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Funding Opportunity Title: New Empowerment Communication Technologies: Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa

September 25, 2009

Announcement Type:  New

Funding Opportunity Number: NEAPI-09-CA-015-MENA-092409

Funding Competition ID: New Technologies

CFDA Number:  19.500


Date Opened:  September 24, 2009

Due Date for Applications:  October 23, 2009

Federal Agency Contact:  Ms. Jessica Baker


Telephone number:  202-776-8524


I.                   Funding Opportunity Description


On June 4 in Cairo, President Obama called for a broader engagement and a “new beginning” to relations between the United States and Muslim communities around the world.  As part of that commitment, the President outlined expanded U.S. support for online learning, networking, and partnership among a range of stakeholders.  In support of the President’s vision, the Office of the Partnership Initiative (NEA/PI) announces an open competition seeking pilot proposals that will leverage innovative new technologies to connect people – particularly youth – in order to expand civic participation, increase new media capabilities for civil society, and enhance online educational opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).


Innovative technologies that enable, encourage and build social connections, especially those operating on mobile platforms and the internet, have created new opportunities for promoting democratic practices, civic participation, and learning.  In the MENA region, these new technologies offer means to effectively engage youth and difficult to reach or previously unengaged populations.  NEA/PI seeks implementers to educate, train, organize, and empower audiences and interlocutors through technologies such as, but not limited to, social networking, digital video conferencing, interactive online learning, widgets, Wiki-functions, mobile applications, and blogging.  These efforts should promote civic and political participation; women’s and youth empowerment; or economic and social entrepreneurship.


Priority will be given to applications that maximize the capability and reach of existing resources, including human, knowledge, infrastructure, technology, and other resources and tools.  Partnerships between or among public sector, private sector and nongovernmental entities that meld capabilities to address the announcement’s objectives are particularly welcomed.  NEA/PI is seeking applications that are innovative and test technological boundaries by developing or scaling cutting-edge tools to engage, inspire, and motivate. 




Proposals may address one of the following three priority areas: 


  • Social networking – platforms, training, applications, or program modules.
  • Increasing new media capabilities of civil society – development of information technology capacity among civil society, including individuals, civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and independent media outlets.
  • Enhancing online learning – improved access to and dissemination of online curricula, training, and information, including for NGOs and civil society, especially activists and thought leaders.


A) Social Networking:  Projects in this priority area are expected to develop or leverage existing social networking platforms to emphasize priorities of civic engagement, youth outreach, political participation, tolerance, , economic entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, or nonviolent conflict-resolution.  Examples of relevant activities include, but are not limited to, interactive activities that encourage cooperation, critical thinking and problem-solving; provide data on participants’ experiences, such as lessons learned; demonstrate the importance of openness and transparency; and efforts that support, train, and encourage web-based or other new media social networking. 


B) Increasing New Media Capabilities of Civil Society:  Projects in this priority area are expected to use new media technologies or make innovative use of traditional media to encourage Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and groups or coalitions of CSOs to better network with one another within countries or across borders.  The objective is to use new media capabilities to foster civil society’s positive engagement with other interlocutors including governments, the general public, the media, and international counterparts.  Examples of supportable activities could include:  facilitating discussion and commentary on draft legislation in blogs; enabling amateur poll watchers around a country to provide real-time information on election results; mobilizing citizens through SMS messages to respond quickly and responsibly to time-sensitive events occurring in their communities; and mobilizing civil society, educational institutions and the private sector to exchange information, potentially in real time, via microblogs or other appropriate and accessible technologies that enable citizens to monitor and report on activities of concern to wider audiences;  


C) Enhancing Online Learning:  Projects in this priority area are expected to collect and disseminate existing online curricula and to enhance access to, and use of, online learning platforms and resources, including open source educational materials, in the MENA region.  The objective is to improve access to, and use of, valuable e-learning tools for youth, NGOs, and civil society activists through the region.  Examples include but are not limited to projects that build on existing curricula, including past or existing MEPI-sponsored curricula, in the areas of good governance, political participation, women’s empowerment, strengthening civil society, advancing education, and fostering economic reform.





Additional considerations:


  • NEA/PI seeks proposals for pilot projects that can potentially be scaled up within individual countries or replicated throughout the MENA region.
  • Applicants may propose activities that combine multiple media – for example, activities with interactive mobile phone as well as fully integrated broadcast or traditional media components.
  • Applicants should take into consideration internet access penetration, connections speeds, costs to users, and other functional aspects of new media in the region, including censorship, cultural barriers, nuances of local dialect or language, and infrastructure shortcomings when designing projects.
  • Proposals concerning e-learning may consider activities to increase demand for, as well as access to supply of, e-learning resources.
  • Applicants should take into account both current penetration rates of various technologies and practices and also emerging trends.

·         Applicants may assume for purposes of their proposals that new connection technologies offer the potential to engage more diverse civil society audiences and generate compound effects (synergies); however, evidence to support such assumptions would we welcomed as part of any proposal. 

  • NEA/PI seeks projects that are sustainable and require a diminishing amount of external resources over time.

·         Applicants must include monitoring and evaluation in the project plan and budget, drawing upon new technologies wherever possible, and clearly document anticipated results in terms of promoting and promulgating goals described in this program announcement. 



Background Information about MEPI:  The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), located within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, supports efforts to expand political participation, strengthen civil society and the rule of law, empower women and youth, create educational opportunities, and foster economic reform throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  In support of these goals, MEPI works with non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academic institutions, and government officials.  More information about MEPI can be found at:  Information on MEPI's regional offices in Abu Dhabi and Tunis can be found at: and


Electronic Link to Full Announcement:  Go to, click on Funding and Project Opportunities, click on “New Empowerment Communication Technologies” link. 



II.        Award Information


Funding Instrument Type:  Cooperative Agreement


Anticipated Total Program Funding: Up to $5,000,000 Economic Support Funds in Federal Fiscal Year 2009


Anticipated number of Awards: 5


Floor of Individual Award Amounts: $500,000


Ceiling of Individual Award Amounts: $2.5 million


NEA/PI reserves the right to award less or more than the funds described based on the quality and quantity of worthy applications or under such other circumstances as NEA/PI may deem to be in the best interest of the U.S. Government.



Project and Budget Periods:  Applicants may propose performance periods of up to three years.  Where success can be demonstrated in a pilot phase, NEA/PI will entertain applications for continuation grants funded under these awards, beyond the initial budget period, on a noncompetitive basis, subject to availability of funds, satisfactory progress of the applicants, and a determination that continued funding would be in the best interest of the U.S. Government.


III.             Eligibility Information


Eligible applicants include any U.S. or foreign non-governmental organization, and U.S. or foreign private institutions or commercial entities.  Applicants should have proven success operating with various interlocutors in the region, or, in the alternative, should have a logical business plan for doing so that draws on the proven success in this regard of a partner organization or private sector entity.  Applicants must have proven expertise working with existing technologies that they propose to develop or leverage, including strategy and product development, content engagement and deployment.


NEA/PI encourages proposals that include new or existing partnerships with indigenous or regional organizations or private sector entities.  For the purposes of this RFA, “partnership” is defined as a negotiated arrangement among organizations that provides for a substantive, collaborative role for each of the partners in the planning and implementation of a project.  Applicants intending to represent a coalition of implementers should be prepared to provide, if requested, a signed partnership agreement providing:


·         An intent to commit or receive resources or services from the prospective partner(s) contingent upon receipt of funds;

·         How the partnership arrangement advances the objectives of the project;

·         Supporting documentation identifying the resources, experience, and expertise of the partner(s);

·         Evidence that each of the partner(s) has been involved in the planning of the project;

·         Clear indication of the role of the partner(s) in the implementation of the project, evaluation, and sustainability.


NEA/PI encourages applicants to provide maximum levels of cost-sharing from additional sources in support of this project.  Applications should explain clearly how the additional resources of funding will be used.  If these resources are not proposed, applicants should explain why not.


Additional Information on Eligibility:  All Federal assistance recipients must have a Dun & Bradstreet Number prior to funds disbursement.  A DUNS number may be acquired at no cost by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS number request line at 1-866-705-5711 or requesting on-line at


IV.             Application Submission and Deadline

Application materials should be submitted online via


Applicants must clearly identify on the SF-424 and the NEA/PI Cover sheet the priority area to which they are applying.  Applicants may apply for one or more of the priority areas detailed in this announcement, however, a discrete application must be submitted for each priority area to be considered.   


To meet the announcement deadline, submissions must be made before midnight eastern standard time (EST) on October 23, 2009.  Applicants who anticipate having difficulty submitting their application(s) electronically must notify NEA/PI before October 9, 2009.


The submission checklist is as follows:


____ (a) Federal Assistance Application (Standard Forms 424) available at: or from Ms. Jessica Baker, telephone (202) 776-8524, fax: (202) 776-8445, e-mail:;

____ (b) MEPI Cover Sheet (Executive Summary) – Format can be found attached to this announcement, or by going to and clicking on Funding & Project Opportunities.

____ (c) Proposal Narrative - The application narrative should not exceed 20 pages with no more than 10 pages of appendices attached.  Each page should be numbered sequentially.  Narrative submission should be in Times New Roman font, size 12, single-line spacing.

____ (d) Budget and Budget Justification (Narrative) – The budget and justification should not exceed 10 pages, and each page should be number sequentially.  NEA/PI prefers that budgets and justifications be submitted in MS-Excel or MS-Word.  Guidance for responding to this can be found in Section V “Review and Selection Process.” 


Please note: The limitation of 40 pages for each submission should be considered as a maximum and not necessarily a goal, and excludes the SF 424 forms and NEA/PI cover sheet. 


Applicants need not include their most recent annual report and Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA), but should be prepared to provide a copy of these documents upon request.



V.                Review and Selection Process

Each application submitted under this announcement will be evaluated and rated on the basis of the following evaluation criteria.  The criteria are designed to assess the quality of the proposed project, and to determine the likelihood of its success.  The criteria are closely related and are considered as a whole in judging the overall quality of an application.  Applications will be reviewed on the basis of their fullness, coherence, clarity, and attention to detail.  Points are awarded only to applications that are deemed responsive within the context of this program announcement.


Applicants must submit a full project description in accordance with the following instructions and the specified evaluation criteria.  The instructions give a broad overview of what the project description should include while the evaluation criteria provide details of more program-specific information that is needed.
NEA/PI Cover Sheet: Provide a summary of the project description (no more than two pages) with reference to the amount and duration of the funding request.
Narrative:  Outline a plan of action which describes the scope and detail of how the proposed work will be accomplished.  Account for all functions or activities identified in the application.  Cite factors which might accelerate or decelerate the work and state reasons for taking the proposed approach rather than others.  Describe any unusual features of the project such as design or technological innovations, reductions in cost or time, or extraordinary social and community involvement.
Provide quantitative quarterly projections of the accomplishments to be achieved for each function or activity.  When accomplishments cannot be quantified by activity or function, list them in chronological order to show the schedule of accomplishments and their target dates.  List those organizations, cooperating entities, consultants, or other key individuals who will work on the project, along with a short description of the nature of their effort or contribution.
Provide information on the applicant organization(s) and cooperating partners such as organizational charts, financial statements, documentation of professional accreditation or of experience in the program area, and other pertinent information.  

Application Evaluation Criteria:


Innovation and Approach –The applicant clearly describes how its proposal addresses the selected priority area and articulates an innovative strategy and a feasible approach.  Proposal suggests creativity, innovation and scalable programming, as well as the likelihood of positive impact in the use of new technologies.    (35 pts)

Results or Benefits – Applicant clearly demonstrates how the project is likely to provide efficient use of resources in achieving the proposed results and the organization must demonstrate that it is able to measure program success against key indicators and provide milestones to indicate progress.  Any relevant data from studies cited is included or referenced in the endnotes or footnotes.  The demographic data and beneficiary information illustrate the impact to be achieved within a maximum three-year timeframe.  (30 points) 


Organizational Capacity – The organization has expertise in one or more of the relevant priority areas and demonstrates the ability to engage and work together with local or regional partners.  The applicant includes information detailing relevant regional experience.  The organization demonstrates a high level of sensitivity to regional or country-specific operating environments.  Each key person whether staff, consultant, or volunteer is described in a biographical sketch that includes their qualifications; a job description is provided for each open key position, including those to be advertised post-award. Individual organization staffs, including volunteers, are well qualified and described.  Where partners are proposed, the applicant details the rationale for the partnership, each partner’s respective role, and how the coalition will enhance the progress towards achieving the proposed objectives and MEPI goals, with reference to any written agreements between grantees and sub-grantees or subcontractors or other cooperating entities.  Such agreements, if provided, detail the scope of work to be performed, work schedules, remuneration, and other terms and conditions that structure or define the relationship.  (25 points)


Budget and Budget Justification (Additional guidance for responding to this criterion may be found attached to this announcement, or by going to and clicking on Funding & Project Opportunities.)  The detailed budget includes a breakout of any funding sources identified in Block 15 of the SF-424.  Calculations are provided with line item detail for each budget object class identified on the Budget Information form (SF 424).  The budget narrative provides details of calculations including estimation methods, quantities, unit costs, and other similar quantitative detail sufficient for the calculation to be duplicated. 


The budget and narrative justification are reasonable in relation to the proposed activities and anticipated results, and the plan is realistic.  The budget documents the necessity, reasonableness, and allocation of all proposed costs.  The application documents any efforts to secure other funding sources, including volunteers and cost-sharing, or details why this would not be feasible.  (10 points)



VI.       Award Administration 


A.  Award Notices:  The successful applicants will be notified through the issuance of a Financial Assistance Award document, which sets forth the amount of funds granted, the terms and conditions of the grant, the effective date of the grant, the budget period for which initial support will be given, the non-Federal share to be provided (if applicable), and the total project period for which support is contemplated.  The Financial Assistance Award will be signed by the Grants Officer and the award package will be transmitted electronically. Following the finalization of funding decisions, organizations whose applications will not be funded will be notified by electronic letter.


B.  Administration and National Policy Requirements.  Those applicants selected under this RFA will receive a cooperative agreement containing terms and conditions prescribed by the Department of State under U.S. law and regulation:

22 CFR –Parts 137 & 145

[48 CFR – Part 31 – This is used only when Commercial Entities are eligible for funding]

Public Law 111-8


Reporting Requirements:  Programmatic and Financial Reports will be due 30 days after each quarter.  A final report covering finance and results achieved will be due 90 days after the end of the performance period.


Also, awardees may anticipate a requirement to submit reports and provide evaluation findings to NEA/PI through the NEA/PI Online Performance Reporting System (DS-4127 – OMB clearance expires July 31, 2011).  All data collected, including survey responses and contact information, must be maintained for a minimum of three years, and provided to NEA/PI upon request.


NEA/PI provides interactive database access to all project implementers to facilitate work plan approvals and a Results Monitoring Plan (RMP) to track the project’s progress towards defined objectives, as the activities unfold and at the end of the project.  Recipients should plan to track participants or partners and be able to respond to key evaluation questions, including satisfaction with the program, learning as a result of the program, changes in behavior as a result of the program, and effects of the program on institutions (institutions in which participants work or partner institutions).  The evaluation plan should include indicators that measure gains in mutual understanding as well as substantive knowledge.


The RMP will include the intended outcome(s) and the approved activities and objectives with performance indicators for each.  The intended outcome is the principal change to be achieved by completing the activities and realizing the objectives of a project.  It reflects the anticipated impact of the project and defines how a situation will be different after the project is successfully completed.  The objectives are concrete accomplishments that can be explicitly and logically linked to achievement of an intended outcome.  Objectives should be "smart" (specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and achievable within the time frame of the project).


Performance Indicators will measure achievement of the intended outcomes and objectives rather than quantify the outputs of activities.  Outputs are products and services delivered, often stated as an amount.  Output information is important to show the scope or size of project activities, but it cannot substitute for information about progress towards the results achieved.  For example, number of service providers trained would NOT be a direct measure of the result service delivery improved.  Findings on outputs and results may both be reported, but the focus should be on results (i.e., outcomes).


Substantial Involvement: Representatives from the U.S. Department of State will review all agendas and materials for all program components and participate in selected parts of the program as deemed appropriate.


All awardees are expected to provide the Project Office and Grants Officer a complete list of participants in MEPI-funded project activities and to assist MEPI with the distribution and collection of materials related to MEPI alumni activities.


Acknowledgement:  Recipient organizations must ensure that the Department of State, through the Middle East Partnership Initiative, is acknowledged as the program sponsor in all program-related communications unless a waiver is requested and received.  All communications, paper or electronic, must include the full program name and the MEPI logo.  NEA/PI must approve all publicity and advertising materials before they are published.


All products and services developed or produced as a result of an approved award must clearly acknowledge the Middle East Partnership Initiative support.  The U.S. Government will retain the right to royalty-free use of all materials developed through U.S.-funded programs.  The recipient should plan for Internet connectivity with the MEPI web site, where relevant.