Dear AEA365 readers, I’m Sara Vaca (independent evaluator), bringing my monthly Saturday post. I started consulting in 2013 and I must have conducted 20-ish evaluations since then. In order to do that, I must have sent out 100-ish proposal applications. Here are some reflections from that experience…
Lessons Learned: About how it works
- Once you start building your network (organizations and evaluators who know you personally), sometimes work comes magically to your inbox. However, most of the time you have to apply, responding to published Requests for Proposals or Terms of Reference (ToR), to be considered to conduct an evaluation.
- For good or for bad, organisations (at least NGOs and UN Agencies) have reached a rather standardised way of crafting the ToRs. Very often, you find something similar to this in the “How to apply” section:
In responding to this call for expressions of interest evaluators are to outline:
- An evaluation methodology not exceeding (from 2 to 10) pages which includes the methodology and data collection tools that the evaluator proposes to use.
- Proposed timeline for the evaluation
- A detailed budget for the proposal
Lessons Learned: About how I react
As a consultant looking for contracts, you have decisions to make:
- First: is it worth investing 3-8 hours to prepare a methodological proposal? In my work flow, I tend to apply only when asked simply for a cover letter and I usually get by like that, unless my last contract is finishing and nothing has come up yet (like now! ;-P). Then, I have to be more invested and spend time preparing longer applications.
- Second: you wonder what commissioners are looking for? Often ToRs already suggest methods, sometimes approaches, timeline, etc. Are they are looking for innovation? Your explanation with your own words? In-depth details? New ideas?
And I always think: What?? 6, 10 pages?? I’m not going to write 10 pages. But if I decide to apply, explaining and justifying Approach, Design, Methods, Participation, Sampling, Analysis methods and Ethical questions quickly adds up to more than 10 pages – which on the other hand is basically the content of the Inception Report (initial product you are asked for, explaining the methodology in detail, but with insufficient information (still you need to do it though).
Also, although I know the catalogue of choices is broad and evaluations vary greatly, I often feel it is the same design over and over, and what seem like big differences, are in fact, subtle in practice.
Hot Tip: Finally, not a tip, but request for tips:
- I invite commissioners to share what they are looking for when they ask for technical proposals and timeframe. Could there be a more efficient way of selecting consultants?
- For veteran evaluators: how do you approach this process?
Many thanks 🙂
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