REQUEST FOR APPLICATIONS (RFA)

FOR PROJECTS ON JOURNALIST EDUCATION ON ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT REFORMS

Issuance Date: September 30, 2011
Deadline for Receipt of Questions: October 17, 2011 by 5 p.m. CET
Closing Date/Time for Submission of Applications: October 24, 2011 by 5 p.m. CET

SUBJECT:   Request for Applications (RFA) Number: RFA-2011-05

The USAID Business Enabling Project in Serbia (Project), a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded contract implemented by Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd., is seeking applications from qualified, legally registered US, Serbian, or a third country non-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for a grant to train Serbian journalists on economic, financial sector, and business environment issues. Organizations are encouraged to form consortia to provide relevant trainings.

The Successful Applicant will be responsible for ensuring achievement of specified grant objectives.

This RFA consists of the following sections:

  • Section 1 – Funding Opportunity Description
  • Section 2 – Award Information
  • Section 3 – Eligibility Information
  • Section 4 – Application and Submission Information
  • Section 5 – Application Review Information
  • Section 6 – Award and Administration Information
  • Section 7 – Annexes

Pursuant to 22 CFR 226.81, it is USAID policy not to award profit under assistance instruments. However, all reasonable, allocable and allowable expenses, both direct and indirect, which are related to the grant activity and are in accordance with applicable cost standards (22 CFR 226, OMB Circular A-122 for non-profit organizations, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 31 for for-profit organizations, and OMB Circular A-21 for educational institutions), may be paid under the Award.

Subject to the availability of funds, the Project intends to provide up to 1,200,000 RSD (Serbian dinars) in total funding to be allocated over a six month period.

The Project reserves the right to fund any or none of the applications submitted. Issuance of this RFA does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Project, nor does it commit the Project to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of an application. Further, the Project reserves the right to reject any or all applications received if such action is considered to be in the best interest of the US Government. Applications are submitted at the risk of the Applicant; should circumstances prevent making an award, all preparation and submission costs are at the Applicant’s expense.

Organizations are strongly encouraged to form consortia to prepare responsive applications to this RFA.  A consortium should be represented by a primeapplicant that will submit the application on behalf of the consortium.

Applicants should submit any questions concerning this RFA in writing, electronically, via email to grants@bep.rs. The deadline for receipt of requests for clarifications/explanations is October 17, 2011, by is 17:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. No questions will be accepted after this date.

Applicants should submit applications in writing to: Zorana Gajic, electronically, via email at grants@bep.rs. The Closing Date for submission of applications is October 24, 2011, and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 17:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. Late applications will not be considered.


Section 1 – Funding Opportunity Description

A. Background

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a contract to Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd. (formerly Emerging Markets Group, Ltd.) for the USAID Business Enabling Project in Serbia. The purpose of the Business Enabling Project is to help the Government of Serbia (GoS) improve the competitiveness of the Serbian economy and its private sector businesses. The overall objective is to assist GoS policy makers, business representatives, experts, and others to improve the business enabling environment and macroeconomic framework. The Project provides technical assistance and training to improve the business enabling environment, support macroeconomic stability, further develop financial markets, and improve and increase business and financial management capacities within government and business. The Business Enabling Project is made up of four components:

  1. Component 1 – Business Regulation and Economic Governance: Assist Serbia to improve its business regulation and economic governance, particularly in those areas where it performs poorly in international competitiveness and business environment rankings, so that it can better stimulate private sector growth and development and attract more foreign and domestic investment resources.

  2. Component 2 – Macroeconomic Policy and Public Financial Management: Assist the GoS and the National Bank of Serbia to improve macroeconomic policy, public financial management, and financial stability. Support efforts to improve GoS capacity to develop and implement fiscal policy.

  3. Component 3 – Financial Market Development: Support means to increase access to finance, including development of non bank financial institutions. Also, support the development of Serbia’s capital markets through improvements in market governance, accounting and disclosure standards. Support Serbia in its efforts to reform accounting and audit standards and practices and assist it in implementing those reforms.

  4. Component 4 – Business-Education Partnerships: Support improvements in business management education in Serbia, through support to public-private partnerships with private businesses and universities in Serbia and the US, to improve and broaden curricula in business management faculties, support exchanges between Serbian and US university faculties and students, and foster closer relationships between business management facilties and businesses in Serbia.  This component is on hold, pending further instructions from USAID.

The Project’s activities in Components 1, 2, and 3 are described in more detail on Project’s website: www.bep.rs and in Annexes 1, 2, and 3 to this RFA.

To accomplish reforms in each of these areas the Project helps the Government of Serbia work closely with the private sector and outside experts to make reforms that improve business competitiveness.

The media are an important part of the Project’s methodology for achieving reforms.  The media is a valuable conduit to educate key stakeholders – including Government, private sector, civil society, and citizens – on economic, financial sector, and business environment issues. The media also helps the project in its effort to communicate regularly and effectively with these stakeholders and help them communicate with each other.  The media also serves as a “watchdog,” monitoring how the Government implements reforms. The purpose of this RFA is to solicit applications to support the Project by increasing skills of journalists through provision of an innovative and practical training program for journalists. 


B. Grant activity Description

Problem Statement

The Project works directly with GoS, experts, business associations, and donor programs to develop and implement business environment, economic policy and financial sector reforms that will enable Serbian firms to compete in domestic and international markets.  The project interacts with these partners on a daily basis, engaging in joint activities based on action plans that each partner has committed to.  This daily engagement with partners is supplemented by an outreach program that helps to build demand for reforms, overcome resistance to reforms, educate target audiences on reforms that are being implemented, and monitor reforms.

Thus the outreach program includes direct communications by the project with partners in the Government and with business associations as well as communication with these and other target audiences through the media.  The project also seeks to improve the Government’s and business associations’ abilities to communicate to each other and to communicate with their other constituents through the media.

The media is an important player in Serbia’s efforts to properly reform its economic policy, regulatory framework and institutions, and financial sector.  The media can educate key stakeholders – including Government, private sector, civil society, and citizens – on important economic, financial sector, and business environment issues. The media can advise these stakeholders on reforms that are being implemented, so stakeholders know their rights and responsibilities.  The media can also serve as a “watchdog,” monitoring how the Government implements reforms.

The Serbian media is less effective than it could be in helping to move reforms forward due to several factors.  The media has been impacted greatly by the recent financial crisis. Domestic and foreign companies cut their marketing budgets severely which consequently led to a number of media outlets to be left without stable incomes. Many of the outlets were forced to slash their workforce. These cuts in revenues and staff have reduced investigative, independent and provocative journalism.   

In addition, methods for delivery are changing rapidly, with Internet delivery increasing market share. A recent survey found that 43 percent of Serbians are using the Internet and 45 percent of those using the Internet obtain news on the Internet.  www.blic.rs has more than 400.000 unique visits per day, and www.b92.net has also experienced a rapid increase in unique visits. In addition, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) have become a powerful tool for information to be disseminated.

A lack of proper training for journalists is another reason for the ineffectiveness of the Serbian media in fulfilling its role in economic and business environment reforms.  Journalism faculties are not up to international standards, particularly because of a lack of emphasis on building practical skills.  Journalism faculties do not include training on economics or business management.  There is little formal training provided by media companies and very few opportunities for continuing education of journalists.  While there are some excellent senior journalists in Serbia, only a limited number of less-experienced journalist have access to learning from them.

The lack of training is a particular problem in reporting on business and economic issues. Outlets are understaffed and because of that, editors are forced to have journalists covering a variety of topics, regardless of their previous knowledge or involvement in the topic. Economic reporting is often a pure copy/paste of the press releases. Journalists often can’t analyze the economic consequences or impact on businesses and citizens of decisions made by the Government or National Bank, and don’t understand the analysis of independent experts.   

As a result, the Serbian media does not have the expertise in economic and business issues necessary to educate stakeholders and monitor reforms.  This includes substantive expertise in these areas as well as journalistic ability to investigate and report on issues in these areas.

The Business Enabling Project is working closely with journalists and has provided training and helped journalists develop stories.  The project also organizes a media brunch each month in which economics experts give a presentation and answer questions from journalists. 

To increase the Serbian media’s expertise in reporting on issues in the areas of the business environment, economic policy, and financial sector, the Project will provide a grant for training journalists.  

Grant Activities

The Business Enabling Project intends to award a grant to a qualified organization to help journalists increase their knowledge and skills in reporting on economic policy, business environment, and financial sector issues.  The objective of the grant is to provide sufficient training, mentoring, and tools for reporting that allow the trained journalists to publish high quality pieces on economic policy, business environment, and financial sector issues. 

It is expected that the grantee will be able to accomplish the following tasks during the six month grant period:

I Develop training modules and agendas

This grantee should review GoS strategies, USAID BEP work plans, and ascertain journalists demand for training (subjects, methodology for delivery of training).  The grantee should determine the methods for training delivery.  The grantee should identify motivations and incentives for journalists to participate in and apply the training.  The grantee should then provide USAID BEP with draft training modules.

Subjects for training should be related to the Components and Activities in the USAID BEP Project, and could include:

  • Commercial law and business regulations
  • Measuring the quality of the business environment
  • Public sector administration and its role in improving the business environment
  • Macroeconomic policy and key elements of the Government’s economic strategy
  • Fiscal policy and public sector financial management
  • Small and medium businesses access to finance
  • Role of finance in economic development and poverty alleviation

Methods for training should be appropriate for the target audience, i.e. journalists, and should maximize the impact of the training. It could include both in-person and distance learning methodologies if appropriate; and classroom and on-the-job training if appropriate. Training should be practical, with writing exercises and simulations, and it should incorporate actual reporting as part of on-the-job training.

By the conclusion of the training, participating training should have the skills to complete high quality reporting and investigative journalism on economic, business environment, and finance topics. The should be able to develop a concept or story, engage in research, conduct probing interviews, analyze information, produce interesting reports, and communicate effectively in written and/or verbal reports.

Training should target both senior journalists and less experienced journalists, and the training or some parts of it should be segregated between these groups, with different training techniques and content. Thus training for senior journalists should be more in the nature of symposiums with exchanges of experiences and ideas between the participants, while the training for less experience journalists uses more traditional teaching techniques. However, for both groups the training should be innovative and interactive and should include discussions on reporting on current issues in Serbia.

Journalists from various regions in Serbia should participate in the training and the Grantee will need to develop means to reach journalists outside Belgrade and include them in the training program.

Trainers should be a combination of subject matter experts and journalism experts. Trainers can include Serbian and regional or EU experts or journalists as appropriate. The grantee should consider including Government officials as trainers, to facilitate a two-way discussion of how to improve communications between Government and the media.

If it would increase the impact of the program, the grantee could add a program to train journalism students, possibly in collaboration with a journalism faculty and/or media companies.

II Train trainers

The grantee will organize a train the trainers program for all trainers that will deliver training under the grant.  This session will also serve to test the training methodologies and content.  If necessary, the USAID BEP project can provide assistance in training the trainers.

III Conduct training 

The grantee will conduct a training program for between ten and 15 journalists.  The grantee will develop criteria for selection of journalists, building journalists’ interest in the program, and review of applications for the training.  The grantee will review applications and select participants with input from USAID BEP.  Journalists should come from all regions in Serbia.

The grantee will manage all aspects of the training program and will be responsible for organizing the activities, preparing materials, and assuring quality training and maximum impact.  The training program should be practical and interactive, challenging the journalists to improve their skills and apply the knowledge gained from the training program.  The training program should be replicable, and aspects of it, including materials, should be usable as stand-alone means for delivery of training, knowledge or information for journalists.

IV Identify and implement means to make training sustainable

Before, during and after the training the Grantee should identify means for the training program to be sustainable.  This entails two aspects of sustainability: 1) sustainability of journalists’ knowledge and quality reporting, and 2) sustainability of the training program itself. 

The primary goal of this Grant is for the journalists who are trained to be able to report on economic policy and business environment issues.  In other words, what the journalists learn should be reflected in their reporting, and this should continue after the end of the Grant.  Prior to beginning the training and as the training evolves, the Grantee should identify means to help the journalists apply the knowledge gained during the training program.

Efforts to maximize sustainability of the training program should include identifying partners to take over the training, sources of funding, and donors/sponsors. The Grantee should also identify means to deliver training via the Internet, including use of the USAID BEP project-sponsored website: www.policycafe.rs to continue to deliver training. Upon agreement with USAID BEP, the Grantee should implement these means for sustainability so that aspects of the training, including materials, are available to journalists after the end of the Grant.

VIII Draft Report on Training

The report should include a summary of the training, including methodology, subjects, evaluations by the trainers and journalists, how the training is being applied by the journalists.  The report should also set forth lessons learned and recommendations for future trainings.  It should include modules, presentations, and reports from each training as annexes.

Section 2 – Award Information

Subject to the availability of funds, the Project intends to provide up to 1,200,000 RSD (Serbian Dinars) in total funding to be allocated over a six month period. The anticipated period of performance of the grant is expected to start from November 2011. The Project anticipates awarding one Fixed Obligation Grant under this RFA. Under a Fixed-Obligation Grant, all payments will be a fixed-sum payable upon completion of deliverables, which will be defined in detail during grant agreement negotiations.

Section 3 – Eligibility Information

Eligible organizations shall be able to comply with and achieve the proposed Program Description, Tasks, and Results and have a satisfactory performance record and record of integrity and business ethics.

Eligible organizations include legally registered US, Serbian, and third country non-for-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Prior to the award of grant under this RFA, successful Applicants will be required to sign a Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing certifying that the Applicant’s organization does not provide and has never provided assistance to terrorists for terrorist activities. Successful Applicants may also be required to sign other Certifications as applicable to the award. The Certifications are attached as Annex 4 of this RFA.

Ineligible organizations include:

  • Public International Organizations;
  • Entities that have misused USAID funds in the past, organizations that advocate, promote or espouse anti-democratic policies or illegal activities;
  • Political parties or institutions;
  • Organizations that intend to use the grant for religious objectives;
  • Organizations that are on the list of parties excluded from federal procurement and non-procurement programs or the United Nations Security Sanctions Committee.

Section 4 – Application and Submission Information

Applicants should submit applications in writing to: Zorana Gajic electronically, via email at grants@bep.rs. The Closing Date for submission of applications is October 24, 2011, and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 17:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. Late applications will not be considered.

All applications in response to this RFA shall consist of a technical proposal and a budget proposal. The technical proposal must not be longer than 15 pages in length. Pages submitted in excess of 15 pages will not be reviewed. The cost proposal shall be submitted as a separate file from the technical proposal. The required format for applications is included as Annex 5 - Full Application Form and Annex 5A – Budget Form.

Section 5 – Application Review Information

Applications will be evaluated in accordance with the criteria set forth below. The criteria have been tailored to the requirements of this RFA. Applications should note that these criteria serve to: (a) identify the significant matters which Applicants should address in their applications; and (b) set the standard against which all applications will be evaluated.

To the extent necessary, the Project may request clarification and supplemental materials from Applicants whose applications have a reasonable chance of being selected for Award. The entry into discussion is to be viewed as part of the evaluation process and shall not be deemed as indicative of a decision or commitment upon the part of the Project to make an award to the Applicants with whom discussions are being held.
Applications will be evaluated by the Grants Selection Committee on the basis of 100 possible points. The weighting of various sections will be as follows:

Category

Maximum Points (100 Total)

Understanding of Key Issues
Methodology, Activities and Outcomes
Staffing/Management Plan
Relevant Past Experience and Performance
Cost Realism
Total Possible Points

10
40
20
10
20
100

1. Understanding of the Key Issues (10 points): Does the applicant demonstrate a clear understanding of the problems/key issues that the proposed grant activity will address? Are the overall goal and objectives of the proposed grant activity clearly stated and achievable? What skills and knowledge are most needed by Serbian journalists?

2. Methodology and Activities (40 points): Is the methodology to conduct the training program clear? Are the activities stated in detail?  Are the expected outcomes and impacts stated in detail?  Does the applicant demonstrate how the activities will obtain the desired results?  Does the applicant provide innovative and practical ideas to respond to the following issues:

  • How can journalists be motivated and incentivized to participate in the training and apply it to their work?
  • What methods for practical and interactive training will be most effective?
  • How should the participants in the training be selected?
  • How will the training program be sustainable?

3. Staffing/Management Plan (20 points): Does the proposed staffing/management plan reflect the personnel/management needs of the grant activity? Does the applicant propose personnel with experience and skills necessary to successfully implement the proposed activities?

4. Relevant Past Experience and Performance (10 points): Does the organization/consortium have relevant past experience successfully implementing similar activities (conducting training programs, including training for journalists)?

5. Cost Realism (20 points): Is the proposed budget realistic, well-thought out, and in-line with the proposed activities? Are the proposed costs reasonable, allowable and allocable to the grant? Is the grantee contributing cost-share or providing in-kind support?

The selection of the Applicant for award will be made by the Project’s Grant Selection Committee. Prior to the award of any resultant grant agreement, the Project must obtain prior approval from USAID.

Section 6 – Award and Administration Information

Before the applications’ specified expiration date, successful applicant(s) will receive written notice from the Grants Manager informing the applicant(s) that the Project either intends to award a grant to the applicant without negotiation, or that the Project intends to engage the applicant(s) in further negotiations with respect to a potential grant award. Negotiations conducted after the receipt of an application do not constitute an obligation on the part of the Project to award a grant. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing by the Grants Manager.

Any resultant award will be subject to the terms and conditions of the Prime Contract for the USAID Business Enabling Project (for US organizations: 22 CFR 226, OMB Circulars, and the Standard Provisions for U.S. Non-governmental Recipients; for non-US organizations: Standard Provisions for Non-U.S. Non-governmental Recipients).

Section 7: Annexes

Annex 1: Component 1 – Business Regulation and Economic Governance - Description
Annex 2: Component 2 – Macroeconomic Policy and Public Financial Management - Description
Annex 3: Component 3 – Financial Market Development - Description
Annex 4: Certifications
Annex 5: Full Grant Application Form and (5A) Budget Form


 

 

 

 







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