CIDA's calls for proposals system – Issues and recommendations
October 27, 2011
In July 2010, following a year-long review of Canadian Partnership Branch, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) launched a new Partnerships with Canadians Branch (PWCB) to structure “a new approach to engage Canadians and organizations in international development.” The promise is to “streamline the application process and reduce the administrative burden for project applications” to ensure effective and measurable results on the ground. In doing so, the application process switched from “responsive programming” in which CIDA would receive proposals from civil society organizations (CSOs) based on the latter’s priorities, to a system in which CSOs need to respond to periodic calls for proposals based on standing programs (under $2 million and over $2 million, for example) and ad hoc initiatives (e.g. the Haiti Reconstruction and Development Initiative and the Muskoka Initiative Partnership Program). All calls are guided by the government’s own thematic priorities and countries of focus.
The promised streamlining has not occurred and administrative delays are becoming standard. Development is compromised and there is a high degree of frustration among many applicants about the process. Critical programming needed on the ground in developing countries is on hold or has been cut. Partner organizations, often with vulnerable funding conditions, have been left in limbo. Staff positions have had to be cut. And contingency plans for new funding have had to be put in place with no clear timelines. While there are continued additional concerns about how unpredictable competitive funding cycles affect local ownership, and development results, more broadly, in the short term CIDA could make a number of simple changes to the call for proposals (CfP) system that would help relieve many current problems and improve development impacts.