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Shaping a stellar Lift proposal

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Our new program Lift will give teams of reformers a chance to deep dive into a concrete public procurement problem and receive intensive support to overcome the challenge over a 14 month program period. We will select five teams to support, including through activities around public policy and political will generation, data publication and use, and monitoring, evaluation, and learning. By the end of the program, we hope all projects will be able to point to concrete results and be able to measurably improve the quality of public goods, works, and services.

We want to help you put together a stellar application with a concrete problem statement. Presenting your problem clearly will help you answer the following application questions:

How will you improve the quality of public goods, works, or services?

👎A poor problem statement: “My project will improve health procurement in my city.”
This problem statement lacks several key components. First, we don’t understand the specific problem you want to solve. Identifying the underlying root cause and which stakeholders are involved gives Lift a much clearer idea of how good of a fit the program is for your project.

🌟A stellar problem statement: “My project aims to work with the Ministries of Health and Planning to improve the access of pregnant indigenous women living with HIV/AIDS to antiretroviral (ARV) medicines. ARVs are currently not accessible to 1 in 4 pregnant women due to three main root causes which my project will attack: 1. poor planning and budgeting; 2. a monopoly of unregulated suppliers of medications; and 3. the expiration of ARV doses sitting in warehouses due to poor inventory systems and oversight.”

This problem statement stands out because it is specific, actionable, and precise. It is easy to see from this statement how participation in the Lift program could help your project get to impact.

Project impact: Describe how your project uses or will use public contracting data or information

👎A poor answer: “My project will use open contracting data to track medicine prices.”
This answer misses a few big points, like explaining which specific data sources you’ll access and which data you’ll analyze.

🌟A stellar answer: “Since open data in my context aren’t very high quality a significant part of my project would be to open up and analyze contracting data from planning to implementation to see changes in the price and accessibility of ARVs over time. We will work closely with the Ministries of Planning and Health to see what the challenges to publishing timely, high-quality, and complete data are and offer them technical support to overcome those barriers. We will then work with a data analytics team at my local university to set up a real-time price monitoring system with automatic alerts for anytime a medicine is purchased for far higher than its fair price. We will work with the Ministry of Health to establish guidelines for how to respond to these automatic alerts.”

This knock-out answer provides concrete details about what the project will do under Lift and how it goes far beyond just data publication.

What progress, if any, have you made so far? How could Lift make a difference for your success?

👎A poor answer: “We have already started compiling medicine spending data.”
This answer doesn’t provide much context around what your project team has been doing so far, how that fits into the broader context, and what preliminary results have been. Lift wouldn’t know how to support your project from this answer.

🌟A stellar answer: “My team has already started working with the agency responsible for data publication to map out the priority data fields we need to publish under our new National Action Plan that includes relevant commitments to medicine procurement. We have also begun working with a health advocacy group to see how we’d measure changes in the accessibility of ARVs. We have already seen progress in terms of increased political buy-in and some improvements in the quality of data available.”

This answer gives specific information about what you’ve been doing, with which stakeholders, and towards what end.

Which risks does your project potentially face? What are ways you might mitigate or address the risks?

👎A poor answer: “A risk is that we don’t lower medicine prices.”
This answer isn’t a risk, but rather an outcome that would happen if the project weren’t able to manage risks that come up during the project. It’s more likely projects will reach impact if they are realistic about what risks could make the project fail.

🌟A stellar answer: “The main risk is we’ll have presidential elections next year, which could result in changes in some of the agencies most important to my project like the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Public Procurement. Right now, we have allies in both those agencies, but it is possible their replacements won’t be receptive towards working together on ARV access.”

Being realistic about the potential risks of your project is key for helping Lift understand how to best support your needs if you are selected. Being honest about these risks will not harm your chances of your application being successful.

Team capacity & connections: What vital skills, knowledge, networks and experience do team members bring to the project?

👎A poor answer: “We have a policy expert in open contracting, a data analyst, and a field advocate.”

This answer lacks specificity about why each team member is important and how each will help the project achieve impact.

🌟A stellar answer: “The skills of my team members are those we need to tackle this root problem and change medicine procurement for the better. Our policy expert has experience working in our city’s government and has the right contacts there to push the work forward. Our data expert has been working with open contracting data and the OCDS Helpdesk for two years to improve data publication and run cost analyses. We also have a field advocate who is very well connected with actors across government, the private sector (pharmaceutical companies), and CSOs and can bring them together.”

This robust answer provides good information about the value-add of each team member and also explains how the skills of each member will work in parallel to achieve impact.

What’s next?

Now that we’ve answered these questions about the application process, we are eager to see your applications to Lift through 12 August! If you need any help preparing your problem-based application, feel free to email me. Also mark your calendars for the Lift “Landing” Webinars next week in English, Spanish, and French (July 30 & 31). You can register here for the webinar in your language.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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