Want to Destabilize Cuba? State Dept. Wants You to Know You Are but a Grant Proposal Away

Posted on July 9, 2010



Request for Proposals:
To Expand Cuban Civic Participation and Leadership
in Social Relationships and Independent Civil Society Groups
June 28, 2010

Department of State
Public Notice

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Proposals: To expand Cuban civic participation and leadership in social relationships and independent civil society groups with a view to supporting the ability of Cuban citizens to freely determine their own future.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Proposals from organizations interested in submitting proposals for projects that respond to the needs and interests of Cubans on the island and empower citizens on the island to meaningfully engage in key civic social activities and decisions that improve their lives.

PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly urges applicants to access immediately http://www.grants.gov in order to obtain a username and password. It may take two full weeks to register with http://www.grants.gov. Please see the section entitled, “DEADLINE AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS” below for specific instructions.

DRL seeks to complement and enhance its Cuba program by funding a grant or multiple grants with sub-grant components. DRL envisions the use of sub-grants as a flexible tool that can be used to meet (fund) the needs that arise from the island (within the program areas listed below) throughout the life of the award. Partners may include local groups; cooperatives; associations; informal groups; NGOs; student groups; and media outlets.

Successful applicants will be responsible for 1) publicizing the availability of sub-grant funding, so that interested US-based NGOs and/or Cuban partners on the island may propose projects for potential funding as a sub-grant; 2) reviewing and selecting sub-awardees (identifying potential sub-grants and sub-grantees that are appropriate); 3) distributing funds and monitoring sub-awardees’ performance and funds administration; and 4) reporting on the impact of activities carried out through the sub-awards.

Applicants and proposed US-based sub-grantees should be organizations that have contacts with verifiable Cuban partners on the island, from whom they can receive proposals put forth by Cubans for Cuban-conceived and Cuban-led projects worthy of support.
Applicant organizations should demonstrate their capacity and propose a comprehensive plan for administering multiple sub awards and ensuring that funds are used strategically within the scope of the prime grant. Sub-grants may: 1) focus on non-traditional activities or activities that cannot be funded by other donors; and 2) use in-kind grants to support groups that lack financial and organizational capacity.

Applicants should include with their proposal submission (as an Annex that will not count toward page limit) a draft proposed Sub-grant Implementation Manual in compliance with the Department’s terms and conditions and applicable OMB circulars. Grantees will be required to provide DRL, on a quarterly basis, with record of all disbursements made to sub-grantees, breakdown of disbursements, activity funded, and goals reached to-date.

DRL invites organizations to submit proposals outlining program concepts and capacity to manage projects with a sub-grant component, as outlined above, targeting one of the following issues. Proposals that combine topics may be deemed technically ineligible.

Applicants who design a program using a sub-grantee mechanism will be considered highly competitive, but applicants who propose direct implementation of assistance will also be considered. Applicants will be expected to demonstrate that they have the requisite contacts on the island in order to effectively implement assistance directly.o ensure transparency and oversight, DRL reserves the right to request any programmatic and/or financial program information during the grant period.


Political Prisoners (approximately $500,000 available): DRL seeks proposals that will provide humanitarian assistance to family members of Cuban political prisoners. DRL strongly encourages local procurement of food and/or non-food items when available. Humanitarian assistance may be provided in the form of cash or in-kind assistance. Successful proposals will outline the process through which recipients of humanitarian assistance will be selected.

Freedom of Expression (approximately $1,500,000 available): DRL seeks proposals to support greater freedom of expression on the island, especially among performing artists, visual artists, musicians, poets, writers, journalists, and bloggers. Objectives are to increase civic space for expressing opinions openly and sharing ideas, generate increased demand not only for information, per se, but for freedom of expression overall.

Freedom of Religion (approximately $500,000 available): DRL seeks proposals that would support initiatives put forward by on-island religious and spiritual groups to advocate for religious freedom.

Labor Rights/Freedom of Association (approximately $500,000 available): DRL seeks proposals that would support initiatives put forth by Cuban partners such as independent labor unions and/or labor organizations on the island who wish to advocate for workers’ rights and/or the freedom of association.

Women’s Issues (approximately $350,000 available): DRL seeks proposals to strengthen the capacity of on-island independent Cuban civil society groups to advocate for the rights of women. Specifically, funds will support on-island efforts to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls in order to minimize the likelihood that they would participate in commercialized sex for economic reasons, including by raising awareness, education women on their rights, and strengthening women’s ability to advocate for and network among themselves, as well as provide immediate support for victims of sexual exploitation.

Direct Civil Society Support (approximately $300,000 available): DRL seeks proposals to assist groups and individuals on the island, via providing funding to Cubans who request small grants for independent civil society initiatives that are Cuban-conceived and Cuban-led. Projects that emphasize outreach to sectors of civil society who have not previously received support, particularly in regions outside of Havana, will be considered particularly competitive.

Proposals should conform to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI), available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/p/c12302.htm. (For this solicitation, applicants must use the Revised PSI dated March 2010.)

An organization may submit no more than two (2) proposals. Proposals that do not meet the requirements of the announcement and PSI may not be considered. Proposals that combine themes may be deemed technically ineligible. Proposals that request less than the award floor or more than the award ceiling will be deemed technically ineligible.

For all application documents, please ensure:
1) All pages are numbered, including budgets and attachments,
2) All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper, and
3) All Microsoft Word documents are single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with a minimum of 1-inch margins.

Complete applications should include the following for proposal submission:
1) Completed and signed SF-424, SF-424a (Budget Summary) and SF424b (Assurances), as directed on http://www.grants.gov.

2) Table of Contents (not to exceed one [1] page in Microsoft Word) that includes a page-numbered contents page, including any attachments.

3) Executive Summary (not to exceed one [1] page in Microsoft Word) that includes:
The target country,
Name and contact information for the project’s main point of contact,
A one-paragraph “statement of work” or synopsis of the program and its expected results,
A concise breakdown of the project’s objectives and activities,
The total amount of funding requested and program length, and
A brief statement on how the project is innovative, sustainable, and will have a demonstrated impact.
4) Proposal Narrative (not to exceed ten [10] pages in Microsoft Word). Please note the ten page limit does not include the Table of Contents, Executive Summary, Attachments, Detailed Budget, Budget Narrative or NICRA. Applicants may submit multiple documents in one Microsoft Word file, i.e., Table of Contents, Executive Summary, Proposal Narrative, and Budget Narrative in one file or as separate, individually submitted files. Submissions should address four specific criteria (Quality of Program, Program Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives, Multiplier Effect/Sustainability, and Institution’s Record and Capacity). Details about these criteria are described in the Review Process section below.

5) Budget Narrative (preferably in Microsoft Word) that includes an explanation/justification for each line item in the detailed budget spreadsheet, as well as the source and description of all cost-share offered. For ease of review, it is recommended that applicants order the budget narrative as presented in the detailed budget. For each line item included in the budget, provide an explanation/justification and demonstrate that the costs are in proportion to the benefits received. Primarily Headquarters- and Field-based personnel costs should include a clarification on the roles and responsibilities of key staff and percentage of time devoted to the project. In addition, cost-effectiveness is one of the key criteria for rating the competitiveness of a program proposal. It is recommended that budget narratives address the overall cost-effectiveness of the proposal, including any cost-share offered (see the PSI for more information on cost-sharing and cost-effectiveness).

6) Detailed Line-item Budget (in Microsoft Excel or similar spreadsheet format), in 11 point font that contains three [3] columns including DRL request, any cost sharing contribution, and total budget. A summary budget should also be included using the OMB approved budget categories (see SF-424 as a sample). See the PSI for more information on budget format. Costs must be in U.S. Dollars.

7) Attachments (not to exceed seven [7] pages total, preferably in Microsoft Word) that include the following in order:

Pages 1-2: Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (see PSI for more information on this section).
Page 3: Roles and responsibilities of key program personnel with short bios that highlight relevant professional experience. Given the limited space, CVs are not recommended for submission.
Page 4: Timeline of the overall proposal. Components should include activities, evaluation efforts, and program closeout.
Page 5-7: Additional optional attachments. Attachments may include additional timeline information, letters of support, memorandums of understanding/agreement, etc. For applicants with a large number of letters/MOUs, it may be useful to provide a list of the organizations/government agencies that support the program rather than the actual documentation.

8) If your organization has a negotiated indirect cost rate agreement (NICRA) and includes NICRA charges in the budget, your latest NICRA should be sent as a .pdf file. This document will not be reviewed by the panelists, but rather used by program and grant staff if the submission is recommended for funding. Hence, this document does not count against the submission page limitations. If your proposal involves sub-grants to organizations charging indirect costs, and those organizations also have a NICRA, please submit the applicable NICRA as a .pdf file (see the PSI for more information on indirect cost rate).

Organizations must also fill out and submit SF-424, SF-424A, and SF-424B forms as directed on http://www.grants.gov. Please refer to the PSI for directions on how to complete the forms.

Note: To ensure all applications receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Committee will review the first page of the requested section up to the page limit and no further. DRL encourages organizations to use the given space effectively.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor furthers U.S. foreign policy goals by supporting innovative, targeted programs around the world that support the democratization process by strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human rights, and building the capacity of civil society, including a free and independent media. DRL funds projects that potentially can have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms. Projects should have potential for continued funding beyond original resources. DRL-funded projects should be creative and must not duplicate or simply add to efforts by other entities.

DRL will not consider proposals that reflect any type of support, for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization, whether or not elected members of government.

The bulk of project activities must target the requested country and last between one and three years. U.S.-based activities, study tours, scholarships or exchange projects will not be deemed competitive. Projects that have a strong academic, research, conference, or dialogue focus will not be deemed competitive. DRL strongly discourages health, technology, or scientific projects unless they have an explicit component related to the requested program objectives listed above.
Projects that focus on commercial law or economic development will be rated as non-competitive.

Approximately $3,650,000 is available for programs in the country outlined above. The Bureau anticipates making awards in amount of $300,000 up to the maximum available figure listed for each topic.

Organizations submitting proposals must meet the following criteria:

Be a registered U.S. non-profit organization meeting the provisions described in Internal Revenue Code section 26 USC 501(c) (3). Applicants in the process of registration must submit proof that they are seeking non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service at the time of proposal submission. Should the applicant be selected for a grant award, funding will be contingent upon 501(c)(3) status; or
Be a U.S. university or research institution meeting the provisions described in Internal Revenue Code section 26 USC 501(c) (3); and
Have demonstrated experience administering successful projects, preferably targeting the requested country, or similarly challenging program environment. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal grant awards. These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis; and
Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with organization(s) in the target country.
Organizations may form consortia and submit a combined proposal. However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant.

The Bureau will review all proposals for eligibility. Eligible proposals will be subject to compliance of Federal and Bureau regulations and guidelines and may also be reviewed by the Office of the Legal Adviser or by other Department elements. Final signatory authority for assistance awards resides with the Department’s Grants Officer. DRL and the Grants Office reserve the right to request any additional programmatic and/or financial information regarding the proposal.

Proposals will be funded based on an evaluation of how the proposal meets the solicitation review criteria, U.S. foreign policy objectives, and the priority needs of DRL. A Department of State Review Committee will evaluate proposals submitted under this request. Each proposal will be rated along six criteria, which will be equally weighted. Review criteria will include:

1) Quality of Program Idea
Proposals should be responsive to the solicitation and appropriate in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the Bureau’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy. The bureau typically does not fund programs that continue an organization’s ongoing work (funded by the Bureau or other sources), but prioritizes innovative, stand-alone programs. In countries where similar activities are already taking place, an explanation should be provided as to how new activities will not duplicate or merely add to existing activities. In addition, the program idea should incorporate lessons learned from other relevant country programs implemented by the organization.

2) Program Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives
A strong proposal will include a clear articulation of how the proposed program activities contribute to the overall program objectives, and each activity will be clearly developed and detailed. A relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and the logistical capacity of the organization. The work plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable. For complete proposals, applicants should provide a monthly timeline of project activities. Proposals should address how the program will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate. If local partners have been identified, the Bureau strongly encourages applicants to submit letters of support from proposed in-country partners. Additionally, applicants should describe the division of labor among the direct applicant and any local partners. If applicable, proposals should identify target areas for activities, target participant groups or selection criteria for participants, and purpose/criteria for sub-grantees, among other pertinent details. Organizations should detail why a specific program intervention is proposed. For example, if training or workshops are required to achieve the desired result, organizations should specify how the training/workshops will support the overall program goal. Also, organization should ensure that proposed activities are linked to specific outcomes. For example, for trainings/workshops, organizations should detail how trainees will apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired through the training. In addition, organizations should identify and address gender considerations in all proposed program activities, and must provide specific means, measures, and corresponding targets to address them. Organizations should provide details on how women will benefit from and actively participate in project activities. In particularly challenging operating environments, proposals should include contingency plans for overcoming potential difficulties in executing the original work plan.

3) Multiplier Effect/Sustainability
Proposals should clearly delineate how elements of their program will have a multiplier effect and be sustainable beyond the life of the grant. A good multiplier effect may include but is not limited to, plans to build lasting networks for direct and indirect beneficiaries, follow-on training and mentoring, and continued use of project deliverables. A strong sustainability plan may include demonstrating capacity-building results or garnering other donor support after DRL funding ceases.

4) Program Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Plan
Programs should demonstrate the capacity for engaging in outcome-based evaluations and identify proscribed outputs and outcomes to measure how program activities will achieve the program’s strategic objectives. The M&E Plan should include output- and outcome-based indicators, baseline and target for each indicator, disaggregation (including by gender) if applicable, monitoring and evaluation tools, data source, and frequency of monitoring and evaluation. For a more detailed explanation of what DRL is looking for in the M&E Plan, please see the PSI and the DRL Monitoring and Evaluation Primer (www.state.gov/g/drl/p/c12302.htm). Projects that propose an independent evaluation, including a midterm and final assessment, with a clear monitoring and evaluation plan will be viewed favorably in this category.

5) Institution’s Record and Capacity
The Bureau will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants. Proposals should demonstrate an institutional record of successful programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past grants. Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives. Roles, responsibilities, and brief bios demonstrating relevant professional experience of primary staff should be provided as one of the main attachments.

6) Cost Effectiveness
The overhead and administrative components of the proposal, including salaries and honoraria, should be kept as low as possible. All other items should be necessary and appropriate. Given that the majority of DRL-funded programs take place overseas, U.S.-based costs should be kept to a minimum. Cost sharing is strongly encouraged and is viewed favorably by DRL reviewers. For a more detailed description of how DRL evaluates the cost effectiveness of its proposals, please see the PSI.

Applicants must submit proposals using http://www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on July 26, 2010. Please note that over the next several months http://www.grants.gov will experience higher than normal application volume due to Recovery Act-related opportunities. DRL will still require applications to be submitted via http://www.grants.gov but will work with applicants who have trouble in the actual submission process.

Several of the steps in the http://www.grants.gov registration process can take several weeks. Therefore, applicants should check with appropriate staff within their organizations immediately after reviewing this solicitation to confirm or determine their registration status with Grants.gov.

Please note: In order to safeguard the security of applicants’ electronic information, http://www.grants.gov utilizes a credential provider to confirm, with certainty, the applicant organization’s credentials. The credential provider for http://www.grants.gov is Operational Research Consultants (ORC). Applicants MUST register with ORC to receive a username and password which you will need to register with http://www.grants.gov as an authorized organization representative (AOR). Once your organization’s E-Business point of contact has assigned these rights, you will be authorized to submit grant applications through http://www.grants.gov on behalf of your organization.

Each organization will need to be registered with the Central Contractor Registry (CCR), and you will need to have your organization’s DUNS number available to complete this process. For more information regarding the DUNS number, please visit http://www.dnb.com or call 1-866-705-5711. After your organization registers with the CCR, you must wait approximately three to five business days before you can obtain a username and password. This may delay your ability to post your proposal. Therefore, DRL strongly urges applicants to begin this process on http://www.grants.gov well in advance of the submission deadline.

No exceptions will be made for organizations that have not completed the necessary steps to post applications on http://www.grants.gov.

Once registered, the amount of time it can take to upload an application will vary depending on a variety of factors including the size of the application and the speed of your internet connection. In addition, validation of an electronic submission via http://www.grants.gov can take up to two business days. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you not wait until the application deadline to begin the submission process through http://www.grants.gov.

The http://www.grants.gov website includes extensive information on all phases/aspects of the http://www.grants.gov process, including an extensive section on frequently asked questions, located under the “For Applicants” section of the website. DRL strongly recommends that all potential applicants review thoroughly http://www.grants.gov, well in advance of submitting a proposal through the http://www.grants.gov system.

Direct all questions regarding http://www.grants.gov registration and submission to:
http://www.grants.gov Customer Support
Contact Center Phone: 800-518-4726
Business Hours: Monday – Friday, 7AM – 9PM Eastern Standard Time
Email: support@grants.gov

Applicants have until midnight (12:00 a.m.), Washington, D.C. time of the closing date to ensure that their entire application has been uploaded to http://www.grants.gov. There are no exceptions to the above deadline. Applications uploaded to the site after midnight of the application deadline date will be automatically rejected by the http://www.grants.gov system and will be technically ineligible.

Please refer to http://www.grants.gov for definitions of various “application statuses” and the difference between a submission receipt and a submission validation. Applicants will receive a validation e-mail from http://www.grants.gov upon the successful submission of an application. Again, validation of an electronic submission via http://www.grants.govcan take up to two business days. DRL will not notify you upon receipt of electronic applications.

Faxed, couriered, or emailed documents will not be accepted at any time. Applicants must follow all formatting instructions in this document and the PSI.

It is the responsibility of all applicants to ensure that proposals have been received by http://www.grants.gov in their entirety. DRL bears no responsibility for data errors resulting from transmission or conversion processes.

The information contained in this solicitation is binding and may not be modified by any Bureau representative. Explanatory information provided by the Bureau that contradicts this language will not be binding. Issuance of the solicitation does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. The Bureau reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program evaluation requirements.

This request for proposals will appear on http://www.grants.gov and DRL’s website, http://www.state.gov/g/drl.

Please contact Violeta Román at 202.261.8107 or RomanV@state.gov and/or Catherine Newling at 202.647.8257 or NewlingCE@state.gov with any questions.

Once the RFP deadline has passed, U.S. Government officials – including those in the Bureau, the Department, and at embassies/missions overseas – must not discuss this competition with applicants until the entire proposal review process is completed.