligible countries but does not appear on the lists featured in the terms of reference.   What is this status of India? (from the FAQs)        
India appeared on the eligible countries list on the UK Aid Connect website in error and has been removed from the list.   It is not an eligible country. 

The priority countries listed in the original summary are much narrower than those included in the full information pack. Is this first listing reflective of the geographic priority?
The website is just a snapshot, the guidance material has the full list. There is no geographical priority from the first listing.

Given that there will be one commissioned consortium project per theme, will preference be given to a consortium that covers various global regions, or will a bid covering a particular region be considered competitive? How about a bid covering a single country?
The pre-requisite is that the consortia members are able to demonstrate real added value to the proposed intervention whether it be by virtue of their technical capacity and skills or geographic location. DFID does not want to be prescriptive on this front. However, in recognition of the rationale for UK Aid Connect that problems are broad and complex and are better addressed by a coalition of diverse partners, we would expect bids to reflect this but we are not insisting that, for example, the private sector has to be included.We would, though, strongly encourage partners from the global south included wherever possible.

Where there are opportunities to do some work in the UK to compliment programmes happening overseas is this something that would be acceptable- ie some advocacy or awareness raising streams in the UK?
UK Aid Connect grants will be awarded to consortia for work in, or for the benefit of, people in countries recorded in the eligible country list. So if work in the UK can be shown to directly benefit people in those countries, it would be acceptable.

Is there an expectation/preference for regional or multi-country proposals?
We want to leave it as open as possible.

Is it possible to present a project idea with the possibility of identifying the countries that the project will focus on at the inception phase?
Yes this would be possible if it was explained why the countries needed to be identified during the co-creation phase.

Has the list of eligible countries has changed? There are lists where, for example, Syria is not included but it was included previously. If they have changed please could we have clarification on what is an eligible country?
The lists have not changed and Syria is an eligible country. The full list of countries can be seen in the Terms of Reference documents on the Aid Connect website, the list of countries on the front page is only a snapshot 

Innovation and scalability

We would welcome some clarity around the requirement to prove scalability while also coming up with new and innovative approaches.
The specific results delivered by each consortium will in part be determined by the nature of the issues to be addressed in those particular policy and thematic areas. However, we envisage the consortia will produce rigorous and influential practical evidence, knowledge and learning on the eight thematic areas. This will include the consortia explaining how they will effectively scale up effective approaches and how they will gather sufficiently rigorous information to be able to show that this has been successful. 

What is DFID's appetite for risk with Aid Connect? Is it similar to other civil society mechanisms?
We are very interested in exciting and innovative approaches. We recognise that this involves risk. We are keen that proposals understand and identify the levels of risks, including setting out how the consortium will manage and mitigate the risks.

With regards to innovation, could it be something that is already being done, just not in the field in question?
We would be interested in approaches if they were innovative for the thematic area in question.

Does the focus on new and innovative ideas preclude work to scale out existing mechanisms?
UK Aid Connect is focused on identifying and developing new and exciting approaches. This does not preclude scaling up existing effective approaches, but they would need to be validated in order to be scaled up.

If we have a successful pilot that we would like to test in other contexts in order to prove scalability- is that within what AidConnect is interested in funding? 
Yes as part of an overall coherent programme, not just as a standalone pilot.

We would welcome some clarity around the requirement to prove scalability while also coming up with new and innovative approaches. The Terms of Reference note that ‘Testing the viability of scaling up effective approaches’ is possible. Do we understand correctly that full scale up is not envisaged under AidConnect? How much actual taking to scale is possible under an AidConnect Programme? 
Aid Connect has the objective to validate approaches that can be scaled up. There may be some scaling up to test these approaches. We will respond on the point around how to prove scalability in future FAQs.

Does this mean DFID intends to have a second phase to AC which would involve delivering at scale?
UK Aid Connect is focused on work to validate the effectiveness of different approaches ability to be delivered at scale. There will be a variety of opportunities inside and outside of DFID to scale up exciting initiatives at later stages. UK Aid Connect will focus on validating effective approaches which could be scaled.

Finance and budget

What is the proposed level of funding? (from the FAQs)
We anticipate that grant awards will be for circa £3m per year up to four years.   The exception to this is Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, where the funding levels will be circa £9m per year up to four years, following on from a commitment made at the Family Planning Summit on 11 July.

In respective to preparing our budgets, can DFID clarify what core staff costs are eligible? (from the FAQs)
Eligible staff costs include all costs associated with staff either working directly on the delivery of the intervention or indirectly e.g. a percentage of costs of HQ staff costs (HR, finance etc).  It does not cover the costs of staff not involved with supporting or directly delivering the programme.

Can a consortium make the case for partial payment in advance on the basis that particular members’ project expenditure is greater than 20% of their unrestricted reserves?
Yes.

Under Aid Direct, DFID funding rules prohibit an organisation from receiving more than 40% of its income from DFID grants in each project year. Are there similar thresholds for Aid Connect, and how do those rules apply in a consortium, especially for the lead member.
No, the threshold rules will not be applied to UK Aid Connect.

The TORs refer to a 6-9 month co-creation phase. Can the budget be updated during the project to account for the actual length of this process?
Your initial budget proposal should provide provision for the co-creation phase. However, yes, budgets can be adjusted with agreement from DFID to reflect any changes to the timeframe.

For the purposes of the yearly indicative budget which is to be broken down by “components”, can you give some more guidance on how a “component” is to be defined?
High level work streams.

It would be useful to understand why there is no indirect core cost recovery within this programme?
All costs associated with the delivery of the intervention, including indirect costs can be included as long as it can be demonstrated that the costs are related to the programme. proposed intervention.

Can you give some more guidance on what is expected in terms of the co-creation phase eg are meetings to be budgeted for in both the UK and programme countries, frequency of meetings etc? What is the expected level of involvement of the DFID staff? Is there any guidance on the amount of the funds available that should be used for the co-creation phase and what costs can/should be included? For instance are staff costs allowed for the co-creation phase?
All costs, including staff costs, should be budgeted for. You should also factor in country visits as part of the design phase, if you are planning to co-design the programme with in-country partners but all meetings with DFID will be in the UK. The DFID Policy Lead for each thematic area will be engaged throughout the co-creation phase – we would anticipate monthly meetings during the co-creation phase.

We understand that we have to budget for the co-creation phase. Could DFID provide some more guidance so we understand what to budget for?
We are interested to see how you want to use the opportunity of the co-creation phase.

Are there any rules or guidance around size of grant vs size of organisational budget? 
There are no specific rules. All costs need to be justified and an explanation of why they are needed to meet the objectives of the programme.

Can you confirm when payments will be made? You previously said they were paid against outputs measured by quaterly report submission but wanted to confirm that this is not a payment by results model?
It is not PBR, disbursements will be made on the basis of quarterly reports accounting for actual spend and will be accompanied by a quarterly narrative report on progress against agreed milestone outputs.

Theme-specific

Under the Building Civil Society Effectiveness program area, is there room to focus on capacity strengthening of local organizations around a humanitarian context given that a number of the targeted countries are in the midst of conflict?
Yes as long as they fit into a coherent overall programme design.

In the building civil society effectiveness ToR, humanitarian assistance is mentioned a few times in the context description, but in the expected impact and outcomes this is not included. Is strengthening the capacity of the national NGOs/civil society to deliver humanitarian services seen as falling within the scope of this ToR?
Yes.

Given the complexity of the issues identified in the Guidance Note on security/stability and in the ‘five blocks’ referenced, it seems unrealistic to expect one consortium to address all this. What is your view?
We agree that given the complexity of the issue any one consortium is unlikely to be able to solve all of the development issues in that area.

In response to the Global Security & Stability TOR, does DFiD envisage selected geographies (pilot sites) be proposed in the bid, or, will this be worked out with DFiD during the co-creation phase?
We would certainly be interested in your ideas on where you plan to work.  However there will also be opportunities to discuss and modify this during the co-creation phase.

Given the focus of the Global Security and Stability call is very closely related to the CSSF priorities, will DfID be open to projects which relate to or build upon CSSF funded activity (current or proposed)? 
We would welcome any proposals that demonstrate complementarity with other initiatives.

Have any other NGOs who are supported/funded by USAID, reached out to you regarding this opportunity (Phase 1 promoting SRHR) and possible challenges faced in relation to the Mexico City Policy, and the (or vs. the) UK’s policy position on safe and unsafe abortion? If yes, how are they tackling this and are they still able to apply?
We would want a consortium to work within the context of our published position, as part of comprehensive SRHR. If particular partners within a consortium are not able to support this, it is for the consortium to come up with a way-of-working that manages this while still covering comprehensive services. We are unable to provide direct advice on USAID positions. Our published position on safe abortion sets out how our support always operates in the context of local laws.  

Outcomes

What is the scale of what is expected to be achieved through the fund?
DFID anticipate the grants awarded will be around £3 million per year for up four years, and therefore the level of outputs and outcomes will be within this range.

Are consortia expected to cover all the outcomes which are defined within each of the TORs or can they focus on selected outcomes?
Consortia don’t have to cover all the outcomes – they are there for guidance and they can focus on selected outcomes.

Meetings and further info

What happens if my organisation is unable to attend the thematic dialogue discussions hosted by DFID during the w/c 24 July? (from the FAQs)
DFID will upload the presentations, summary of the discussions and list of attendees on UK Aid Connect - GOV.UK after each event.
Your organisation can also send questions or seek clarifications by emailing the UK Aid Connect Team on UKAidConnect@dfid.gov.uk

Will there be webex/dial-in facilities for the information sessions on each of the thematic area? 
DFID is unable to provide this facility for the events. 

What is the format for the DFID-held meetings?
Agenda: (i) introduction to UK Aid Connect. (ii) Presentation of the thematic TOR; (iii) Q&A and Discussion.

Future

Does DFID anticipate future rounds of funding covering different themes? and if so, when would future calls be expected?
It is too early to say. This will be subject to the allocation of funds during phases 1 and 2 and the potential availability of funds next year.

In our experience consortia take a lot of up front investment to develop and then tend to provide big benefits if they succeed. Is there a longer term strategy of how to use/support the consortia post this round of UK Aid Connect? Is that is what is being alluded to in the multiple references to potential to scale?
It is too early to say. This will be subject to the allocation of funds during phases 1 and 2 and the potential availability of funds next year.

Other

Does DFID have a preference (or minimum) as to how many countries/ contexts interventions are tested in in order to get context comparisons (depth vs breadth question)?
DFID does not have a preference.

There is overlap in the themes (e.g. LGBT and disability inclusion), could we build in mechanisms to address intersectionality - with requisite financial provision - into a consortium proposal?
Yes

The overall goal of the Aid Connect programme is poverty reduction - does this need to be explicit in the project impact statement, or can the link to poverty reduction be made in the body of the proposal in section 1.2?
Yes, poverty reduction should be explicitly stated in the impact statement.

Is DfID interested in picking up only one project per theme or more than one?
We anticipate one consortium per theme but the final decision will be made on the basis of the quality of the proposals submitted. DFID will also reserve the right to not fund one or more thematic areas if the bids do not meet the required standard.

DFID has shown strong commitment to addressing disability - how key is inclusion of disability issues and data dissertation in all the themes (not just the disability inclusion one)?
Yes.  It is important to address the issue of disability inclusion in all the thematic areas not just the disability inclusion thematic area.

Can a consortium as part of its intervention look to develop a further down stream grant facility?
Yes as long as there is an explanation as to why this is needed to meet the overall objectives of the programme.

In the briefing meetings, there was a very clear and understandable directive not to focus on content production but on the production capabilities of local actors. Can DfID clarify that the project teams would manage and support the consortia in identifying how to develop that capability into content production without DfiD branding or funding and to ensuring internal sign off for this at the planning stage?
We would permit work on production capability that was not directly content production, for example supporting development of networks of media producers to distribute and exchange news content. We appreciate that how to distinguish between media content and media production capability needs clarification. That would be done during the co-creation phase with DFID.