Frequently Asked Questions

About the Challenge

Why is USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment running the RISE Challenge?

USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GenDev), in collaboration with partnership with the E3/Land and Urban and E3/Forestry and Biodiversity Offices and the U.S. Global Development Lab, missions, and implementing partners, has identified the nexus of gender-based violence (GBV) within a range of environmental sectors as a gap in international development priorities and approaches. While both GBV and environmental issues are priorities for USAID and pose some of the world’s most pressing challenges, there is little being done to test approaches and build evidence on effective interventions that can address persistent GBV issues that occur in environmental sectors.

GBV and environmental issues are interlinked; their interactions are complex, diverse, and multi-layered. In some contexts, they form a ruthless feedback loop by which gender-based attacks, harassment, and discrimination enhance the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and this environmental deterioration triggers new, more damaging forms of violence. In other contexts, preventing and responding to GBV unlocks opportunities for enhanced environmental action, as well as for women’s and community empowerment.

Because the relationship and proposed programming addressing the linkages between GBV and environmental programming is still relatively new, a challenge grant competition allows USAID and partners to explore, apply, test, and learn from new approaches that could reduce both GBV and environmental harm.

What kinds of approaches are you looking for?

USAID is looking for the innovative application of proven or promising interventions that have reduced GBV in other development and humanitarian sectors to environmental programming. While programming may originate from a Western implementing partner or MNO, the RISE Challenge believes that the most successful, sustainable interventions will demonstrate integration and partnership between local environmental organizations, gender-based violence organizations, women’s and girls’ organizations, indigenous communities/groups, youth, other vulnerable populations, and other local partners. Partnerships with research, academic, or evaluation organizations with the capacity to support evidence collection are also highly encouraged.    

Can you have more than one sector to focus on in the access or use of natural resources?

Yes.

In considering concepts for review, gender-based violence can entail many aspects. Would RISE accept a proposal that address Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) activities which lead to better health outcomes for women and children?

To the extent your proposal addresses the access, use, control, and management of natural resources, it is eligible.

Your announcement mentions innovative methods and ideas. Can we assume that tried practices that work in multiple parts of the world, but those that address the most vulnerable women, are okay to propose?


Per the challenge statement, we are looking for the "innovative application of promising or proven interventions."

Would our application be strengthened by partnering with a local environmental organization? If we were to submit a WASH proposal, would it be alright to partner with a local WASH organization?

Again, to the extent your proposal addresses the access, use, control, and management of natural resources, it is eligible.  We welcome partnerships with appropriate local organizations.

While this program is focused on GBV, can we also include, in our proposal, impacts on endemic infectious diseases as a result of the project outcome? Does that strengthen our application or make no difference?

We are not in a position to comment on what makes proposals stronger.

The topics encompass a broad area of responses. Are WASH interventions among women considered acceptable for this challenge?

We cannot comment on the specific eligibility of individual proposals.

Is environmental migrants an eligible issue?

Yes.

Can the project results be oriented to inform policies?

Yes, a goal of the RISE Challenge is to generate new interventions, findings and policies that inform sector-wide change with respect to the environment and gender-based violence.

Funding is not for new research or to create a completely new project, but just for integration of GBV considerations/practice in new or planned activities?

RISE Challenge funding is available for both completely new activities as well as integration of GBV considerations and practices in new, planned, or existing activities. The RISE Challenge will not fund purely research activities.

Can the fund be used for field studies?

The RISE Challenge is seeking to fund promising or proven  interventions that prevent and respond to gender-based violence across programs that address access, use, control, and management of natural resources. We welcome innovative interventions that utilize a variety of proven or promising methodologies. However, RISE will not fund interventions that are strictly research focused.

Can the fund be utilized for building construction such as an aquarium shed, net mending shed, etc..., purely for the purpose of the project?

The RISE Challenge will not fund any construction.

What are the incentives for entering this competition?
  • $100,000-300,000 in up to eight grant awards.

  • Attendance at a Washington DC-based conference in November to network, obtain common footing, and obtain recognition.

  • The RISE Challenge will cover all expenses associated with transportation, lodging, meals and incidentals, and visas for two members of the apparent awardee team.

  • Apparent awardees will be eligible to attend sessions.

  • An event celebrating RISE Challenge apparent awardees.

  • Apparent awardees will participate in a two-day workshop.

  • Grants management support.

  • Quarterly communications support and promotion via USAID’s, partners’, and external channels.

  • A pool of technical experts available for additional guidance upon request.

  • Membership in a learning community to disseminate promising GBV-reduction practices in the environmental sector.
What kinds of approaches does RISE support?

This challenge supports two approaches to adapt prevention and response GBV interventions for use in programs related to the access, use, control, and management of natural resources. These two approaches include either of these options:

Integration into existing programs

Applicants seeking additional funding for the innovative application of proven or promising GBV and response interventions into an existing environmental program related to the access, use, control, and management of natural resources. The existing program could be in the design or implementation phase.  The existing program does not need to be USAID-funded, but must be undertaken with the express support of the original underwriter.  This additional grant will fund new interventions, such as GBV-integrated training, policies, partnerships, M&E collection and communication and/or other activities to be determined by the applicant.    

Developing new programs

Applicants seeking funding to implement the innovative application of proven or promising GBV or response activities into a new environmental program.  In this case, the grant will support the unique development of a new natural resources management program that incorporates promising or proven GBV interventions. It is expected that the grant will support natural resource stewardship activities, staffing, and overhead as well as integrated GBV training, policies, partnerships, M&E collection and communication and/or other activities to be determined to test and learn the effects of a program that incorporates GBV or response interventions from the outset.

For the challenge approach of developing new programs on page 9 of the RFA, please confirm if the RISE Challenge funding can be used to add/integrate a GBV component into a new environment program, or if it needs to be the entire new program?

 
The grant funds may either be used to add/integrate a GBV component into a new environment program or an entire new program. If the RISE Challenge grant funds are supplementing another environmental program, separate accounting is required.

If the project is completed on use of natural resources for women entrepreneurship development, and now we want to apply for scaling the same concept with GBV integration. Are those concept eligible?


We cannot comment on the eligibility of specific concepts, but scaling a concept with a new GBV component is encouraged by the RISE Challenge.

Can Women Self Help Group be involved as beneficiaries of the project?


We cannot comment on the eligibility or beneficiary status of specific entities.

Confirming our understanding that the RISE call mainly focuses on programming, with M&E included to learn from programs but not as the central purpose of the funding?


The RISE Challenge is focused on both funding programming and the MEL activities needed to learn from that programming.

Will USAID fund any market-based activities?


Yes, but grantees are not allowed to profit from their grants.

Is there a co-financing requirement from the applicant/s? If yes, how much would it be?


The RISE Challenge does not require co-financing, but we welcome applicants who propose co-financing.

What do you mean by the access, use, and control of natural resources?

We mean programming that seeks to foster the sustainable stewardship of the land and its resources, namely issues such as land tenure and use, revenue generation including extractives and fisheries, biodiversity, conservation, and the work of environmental rights defenders.

Are US organizations limited to $100,000?


Yes.


While we are a US based organization, we would like to apply through a local organization. Is it okay to partner in this case and request a budget or $300,000? The majority of the work will be done by the local organization.

The RFA provides a $100,000 maximum for US NGOs. However, the RFA also states that US NGOs may apply for additional funding if partnering with a local NGO. Please clarify the funding ceiling for US NGOs.

 
Would USAID please clarify the eligibility criteria on page 13? Section A says “US NGOs may only be funded up to $100,000,” while section C says “US NGOs who are requesting funding above $100,000 need to partner with a local NGO.” This seems to indicate that US-based NGOs can indeed be funded up to $300,000 if they are partnered with a local NGO.

 
Can a US NGO prime on an application for $300k so long as they have a local NGO sub? The RFA states conflicting criteria on page 13: (a) “US NGs may only be funded for up to $100,000, Non-US NGOs may apply for funding up to $300,000." while (c) “Note that US NGOs who are requesting funding above $100,000 need to partner with a local NGO.”


The RISE Challenge can make awards up to $300,000 to a consortium led by a non-USG NGO. Therefore, if the local organization is the lead implementer in your consortium, you could apply for up to $300,000. Please ensure that the amount of funding being requested is appropriate to the size, scale, and scope of your proposed interventions. 
 
The budget instructions state that US-based NGOs can request up to $100,000 while overseas-based NGOs or US-based NGOs working overseas partners can request up to $300,000. Does the same guidance apply to eligible private sector firms?


Yes, the same guidance applies to private sector firms. The RISE Challenge can make awards up to $300,000 to a consortium led by a non-USG organization (NGO or private). Therefore, if the local organization is the lead implementer in your consortium, you could apply for up to $300,000. Please ensure that the amount of funding being requested is appropriate to the size, scale and scope of your proposed interventions. 

Is this connected to other USAID initiatives called RISE?

There is a RISE initiative funded by USAID in Niger and Burkina Faso. Is this RISE RFA related to that?

No, the Resilient, Inclusive, & Sustainable Environments (RISE): A Challenge to Address Gender-Based Violence in the Environment challenge competition is a standalone activity.

The RISE Challenge is an independent, and is not connected to the initiative funded by USAID/Niger and Burkina Faso. The RISE Challenge is funded by USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment based in Washington, DC.

Countries and Eligibility

Is the
call for proposals is world wide? Or for a region?

The call for proposals is worldwide, but grant implementation must take place in a country with a USAID presence.

Is a multi-country project proposal allowed – projects to be implemented in at least 2 countries?

The RISE Challenge does permit multi-country project proposals. The online application form allows you to list the location or locations that you are proposing your intervention to take place.
 
The RFA does not refer to a particular geographic area of focus. Does USAID have priority geographic regions that applicants should be aware of?

No.

How many countries will be selected?

Any USAID presence countries are eligible. Up to eight grants will be made.

We would like to propose a project that works in a remote region of the world (in a country with USAID presence). Is that acceptable or does it have to be a security accessible area for USG personnel?

All that is required is a USAID presence country.  You do not need to be security accessible to USG personnel.

Is Bolivia an eligible country?

No.

Are programs in Haiti eligible?

Yes.

Is India a priority nation?

There are no RISE Challenge priority countries.

We assume it will be possible for us to apply for work in northern Nigeria. Is this correct?
 
In accordance with the Eligibility Criteria, you can apply to work in northern Nigeria.

Is Uganda an acceptable project location and can we conduct a project in a refugee setting or does it have to be a local community?

Uganda is an acceptable project location. You may work in a local communities, but not a refugee setting.

The list of eligible countries includes Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. However, there have been recent limitations on some funding to those countries. Will USAID fund RISE proposals if they have partners in any of these countries?

The eligibility criteria include no geographic restrictions. Are Central America’s northern triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) eligible for funding under this mechanism?

Can you confirm that it is not possible to propose a project in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador?

Guatemala and El Salvador are USAID countries, but we were notified no new projects are being funded by USAID in those countries. Do you have insights on RISE funding opportunities for those two particular countries?

The RISE Challenge cannot fund projects taking place in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Honduras.

Experience and Partnerships

Noting PIOs are ineligible, it is acceptable for a PIO to be part of a partner structure? (Secondarily, if a PIO can partner on a proposal, can the PIO partner implement a portion of the RISE-supported activity, e.g. if an NGO is the lead partner?)

We have released an amendment to the RFA and PIOs are now eligible. Please see here.

Can government, private, or NGOs be collaborated with the program?

Yes. However, government entities may not apply to the RISE Challenge.

Can you confirm that three (3) support letters are required, as well as the three Past Performance Reports?

Can you briefly explain the Past Performance Report?

The RISE application requires 3 Past Performance Reports. The Past Performance Report includes information that your organization completes about the past performance, including: Referring organization Name; Point of contact; Point of contact phone number and email; Period of Performance; and Description of the Activity. There are fields to complete this information on the online application. You then need to upload a letter of recommendation for each of the 3 past performances described.

You mentioned that a partnership model needs to include GBV and environmental expertise.  Does that mean specifically that we’ll need to have a GBV-focused organization plus an environmentally-focused organization, or is having EXPERTISE on the team of a multi-sectoral NGO sufficient?

You may structure your proposal however you see fit, however, please keep in mind “partnering plan and organizational capacity” is a component of the application scoring process.

Can we apply with no previous project about GBV?

Can a startup with no previous project experience in GBA specifically apply?

Yes.

Can one NGO apply for this funding opportunity without any partnership with another organization?

Yes, but please keep in mind “partnering plan and organizational capacity” is a component of the application scoring process.

Being that we are a local NGO, can we rely on the performance certificate from our previous funded INGOs?

Yes.

Does past performance have to be shown for the primary organization applying?

No, the past performance references can come from a range of experiences from the partnering organizations.

Regarding the requirement “The RISE Challenge requires supporting documentation to verify partnerships”, what type of supporting document is required? In case of the “Integration into existing programs” approach, is the fact that partners are already implementing a program that would be complemented by the RISE challenge enough to demonstrate an existing partnership? Or is a formal letter or MoU necessary?

The RFA mentions that applications should include “verified” partnerships  with stakeholders such as environmental organizations or groups, local or indigenous community groups and gender or GBV organizations. Will USAID expect that applications demonstrate signed partnership agreements with this full range of partners, or would one or two priority partners (e.g. environmental and/or local/indigenous community organization) be sufficient?
 
RISE requests applicants to submit supporting documentation to verify the partnerships. Examples of supporting documentation could include, but is not limited to,  a letter affirming your partnership or MOU.
 
Applicants should arrange the partnerships that they believe will make their proposal successful and competitive.


Entering the Challenge

Who can enter the challenge?


The challenge is open to implementing partners, private commercial sector, civil society, university, non-profit, and community or faith-based organizations from low- and middle-income countries. You can learn more about the eligibility criteria here.

Can I get some advice for how to best enter the competition?


We will be hosting a webinar to provide guidance on our goals, the submission process, examples of approaches we find inspiring, and to resolve any questions you may have. The webinar took place on September 10, 2019. You can find the video in the Resources on this page if you scroll down.

If you have inquiries about how to enter the competition, you may submit them via email to rise@usaid.gov. We will publish all questions and answers about the challenge on the application platform to ensure transparent communication.

For purposes of fairness, we will not answer any questions about application quality or whether it is a fit for the challenge.

Please kindly send templates on GBV Prevention and Response programs in order to start application.


You are encouraged to review the RISE Challenge website.  If you scroll down the page, there is a "Resources" section with extensive examples of GBV prevention and response.

In the RFA and its supporting documents we did not get Annex A: Full application. Do you plan to share it or not?

If you refer to page 22 (as labeled on the RFA pages), or page 23 in the PDF, you will encounter a copy of the application questions.  We would like to kindly remind you that applications must be submitted via the online platform, which can be accessed via this link.

Can we have the webinar PowerPoint presentation?

Yes, it is uploaded and in the Resources section of the RISE Challenge website.

In case we need some further clarification or support how can we get that?

We can continue to provide assistance around the competition application platform, but following the webinar, the question and answer period concludes.

Can I submit more than one entry?

How many applications can one organisation submit? For example an international organisation that has multiple country presence?

Can an organization submit more than one proposal?

Yes, you can submit up to three applications to the challenge. Each application must be submitted separately and each must be different from others you have submitted.

Can an organization partner on more than one proposal?

An organization may partner on multiple proposals.

Can I submit an intervention that I have funded via other sources?

Yes, the Program Integration approach specifically encourages the incorporation of GBV into existing, funded environmental programming. Please make sure you provide relevant and specific answers to questions about your current funding. The other funder may have rules about you co-funding your intervention and it is your responsibility to check this and secure their support before you enter the competition. Should you win a Program Integration award, you will need to demonstrate and ensure that the two funding streams remain separately accounted.

Are applicants only required to sign Annex D?


Yes. All certifications that require signature are in Annex D.

When is the deadline for entries?

Entries must be submitted by 11 a.m ET on October 8, 2019. Late entries may not be accepted.

Languages and Entering the Challenges

Is the translation/proof-read of the application in English required?


While entries will be decided on the strength of the content, we encourage applicants to invest in translation or have someone with strong English skills review their submission to ensure they are showing their work to their best advantage.

Our license is in Arabic - is that OK?


Yes.

Those support letters need to be translated into English?

Yes.

After Entering the Challenge

How can we ensure we are applied and considered in the application process?

When you submit your application, you will receive an automatic acknowledgement from the application platform to confirm receipt.

What do I do after I enter the competition?


You do not need to do anything after you have entered the competition. The RISE Challenge team will be in touch if you are selected as one of the finalists during the weeks of October 23 - November 1, 2019. If so, you will have a teleconference or videoconference interview with USAID staff and partners. You will be given advanced notice to prepare for your interview.  If you are selected as an apparent winner, RISE Challenge staff will be in touch to relay next steps.


Who owns the intellectual property of the submitted ideas?

Competitors will retain the intellectual property rights to their entry to the challenge.


Can I remove my entry once I have submitted it?

Yes. If you want your entry to be removed after you have submitted it, you can send an email to rise@usaid.gov and request for it to be removed.


Who will be judging entries for this prize?

The judges may include representatives from USAID and other affiliated partners. Each of the judges will have particular knowledge across natural resources access, use, and management, and gender and gender-based violence, as well as specific expertise in different regions and sectors.

What happens to entries that do not make it to the finalist stage?

Even if your solution is not selected, we will continue alerting entrants to additional funding opportunities and other types of support.

Finalists and Winners

Will I have to pay to attend the conference?

The RISE Challenge team will cover the travel expenses for two representatives from each winning team to travel and represent their team at the conference from November in Washington, DC. The challenge will cover costs associated with transportation, lodging, meals and incidentals, and visas.

Do you have the dates for November conference?


Yes, the conference will take place November 18-22, 2019.

Do I have to attend the awards presentation at the conference?

Attendance at the conference is mandatory, as we will be covering expectations around monitoring, evaluation and learning, grant agreements, and communications—in addition to celebrating the winners.

What can I do with the grant award if I win?

The grant award must be put toward the activities delineated in the grant agreement.

How long does the grant award last?

The grant award’s period of performance is up to two years.

Costs, Accounting, Other Financial Considerations, and Reporting


What are the costs that the budget would not cover?

The applicants budget should, to the best of their ability, reflect the estimated cost to implement the proposed intervention. All proposed grant activity costs must be within the normal operating practices of the applicant and in accordance with its written policies and procedures. Lastly, all costs included in the budget must be reasonable, allowable and allocable as defined below. In preparing the budget, the following cost principles should be considered:
  • Allowable costs are those strictly for the achievement of the project and which are not subject to any restrictions or limitations in the award.
  • Allocable costs are costs which are incurred specifically for the attainment of the objective of the grant.
  • Reasonable costs. Defined as a cost which is generally recognized as ordinary and necessary and would be incurred by a prudent person in the conduct of normal business.
How will you report to USAID about the funds used? How often?

The RISE Challenge anticipates awarding Fixed Award Amount (FAA) grants. Successful applicants will be required to submit technical and cost reports in accordance with the terms negotiated and mutually agreed upon, in their respective FAA grant agreement.

What will be the banking requirements to receive the money?


Successful applicants may be required to open a separate bank account to manage the RISE grant funds.

Will there be a monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, semi-annual report or in another period of time on the project presented and its progress?


Successful applicants will be required to submit financial and technical reports in accordance with the terms negotiated and mutually agreed upon, in their respective FAA grant agreement.

How many projects USAID fund? More than 8, but how many?

The RISE Challenge intends to fund up to eight grants. The budget template provided is in Word. Can the budget be prepared and submitted in Excel?


Yes, the budget can be prepared and submitted in Excel.

The RFA requires a budget and detailed budget narrative. The budget template (Annex B) includes a column for Comments/Budget Notes. Are applicants required to provide short budget comments/notes on the budget and also a separate detailed budget narrative?


Yes.

Is there a threshold on how much must constitute personnel costs e.g. 30% of the funds?


No, but all budgets will be evaluated for cost reasonableness.

Are there any budget cap in regards to overhead/logistics, etc?


There is no budget cap on overhead/logistics, but all budgets will be evaluated for cost-reasonableness.

Is the funding one time or as installments?


Installments.

Is there any review process while the project is going on?


RISE will review all technical and financial deliverables in accordance with the terms in the grant agreement. Additionally, the RISE Challenge will provide tailored technical assistance and support to successful applicants during the implementation of their project.

If yes, what is the interval between two review periods?


The review processes will be determined by the terms of the grant agreement.

Are administrative costs to be included in the budget?


Yes.

Do we have to submit yearly audit report?


Audit requirements are determined by your organizational type and the amount of United States Government (USG) funding you receive annually. The expenditure threshold for which audits are required for foreign NGOs is spending US$300,000 or more in a given year. The threshold for U.S.- based NGOs is spending US$500,000. This threshold amount includes total funding from the USG.

Is there specific budget estimate for subheads such as honorarium, consumables, contingencies, travel, field work, organizing expenses etc..?


No. However, the applicants budget should, to the best of their ability, reflect the estimated cost to implement the proposed intervention. All proposed grant activity costs must be within the normal operating practices of the applicant and in accordance with its written policies and procedures. Lastly, all costs included in the budget must be reasonable, allowable and allocable.
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