Concept note guidance – Unsolicited Proposal
Process updated in February 2023
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) recognizes that the cost of developing a full project proposal can be significant. Submitting a concept note that describes your proposed project saves time and money because it helps us decide if it makes sense to invite you to submit a full proposal.
Note: You are responsible for the costs of preparing a concept note and/or a full project proposal. GAC will not reimburse you for any costs you incur before you sign a funding agreement.
We will only assess your concept note if you:
- apply through the Partners@International portal
- respect the format and content requirements described below
- ensure your application package is complete (see Apply for funding through an unsolicited proposal)
- 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 Rich Text Format (RTF). Note: We will not accept concept notes submitted in PDF format.
- Your concept note for a single-country project must not exceed 2,500 words in English or 3,000 words in French. For a multi-country project, your concept note must not exceed 3,000 words in English or 3,600 words in French. Word limits do not include the annexes.
- Include graphic elements, if any, such as photos and graphs in an annex rather than in the body of the concept note.
- Use Arial font size 11 on letter-sized page.
We assess concept notes based on
- their alignment with Canada’s international assistance priorities
- 3 specific core components, see below.
Include the following:
Title: title of your proposed project
Duration: number of years
Country(ies) and sector: country or countries and regions in which the proposed project will take place, and the main sector it will address. This ensures we direct your concept note to the most appropriate program. We will only consider projects that target official development assistance-eligible countries and sectors that Global Affairs Canada (GAC) works in.
Funding requested: amount of funding (Can$) you are requesting from GAC.
- There are no minimum or maximum funding 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 5% of eligible project costsin accordance with the Policy on Cost-Sharing for Grant and Non-Repayable Contribution Agreements.
Signatories: list any other organizations that would be signatories to a funding agreement with GAC if funding is approved. If none, indicate N/A.
Partners: list implementing partners (non-signatory partners) or local partners you have already identified. If none, indicate N/A or “not yet,” as appropriate.
Contact name, title and email: add contact information for this initiative in the footer of your document.
We do not award points when we assess concept notes. We will base our assessment on how well your concept note addresses the following 3 core components:
- development challenge
- organization capacity
Briefly describe the development challenge your proposed project will address.
- Explain how your proposed project aligns with Global Affairs Canada’s programming and policy priorities (including Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy) as well as the host country’s international or national commitments.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the issues related to gender equality (e.g. gender equality gaps, inequalities and barriers), human rights and environmental sustainability that pertain to your proposed project.
- Note any prior formal or informal discussions with local stakeholdersFootnote 1 and beneficiaries (rights holders), including women’s rights organizations, or other ways that you are ensuring your proposed project will be based on local needs and priorities.
- Describe your development challenge using fact-based evidence (i.e. cite your sources).
Aim for approximately 250 words in English or 300 words in French for this section.
Briefly describe how your proposed solution presents a logical and realistic way to sustainably address the development challenge(s) identified.
- Identify an ultimate outcome and intermediate outcomes that address the problem identified, and which align with Global Affairs Canada’s international assistance programming approach to Results-Based Management. Bold or underline these in your text and identify as Ultimate Outcome and Intermediate See Results-based Management; Results-based Management for International Assistance Programming: A how-to guide; and RBM Tip Sheet 2.1 for additional guidance.
You should also identify intermediaries and beneficiaries (rights-holders) and estimate how many, if possible.
- Explain how your solution will address the gender equality, human rights and environmental considerations that you identified in the development challenge section.
- Include consultations or discussions already undertaken, e.g. in the course of an ongoing project or other contacts, with potential partners or local stakeholders and beneficiaries (rights holders), including women’s rights organizations, to support your decision to design your project in a certain way and/or why you believe it will solve the development challenge sustainably.
- Clearly describe the risks associated with your proposed project that could have the greatest impact on the achievement of development results.
- Highlight any innovative elements in your proposed project and how they align with Canada’s approach to innovation in international assistance.
Aim for approximately 1,000 words in English or 1,200 words in French for this section.
Briefly describe why you believe your organization has the capacity to implement the proposed project successfully.
- Indicate experience managing 1 or more projects that achieved expected outcomes in the same country, context, and/or sector. The example should be evidence based (i.e. cite your data sources).
- Indicate experience managing 1 or more projects that achieved expected outcomes of a similar value and with comparable financial complexities as the proposed project.
- review your organization’s history of consistently delivering on-time submission of complete and acceptable performance and financial reports for other projects funded by GAC, where applicable.
- check your organization’s record of fiduciary risk.
Aim for approximately 500 words in English or 600 words in French for this section.
See our Project Browser for more about GAC’s current and past projects.
- You may not need an in-country visit to complete the concept note, but circumstances vary. As the applicant it is your responsability to decide whether a visit is necessary at this stage based on input from potential stakeholders,Footnote 2 including beneficiaries, i.e. rights holders.
- Local ownership of development priorities by host countries is a key principle of effective development cooperation. You may need to set up initial consultations with potential partners and local stakeholders if you are not already in contact with them through other work or projects.
- If we find your concept note to be of interest to Global Affairs Canada, we will invite you to submit a full project proposal that provides additional information about your proposed project.
- This eventual additional step will require an organization to provide several details regarding the intended project, namely (non-exclusive): strong gender equality analysis, substantive environmental and human rights considerations, results-based management approach, risk-assessment, organization’s abilities and financial information, and a broken-down budget of the intended project’s activities.
- 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: If you are proposing an innovative finance element consistent with the “Conditionally Repayable Contributions (CRC) Pilot”, you must include an Innovative Finance annex with more detailed information. See below in the Innovative Finance section.
Conditionally Repayable Contributions (CRCs)
CRCs are required whenever projects/activities generate revenue or when funding is used to make investments, issue loans or offer financial guarantees.
GAC has launched a 5-year (2021 to 2026) CRC pilot project for select types of non-complex projects that require the use of CRCs.
The CRC pilot project is limited to projects/recipients that meet the specific CRC pilot criteria. See Innovative finance for the latest information about the CRC pilot.
Does your project meet the CRC pilot criteria?
Answer the following mandatory questions to help us determine whether the innovative finance element(s) of your project meet the CRC pilot criteria.
- Repayable contribution
- Will your proposed project or a project component result in revenues or an increase in the value of your business? Yes/No
- Will the funding provided be used to make investments, issue loans or offer financial guarantees for the purpose of attaining development results? Yes/No
- Instrument: Does the proposed project support either loan portfolios (including microfinance) or loan portfolio guarantees? Note: a portfolio approach, as opposed to individual investments, can reduce risks via diversification and increase expected impact. Yes/No
- Do you have a proven track record? Yes/No
- Have you demonstrated programming and risk management experience in the innovative development finance space related to the proposed project? Yes/No
- Financial: Can your balance sheet/financial holding capacity/ accommodate the size and scope of the proposed project? Yes/No
- Risk sharing: Does your proposed project include a financial contribution by you or another source for the innovative finance/CRC component? Yes/No
- Funding amount: Are you requesting funding between $5 million and $20 million for the innovative finance/CRC component? Yes/No
Innovative Finance annex
If you answered “yes” to every question, you must submit an Innovative Finance annex that includes your responses to the following questions.
Aim for approximately 500 words in English or 550 words in French for this annex.
Innovative finance annex questions
- Repayable contribution: Briefly describe the project activities that may result in revenues or an increase in the value of your business.
- Instrument: Provide an overview of the proposed financial instruments/structure that includes loan portfolios, loan portfolio guarantees or both. Provide details of the financial activities to be undertaken and briefly explain the flow of funds, the involvement of any intermediaries in the structure and how the fund(s) will be managed.
- Experience: Describe your experience managing innovative finance projects that are similar in size and scope.
Provide the following information, which should match your annual audited financial statements, certified and signed by your chief financial officer:
- last 3 years of total assets and funds under management, each presented separately by fiscal year:
- value of investment portfolio
- loans receivable under management
- financial guarantees
- other assets
- last 3 years of annual capital disbursements made for financing activities, such as total disbursements for loans in a fiscal year
- last 3 years of annual revenue, net income and retained earnings, or, if an NGO, your unrestricted reserves i.e. that do not have externally imposed restrictions
- functional currency of the information provided (e.g. Can$)
- Risk sharing: Describe how you or other contributors/implementing partners (where relevant) plan to contribute financially to this innovative finance element of your project and/or share the risk with GAC.
- Funding value: Estimate how much funding will be required for the innovative finance/CRC component.
Flow of funds diagram
Use a separate page to provide a diagram of the flow of funds between and toward different organizations or parts of organizations. Indicate the roles of all proposed partners, intermediaries and beneficiaries on the diagram.
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