The Embassy of the United States in Moscow announces an open competition for past participants (“alumni”) of U.S. government-funded and U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs to submit applications to the 2021 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF 2021). We seek proposals from teams of at least two alumni that meet all program eligibility requirements below. Exchange alumni interested in participating in AEIF 2021 should submit proposals using the templates provided to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday, April 18, midnight, Moscow time, 2021.
A. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
AEIF provides alumni of U.S. sponsored and facilitated exchange programs with funding to expand on skills gained during their exchange experience to design and implement innovative solutions to global challenges facing their community. Since its inception in 2011, AEIF has funded nearly 500 alumni-led projects around the world through a competitive global competition. This year, AEIF 2021 will support United States’ commitment to working with our partners around the world to advance skills and opportunities for Russian alumni and their communities to build a safer more peaceful world. Grants pay particular attention to women’s issues, ethnic minorities, the disabled, freedom of expression, the development of entrepreneurship, and the environment.
Embassy Moscow will accept personal and professional development projects proposed and managed by teams of at least two alumni that support the following themes:
- “Sharing America with Russia,” which supports the promotion of American culture, education, freedoms, values, and collaboration between Americans and Russians;
- “Media and Information in Russia,” which supports an understanding of freedom of the press, good journalistic practices, increased access to reliable information, and improved media literacy for the Russian people;
- “One Planet: Environment, Health, and Science” which supports the promotion of environmental, health, and scientific issues in Russia of strategic importance to U.S. and global priorities;
- “America Works in Russia,” which supports American and Russian engagement in the area of business, entrepreneurship, and higher education.
- “International Cooperation,” which supports American and Russian cooperation in multinational and binational frameworks to address global issues, rule of law, and international agreements and partnerships.
For more information about these program areas, please see the annual program statement and click on the theme: https://ru.usembassy.gov/education-culture/cooperation-programs/annual-program-statement/
B. FEDERAL AWARD INFORMATION
Announcement posted: February 24, 2021
Closing date for applications: April 18, midnight, Moscow time, 2021
Funding type: Small grant awards
Decision date: no later than May 15, 2021.
Expected size of individual awards: Between $10,000 to $50,000.
C. ELIGILIBITY INFORMATION
- Eligible Applicants:
The following individuals are eligible to apply:
- Applicants must be alumni of a S. government-funded exchange program (https://alumni.state.gov/list-exchange-programs) or a U.S. government-sponsored exchange program (https://j1visa.state.gov/), including in country-programs such as the English Access Microscholarship Program, and online programs that exceed 36 hours.
- Projects teams must include teams of at least two (2) alumni.
- Alumni who are U.S. citizens may not submit proposals, but U.S. citizen alumni may participate as team members in a project.
- Alumni teams may be comprised of alumni from different exchange programs and different countries.
- Applications must be submitted by exchange alumni. Not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and academic institutions are not eligible to apply in the name of the organization but can serve as partners for implementing project activities.
- Cost Sharing
Inclusion of cost share is not a requirement of this opportunity.
- Grant Program Area:
Proposals must address an issue related to the themes outlined above. Proposals that do not address a theme as outlined in the program objectives will be deemed ineligible. All project activities must take place in Russia.
- Other Eligibility Requirements
If the grant will be processed with an individual, that individual is not required to have a DUNS number or be registered in SAM.gov. However, should the grant be processed with an organization that is a partner in the project, that organization must have a unique entity identifier (Data Universal Numbering System/DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet), as well as a valid registration on www.SAM.gov. Organizations must have a commitment to equal opportunity employment practices and to non-discrimination practices with regard to beneficiaries, without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.
Optional: Applicants are only allowed to submit one proposal.
In-person programs are only permitted with permission of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Proposals should be prepared to hold events online, or be a hybrid of online and in-person with the option of shifting all events online due to the global health situation.
D. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION
- Address to Request Application Package
Application and budget templates are available at grants.gov
- Content and Form of Application Submission
Applications and budgets must be submitted using the official AEIF 2021 proposal and budget forms.
Please follow all instructions below carefully. Proposals that do not meet the requirements of this announcement or fail to comply with the stated requirements will be ineligible.
- The proposal clearly addresses the goals and objectives of this funding opportunity;
- The proposal addresses all questions in the official AEIF 2021 proposal form;
- All documents are in English.
- The budget is in U.S. dollars and is submitted using the designated AEIF budget form;
- All pages are numbered.
The following documents are required:
- Mandatory application forms
- SF-424 (Application for Federal Assistance – organizations) or SF-424-I (Application for Federal Assistance –individuals).
- SF424A (Budget Information for Non-Construction programs)
- SF424B (Assurances for Non-Construction programs)
- Mandatory application forms
- Proposal: The proposal should contain enough information that anyone not familiar with it would understand exactly what the alumni team wants to do. Proposals include the following.
Proposal Summary: Short narrative that outlines the proposed project, including project objectives and anticipated impact.
Project Team Information: There must be at least two exchange alumni team members for a project to be considered for funding. Along with the name and contact information, describe the role each team member will have in the project and their experience, qualifications, and ability to carry out that role. Indicate what proportion of their time will be used in support of the project.
Problem Statement: Clear, concise and well-supported statement of the problem to be addressed and why the proposed project is needed.
Project Goals and Objectives: The “goals” describe what the project is intended to achieve. How will the project impact the community and what changes (in people, institutions, attitudes, or practices) will you see? The “objectives” refer to the intermediate accomplishments on the way to the goals. These should be achievable and measurable.
Local Project Partners: List partners who will support your project. Please note if you have an existing relationship with your partner organization(s) or individual(s) and describe their role in the project. If you do not have an existing relationship, explain how you anticipate establishing a partnership with the organization(s).
Project Methods, Design, and Timeline: A description of how the project is expected to work to solve the stated problem and achieve the goal. This should include description of your direct and indirect beneficiaries. The proposed timeline for the project activities. Include the dates, times, and locations of planned activities and events.
Project Monitoring and Evaluation Plan: The Monitoring and Evaluation component of the proposal will outline in detail how the proposal’s activities will advance the program’s goals and objectives (listed above). A strong proposal will include:
- Any outcomes the grantee expects to occur because of their program. Outcomes could include: change in knowledge, awareness, and attitudes; improved quality of services; increased capacity at a school, group; etc. Proposals should also include how the grantee will know those outcomes are occurring (surveys, interviews, observations, etc.)
- For example: If the program expects that a teacher-training program will improve the skills of a teacher, a proposal may explain the skills the teacher would gain and plan to perform a survey before the program and a survey following the program that would show a change in understanding due to the program.
- A plan to include the grantee’s reflection of how their program contributed to the program’s goals. As applicable, a strong final report would include success stories, behaviors changed, lessons learned, and results obtained.
Sustainability: Explain how you plan to continue the program beyond the grant period, or the availability of other resources, if applicable.
Communication Plan: Explain how you will promote your project. Include social media, websites, print news, or other forms of media you intend to use to share information about your project to beneficiaries and the public. Communications should include AEIF 2021 and U.S. Embassy branding. These include training materials, materials for recipients or materials to communicate or promote with foreign audiences a program, event, project, or some other activity under an agreement. Note: Exceptions to the branding requirement are allowable under certain conditions. If an applicant is notified that their award has been chosen for funding, the Grants Officer will determine, in consultation with the applicant, if an exception is applicable especially in the case where branding would adversely affect the safety and security of the beneficiaries.
- Budget Justification Narrative: Applicants must submit a detailed budget and budget narrative justification utilizing the template provided. Line item expenditures should be listed in the greatest possible detail. Budgets shall be submitted in U.S. dollars and final grant agreements will be conducted in U.S. dollars.
Budget Restrictions: AEIF 2021 does not support the following activities or costs, and the selection committee will deem applications involving any of these activities or costs ineligible:
- Any airfare to/from the United States and its territories;
- Activities that take place in the United States and its territories;
- Staff salaries, office space, and overhead/operational expenses;
- Large items of durable equipment or construction programs;
- Alcohol, excessive meals, refreshments, or entertainment;
- Academic or scientific research;
- Charitable or development activities;
- Provision of direct social services to a population;
- Individual scholarships;
- Social travel/visits;
- Gifts or prizes;
- Duplication of existing programs;
- Institutional development of an organization;
- Venture capital, for-profit endeavors, or charging a fee for participation in project;
- Support for specific religious activities;
- Fund-raising campaigns;
- Support or opposition of partisan political activity or lobbying for specific legislation.
E. REVIEW AND SELECTION PROCESS
Evaluation Criteria: The U.S. embassy or consulate Public Affairs Sections will use the criteria outlined below to evaluate all applications. The proposals will be reviewed by a Selection Committee made up of regional and exchange program experts located at the Department of State in Washington, DC. Panelists will use the criteria below to review and evaluate applications.
Relevance to Application Theme
The proposal provides sufficient information on how the activities will support the theme(s) of the competition. The narrative explains any relevant local context the D.C. Selection Committee may not be aware of in relation to this project.
Purpose and Summary, Description, and Implementation Plan
When developing the purpose, summary, description, and implementation plan, applicants should aim to make all descriptions clear, concise, and compelling. Reviewers will judge the proposals based on the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the community where it is undertaken. Does the project address an important gap of understanding or need? If the aim of the project is achieved, how will existing knowledge or practice be improved? What audience do the applicants hope to reach with this project? How many will participate? How will they be selected?
Degree of Alumni Involvement
Projects must include the involvement of at least two (2) exchange alumni. They may be the project team leaders or collaborate directly with PAS in formulating the project. More than two alumni may comprise the team, however, the minimum is two. As the team leaders, the alumni must be closely involved in project planning, implementation, etc. Applicants should ensure that the proposal includes the following information for each alumni team member: first name, last name, e-mail address, exchange program, country of citizenship, and roles and responsibilities.
Participation and Support from Local Partners
The proposal demonstrates buy-in and support from the community where the project will take place. Local partner involvement is a strong sign that there is community support and that the project will engage a broad array of experts, such as subject matter experts, community centers, academic institutions, businesses, local/national government, non-governmental organizations, American Spaces, etc.
Evaluation and Impact of the Project
A monitoring & evaluation (M&E) plan is pivotal to project implementation and important tracking progress towards the project’s objectives and goals. An M&E plan should consider the data needed to effectively monitor progress toward specific outputs and outcomes as well as how that data collection will be accomplished. Well-crafted indicators should be used to understand a program’s progress toward the desired results. An M&E plan should be reviewed for the following:
- Applicability and logic of objectives and indicators
- Clear approach to monitoring
- Adherence to SMART criteria
- Feasibility of baselines and targets
- Data quality plan
- Capacity to implement plan
Have the applicants considered how the project will continue to have positive impact after the end of the project. Will participants share the knowledge they have learned, or will they continue to communicate with one another after the program ends.
Communication, Media, and Outreach Plan
The project should include a clear plan and timeline for how and when the team will share information about the project. It is important to ensure that the U.S. Embassy gets recognition throughout the process, if circumstances permit.
Budget and Budget Narrative
The budget and narrative justification are sufficiently detailed. Costs are reasonable in relation to the proposed activities and anticipated results. The budget is realistic, accounting for all necessary expenses to achieve proposed activities. The results and proposed outcomes justify the total cost of the project. Budget items are reasonable, allowable, and allocable.
Disclaimer: This notice is subject to availability of funding. U.S. Embassy Moscow does not guarantee availability of funding by receiving applications under this announcement. Only successful applicants will be contacted.
F. FEDERAL AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
The grant award will be written, signed, awarded, and administered by the Grants Officer. The assistance award agreement is the authorizing document and it will be provided to the recipient for review and signature by email. The recipient may only start incurring program expenses beginning on the start date shown on the grant award document signed by the Grants Officer.
If a proposal is selected for funding, the Department of State has no obligation to provide any additional future funding. Renewal of an award to increase funding or extend the period of performance is at the discretion of the Department of State.
Issuance of this NOFO does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government, nor does it commit the U.S. government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of proposals. Further, the U.S. government reserves the right to reject any or all proposals received.
Reporting Requirements: Recipients will be required to submit financial reports and program reports. The award document will specify how often these reports must be submitted.
Questions about the grant application process should be directed to: GrantsRussia@state.gov.