Unsolicited Proposals: Guidance for Concept Notes
Please follow the instructions for drafting your concept note to begin an application for funding for international development projects. If you do not respect page limits and other instructions, we will not assess your concept note.
You must submit your unsolicited concept note through the Partners@International portal to ensure that your concept note and the date you submitted it are logged in the system. If you send us your concept note any other way (e.g. in person or email) we will not consider it as submitted.
- A field mission should not be necessary to complete the concept note, but circumstances vary. It is your responsibility as the applicant to judge the input from your interactions with potential stakeholders, including beneficiaries, to determine whether a field mission is necessary at this stage.
- Local ownership of development priorities by host countries is a key principle of effective development cooperation. If you are not already in contact with potential partners and local stakeholders through other work or projects, you may need to undertake some initial consultations.
- As the applicant you are responsible for managing the expectations of your potential partners and other stakeholders. Most unsolicited proposals do not receive funding, and funding is never guaranteed until a funding agreement is signed.
- You are responsible for the costs of preparing a concept note or full proposal. Any costs you incur before a funding agreement is signed are not eligible to be reimbursed.
- Your concept note for a single-country project must not exceed 2,500 words in English or 3,000 words in French.
- Your concept note for a multi-country project must not exceed 3,000 words in English or 3,600 words in French.
- Word limits do not include the annexes.
- Optional: You may append a 1-page maximum annex to your concept note if you wish to include a preliminary logic model (including outcomes/results, but not outputs), photos or graphs.
- Mandatory: You must include an Innovative Finance annex with more detailed information in cases where you are proposing an innovative finance element consistent with the “Conditionally Repayable Contributions (CRC) Pilot.” See information below in the Innovative Finance section.
- You may use any word processing program to prepare your concept note. If you use a program other than Microsoft Word you must save it in RTF format.
- Use Arial 11 font with 1.15 line spacing and 1” margins on letter-sized paper.
- Include graphic elements, if any, such as photos and graphs in the annex rather than in the body of the concept note.
You may wish to format the following information as a short table to save space.
Title: title of your proposed project
Duration: Specify the number of years
Country(ies) and sector: Identify the country or countries in which the project will take place and the main sector the proposed project will address. This will ensure that the most appropriate program receives your concept note.
Funding requested: Indicate the amount of funding you are requesting from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) in Canadian dollars. Please keep in mind:
- There are no minimum or maximum amount limits for an unsolicited proposal.
- Only the minimum required to achieve the expected outcomes of the project can be considered for funding.
- Your organization or other sources must contribute a minimum of 5% of direct eligible project costs in accordance with the Cost-Share Policy.
Contact name, title and email: You only need to specify 1 contact for this initiative because your organization’s information is already in the Partners@International portal and the concept note you submitted through the portal is attached to it. You may include a second contact if you wish.
Signatories: List signatories you plan to include on a funding agreement with Global Affairs Canada if funding is approved. If none, indicate N/A.
Partners: List implementing partners or local partners you have already identified. If none, indicate N/A or “not yet,” as appropriate.
Will your proposed project, or a component of it, result in revenues or an increase to the value of your business? Yes/No
Will the funding provided be used to make investments, issue loans or offer financial guarantees for the purposes of attaining development results? Yes/No
If you answered yes to either question above, your project may be eligible for inclusion in a Global Affairs Canada CRC Pilot. See details below.
CRC Pilot: GAC has launched a 5-year (2021 to 2026) pilot for select types of non-complex projects that require the use of CRCs (CRCs are required whenever projects/activities generate revenue or funding is used to make investments, issue loans or offer financial guarantees.). More information about the CRC Pilot is available on the Innovative finance programs web page. Please note that at this time, the CRC Pilot is limited to projects/recipients that meet the pilot criteria only. Please visit this page regularly as specific guidance will be updated as the CRC Pilot evolves.
CRC Pilot criteria: Please answer the following questions to determine whether the innovative finance element(s) of your project may fall within the CRC Pilot criteria. If you answer yes to all the questions below, complete the mandatory Innovative Finance Annex so that we can assess your project further.
- Repayable contribution: Will your proposed project, or a component of it, result in revenues or an increase to the value of your business; and/or will the funding provided be used to make investments, issue loans or offer financial guarantees for the purposes of attaining development results? Yes/No
- Instrument: Does the proposal support either loan portfolios (including microfinance) or loan portfolio guarantees? (A portfolio approach, as opposed to individual investments, can reduce risks via diversification and increase expected impact.) Yes/No
- Experience: Do you have a proven track record and have you demonstrated programming and risk management experience in the innovative development finance space related to the proposal? Yes/No
- Financial: Do you have sufficient financial holding/balance sheet capacity relative to the size and scope of the proposed project? Yes/No
- Risk sharing: Does the proposal include a financial contribution by you for the innovative finance/CRC component? Yes/No
- Size: Is the amount of funding requested for the innovative finance/CRC component between $5 million and $20 million? Yes/No
- Concisely describe the development challenge your proposed project will address (including gender equality, human rights and environmental sustainability considerations) and how it fits with Global Affairs Canada’s programming and policy priorities and the host country’s international or national commitments.
- Identify how the proposed concept will address remaining gaps, build on and complement the initiatives of other donors and governments and bring value-added to Canada’s efforts.
- Identify the root causes of gender inequalities or other human rights issues that will be addressed by the proposed project.
- Cite sources for statistics or other evidence provided.
- Note any prior formal or informal discussions with local stakeholders, including women’s rights organizations, or other ways that you are ensuring your proposed project is based on local needs and priorities.
- Note contextual challenge if operating in a fragile or conflict-affected setting.
- Suggested length: 250 words in English or 300 words in French
- Make the case for your proposed solution. Concisely describe:
- What: expected outcomes
- Who: intermediaries and beneficiaries and estimate how many, if possible
- Where: project activities and benefits will be targeted
- When: project should be implemented (only if relevant, e.g. before the beginning of a growing season/school year/election campaign)
- Why: project will successfully achieve the expected results, including critical assumptions, risks and mitigation
- How: expected results will be sustainable
- Explain how your solution will address the human rights, gender equality and environmental issues (gaps) that you identified in the development challenge section.
- Follow Global Affairs Canada’s Results-based management for international assistance programming: A how-to guide to formulate outcome statements. Bold or underline these in your text and identify as Ultimate Outcome, Intermediate Outcomes and Immediate Outcomes.
- Mention any consultations or discussions already undertaken (e.g. in the course of an ongoing project or other contacts with potential partners or local stakeholders, including women’s rights organizations) as support for why your project will be designed in a certain way and/or why you believe it will work.
- Explain how the root causes of gender inequalities or other human rights issues will be addressed and how this is appropriate to the local context and marginalized populations involved.
- Identify any on-granting or flow of funds to third-party organizations.
- Highlight any innovative elements in your proposed project.
- Global Affairs Canada defines innovation in international assistance as a process, mindset, and means to enable new or improved locally driven solutions for better results and greater impact that benefit and empower the poorest and most vulnerable, including women and girls. Briefly identify (i) how your project and/or implementation plan is innovative (e.g. how it employs new or improved business models, policy practices, approaches, partnerships, technologies, behavioural insights, funding mechanisms or ways of delivering products and services); (ii) how you will test and/or scale the innovative elements within your project (e.g. in your project design and/or implementation plan); and (iii) how you will measure the results and impact of the innovative solution(s).
- As applicable, explain how your solution will integrate conflict sensitivity considerations throughout the project lifecycle.
- Suggested length: 1,000 words in English or 1,200 words in French
- Explain why you believe your organization can successfully implement the proposed project.
- Provide examples of similar projects, the outcomes achieved and risks managed by your organization. Your organization is the legal entity registered in the Partners@International portal, not other partners or affiliated organizations.
- Highlight similarities of approach, setting (e.g. geographic, isolation, security, language), sector/sub-sector, results, risks, size/budget and partners, if applicable.
- Underline gender equality, human rights and/or environmental sustainability outcomes achieved, if any.
- Although 2 are suggested, provide as many project examples as you choose to show your experience achieving outcomes in similar circumstances.
- Include project examples of other organizations only if you have planned to include them as signatories to a funding agreement with Global Affairs Canada (should funding be provided). Be sure that this information is consistent with the signatories, if any, listed in the basic information section of the concept note.
- If the proposed project includes an on-granting component, describe your organization’s specific experience in designing and managing that kind of activity and the results achieved.
- Describe experience operating in fragile and conflict-affected settings, as applicable.
- If you have identified partner organizations for the design and implementation of the project briefly describe their capacity and/or experience if not already mentioned in the solution section.
- Note your organization’s connections to women’s organizations, human rights organizations, or other local organizations, if any.
- Suggested length: 500 words in English or 600 words in French
- Optional- All concept notes should:
- be no longer than 1 page or 500 words (maximum of 1.2 pages or 600 words if written in French)
- may include a preliminary logic model, photographs and/or infographs.
- Mandatory Innovative Finance Annex- If you answered yes to all of the questions above related to the CRC Pilot criteria, write a document of no more than 500 words (maximum of 550 words if written in French) describing the following:
- Repayable contribution - Briefly describe the project activities that may result in revenues or an increase in the value of your business.
- Instrument - Provide an overview of the proposed financial instruments/structure (either loan portfolios, loan portfolio guarantees or both). Provide details of the financial activities to be undertaken and briefly explain the flow of funds, the involvement of any intermediaries in the structure and how the fund(s) will be managed.
- Experience - Please describe your experience managing similar (in size and scope) innovative finance projects.
- Financial- Please provide, as certified and signed by your chief financial officer (this information should match your annual audited financial statements), the:
- last 3-year total assets and funds under management, each presented distinctly by fiscal year:
- Value of investment portfolio
- Loans receivable under management
- Financial guarantees
- Other assets
- last 3-year annual capital disbursements (annual capital disbursements made for financing activities such as total disbursements for loans in a fiscal year).
- last 3-year annual revenue, net income and retained earnings, or if an NGO, your unrestricted reserves (any reserves that do not have externally imposed restrictions).
- functional currency of the information provided (e.g. Can$).
- last 3-year total assets and funds under management, each presented distinctly by fiscal year:
- Risk sharing - Please describe how you plan to contribute financially to this innovative finance element of your project and/or share in the risk with GAC.
- Size - Approximately how much funding will be required for the innovative finance/CRC component?
- Flow of funds/wiring diagram - Provide on a separate page a graphic representation of the initiative’s flow of funds between and toward different organizations or parts of organizations and reflecting the roles of all proposed partners, intermediaries and beneficiaries.
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