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Frequently Asked Questions – Closing the justice gap

Geographic scope 

Consortia design

Research design

Budgetary considerations

Proposal submission

Review, selection and feedback


  1. Are there any restrictions on countries being targeted in the call? 

IDRC funds research in many countries in the Global South, but the Centre is bound by Canadian law, which may restrict or prohibit funding for research and organizations in specific countries and/or regions. For example, if the law limits banking transactions by Canadian financial institutions in a particular country, IDRC will not undertake any form of programming in the country. For this call, we will also consider the time necessary for approval of research in each country. For a list of eligible countries, see Question 2.  

  1. What does it mean for an organization to be based/registered in an eligible country?

Organizations from one of the eligible countries in Asia and East, West and Southern Africa listed in the proposal form must have legal corporate registration in that country.

Eligible Asian countries include: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Eligible countries in Western, Southern and Eastern Africa include: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.    

The organization’s legal corporate registration must show that the jurisdiction of registration is the eligible country. For IDRC to enter into an agreement with your organization, IDRC must be satisfied that the organization has independent legal status (or 'legal personality') and is capable of contracting in its own right and name. 

  1. In the application, there are options to select regions and countries. At this point, if we do not yet know which countries we will be working in, should we select those we anticipate working in and change it later if need be?

At this stage, applicants should already know in which countries they intend to work in.  

  1. Can I submit an application that proposes activities in more than one country?  

Yes, we will consider joint project proposals that include applicants from one to three countries.

  1. Proposals can focus on up to three countries – do these three countries need to be within the same region? 

No. Organizations wishing to submit proposals for cross-regional research projects, however, would need to demonstrate the cross-regional or transnational importance of the project’s focus; a history of collaboration among organizations across regions; clear plans for cross-regional activities and comparative analysis. Note also, the proposed countries must also be among those eligible for this call for proposals. 

  1. Can organizations based in one region (e.g. Asia) submit proposals focusing solely on countries in another region (e.g. East Africa)? 

No. See Question 5 for additional guidance on cross-regional projects. 

  1. Are organizations based in other countries eligible to apply? 
    Submissions can include partner organizations based in other countries or regions as long as the majority of the activities take place in eligible countries, and significant contribution to the eligible regions is demonstrated. 


  1. What constitutes an organization for the purposes of this call for proposals? 
    The applying organization (or lead organization) is the one responsible for subject expertise, research, and the administration of funds. Organizations could be private research organizations (e.g., non-governmental organizations, cooperatives, unions, civil society organizations, non-profit foundations, or divisions of for-profit organizations). Applicants from academia, private and public-sector organizations with a strong research focus are also eligible for this call. IDRC encourages diverse and gender-balanced research teams. 

Eligible organizations: 

  • are registered as a legal corporation in an eligible country; 
  • have experience implementing data collection or research projects to generate new evidence; 
  • have a corporate policy to allow researchers to publish freely in the international academic literature; and 
  • are not part of the United Nations (although UN organizations may participate as collaborating organizations). 
  1. Can we submit a proposal if we are a team of researchers (consortium)?  

Research consortia comprised of multiple partner organizations may apply, particularly those that demonstrate a past history of successful collaboration together and embed a cross-cutting thematic collaboration within the project. The proposal must clearly indicate strong commitment from all members to forming a viable and effective consortium. One partner must be designated as the lead institution. The lead institution is responsible for submitting the application to IDRC on behalf of the consortium. This institution must adhere to the eligibility criteria mentioned in Question 8.

  1. What is the definition of “consortium”?  

A consortium is a collaboration between multiple institutional partners, including one lead applicant and one or multiple co-applicants which are also referred to as “participating institutions.”

  1. What is your definition of “lead applicant”?  

The lead applicant is responsible for the intellectual conception and implementation of the idea, the direction of the proposed activities and management of the grant. The lead applicant should submit the application to IDRC on behalf of the partnership (if applicable).  

  1. What is your definition of “co-applicant” or “participating institution”?  

The lead applicant may work with multiple partner organizations (co-applicants) as are needed for the project but IDRC will only have a Grant Agreement with the lead applicant. The lead applicant, however, can negotiate and develop funding arrangements directly with co-applicants. Co-applicants are those that will participate directly in the conduct of the research but will not receive funds directly from IDRC. In this case, the proposing institution (lead applicant) is responsible for disbursement of funds and for ensuring that all institutions abide by the standard terms and conditions that apply to the IDRC grant.  

  1. Can organizations form a consortium with other organizations? 

Yes. But the same proposal cannot be presented by different organizations/firms.  

  1. Is it possible for an organization to be a member of a consortium AND be a lead in a separate application?  

No. Organizations are eligible to participate in one application only, as either a lead applicant or co-applicant.  

  1. The application asks for a signed consortia letter. Is it acceptable that some partners have an informal partnership letter at this point, as formal arrangements may take longer?  

Please provide what is possible to help us assess partnerships. At this point, if formal agreements are not possible, an informal letter of support will suffice, and further information may be requested by IDRC at a later time.  

  1. Is there a limit on the number of applications submitted by an organization?  

There is a limit of one application per lead organization. Organizations can participate in other applications but will only be able to participate in one successful grant.  


  1. What is meant by “research, evidence-building, and learning efforts”?  

We invite project proposals based on a diverse range of research approaches including, in particular, multi-disciplinary and mixed research methodologies. Participatory and action-research projects, as well as and evidence collection and learning that are embedded in program experimentation are potential examples of research approaches. Here are some examples of past research projects Annex.

  1. What is meant by the call’s goal of “strengthened regional and global policy engagement”? 

We expect applications to describe proposed results of the research and any strategies or theories of change that link evidence-generation and learning to those results (within the 36-month funding period and allocated budget). Applications should also demonstrate potential impacts of research on policy processes and informing practice, highlighting strategies that would be used towards changing social and political norms. 

  1. What is the expected duration of successful proposals?  

Project proposals for this call should be up to 36 months in length and be valued up to CA$450,000 for one country projects and up to CA$800,000 for multi-country projects. 

  1. With the continued impacts of COVID-19 and other potential uncertainties in our context, how can we plan research design and methodology for the next two or three years?  

IDRC understands that variables change over time and that project design is likely to shift during its lifecycle. Proposals should have a clearly described process about how they will respond to changing scenarios (e.g. because of COVID-19) and have the capacity to transition to different topics. Please think about how the project design can incorporate feedback loops and demonstrate how methodology will reflect changing dynamics. Reporting mechanisms will be put in place for grantees to adapt and share project changes with IDRC over the duration of the project.  


  1. Which currency should I submit the budget in?  

Applications must be submitted in the lead applicant’s working currency (the currency in which the books of accounts are maintained). However, as a Canadian Crown Corporation, IDRC restricts all of its contractual obligations for grants and contributions to the approved Canadian dollar amount. See Section D in IDRC’s How to Apply to an IDRC Research Grant for more information about project currency and conversion. 

  1. If there are organizations collaborating from different countries of the Global South, does the proposal need to be submitted in the lead organization’s working currency?  

Yes, the proposal needs to be submitted in the lead applicant’s working currency.  

  1. Do I need to submit separate budgets for the lead and co-applicants?  

No. In the case of a consortium, please submit one budget detailing expenses of the lead applicant. For co-applicants, a single line item with the name of the sub-grantee (co-applicant) is sufficient. The budget breakdown for the subgrants will need to be provided at the category level, as budget notes for each sub-grantee line item.  

  1. What is the limit of indirect costs or overhead costs allowable?  

Indirect costs are allowable up to a maximum of 13% of the overall budget excluding equipment for each co-applicant (in the case of a consortium). Please refer to Guidelines for acceptable project expenditures for more information on indirect cost here. This amount applies for any amounts allocated to subcontracting. Please note that the total budget including the indirect costs should not be higher than the maximum amount of funding mentioned above.  

  1. Are there specific budget requirements for how much funding has to be allocated to partners in low-income countries?  

The budget should reflect the aim of the call, and IDRC’s mandate to support researchers in developing countries.  

  1. Is the lead applicant permitted to include a management fee for coordinating the partnership and collaborating organizations? If so what are the rules in setting this up?  

The lead applicant cannot include a fee for the management of the partnership. However, the lead applicant can include a Coordinator position in the Personnel line item of the budget to cover fees related to management and coordination of the research and related activities.  

  1. The call document states that “Proposals must include an overall plan of activities for 36 months”; do applicants need to upload this separately, or is this covered adequately in the budget questions?  

No separate document is needed. This information will appear in the budget and eventual final proposal.  

  1. Where can I find the template for the budget?  
    The budget template can be found at: 


  1. When is the application due? 

The application must be submitted by 11:59 PM EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) on March 22, 2021. 

  1. Which browser is best to use to open the online application platform? 

We recommend that you use one of the following browsers: Safari, Chrome, or Microsoft Edge. It is not recommended that you use Internet Explorer.  

  1. How do I submit CVs of the applicant team?  

You can submit CVs on the SurveyMonkey Apply system. Accepted file types for the CVs include PDF, DOC, DOCX, PNG, JPG, and JPEG. CVs can be uploaded as separate documents to the system. 

  1. Is there a recommended format or template for the CVs?  
    No, there is no recommended format or template for the Principal Investigator (PI) and the co-PIs CVs.  
  2. Can I submit more than one application?  

No. Also, a person is eligible to participate in one application only, as either a lead applicant or co-applicant.  

  1. Can we submit proposals in French?  


  1. In the proposal, may we add links/graphs/tables? Do these form part of the word limit?  

We may be considering additional material at some stage of the project development process. For this stage of proposal submission we encourage you not to include these and present your proposal within the word limit. Additional links at this submission stage will not be consulted by reviewers.  

  1. How detailed and well-referenced must a proposal be? 

Proponents are advised to use their best judgement on given word limitations and do their best to make applications as thorough as possible to help reviewers make an informed decision.  

  1. Can our application provide electronic signatures where signatures are required? 

Yes, electronic signatures are allowed. 

  1. Is it possible to download the application form to see it as a single form?  

Yes, there is a link in the application that allows you to download it.  

  1. Can I submit my application by email to  

We require applicants to apply using the Survey Monkey Apply system and submit all required information and documents before the deadline. However, we do understand that some applicants may face technical difficulties in uploading the required information. If this is your case, please do follow these steps:   

  • If you are having technical problems uploading the required documents, please write immediately to describing the problem. We will connect you with our IT system specialist who will work with you to solve the problem.  
  • If you continue to have a problem and our IT specialist is unable to solve the issue, please send an email to requesting permission to submit the application via email. 
  • Once you have received permission from IDRC, you can then submit via email.  
  • Applications submitted directly by email WITHOUT HAVING OBTAINED PRIOR APPROVAL from IDRC WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.  
  • Please do note that, in any case, applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered.  
  1. If I have questions on the call for proposal, where should I turn?  

The call documents and this FAQ page should address most relevant application questions and are updated regularly. However, if additional technical questions or difficulties arise, please contact  

All enquiries should be received on or before 17:00 EDT on March 17, 2021 to receive a response prior to the deadline date.   


  1. How is the review of the applications conducted?  

Eligible proposals will be reviewed by IDRC and external reviewers from Namati and other organizations to select cohorts of grantees for sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Applications will first be screened for general eligibility. Eligible proposals will then receive a more detailed review. Depending on the volume of applications, IDRC might first conduct a short-listing process prior to the more detailed review. 

  1. When can applicants expect to receive a response to their proposal? 

We aim to provide notification of results (technical selection) by May 1, 2021, or as soon as possible thereafter. Following this, the applicant will receive correspondence of an IDRC Program Officer, who will communicate the further process and issues to be addressed (technical, time-lines, milestones, budget, etc.) in the Grant Agreement.  

  1. Will I receive feedback on my application? 

IDRC will share the feedback on the selected proposals with successful applicants. Given that the volume of applications is not yet known, at this time IDRC is not planning to provide feedback on unsuccessful applications. In this case, you will receive a notification following review that your submission was unsuccessful.  



ANNEX: Examples of action-research on legal empowerment

  1. Unlocking the ‘poverty penalty’: advancing respect for rights and access to services in informal settlements in Kenya   

The Justice Challenge: Residents of the Mukuru informal settlement in Nairobi began experiencing a dramatic increase in forceful evictions about a decade ago. In the face of those threats, Akiba Mashinani Trust, a legal empowerment organization, supported a federation of Mukuru residents (Muungano wa Wanavijiji) to defend their rights to housing under Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. In addition to getting a court order halting evictions, they sought to identify longer-term solutions to provide inclusive and equitable access to basic services and dignified living conditions for residents of the informal settlement.  

The research: To support those longer-term legal empowerment efforts, Akiba Mashinani Trust led a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from University of Nairobi’s school of urban planning, Strathmore University’s school of business, Katiba Institute, and Slum Dwellers International, Kenya. With active participation of residents (through Muungano), the research team analyzed planning, financial, land tenurem and other governance challenges and then generated models for affordable redevelopment of Mukuru.

The research diagnosed a ‘poverty penalty’ in Mukuru – residents paid far more for squalid services than in formal neighbourhoods. Research activities included a community-led mapping process to collect data on the physical, social, and economic conditions in the settlements through surveys, focus-group discussions, and GIS mapping. As part of research activities, community members received training in data collection. Findings were also used in rights-awareness sessions, which helped residents to prevent further evictions and contributed to a campaign led by thousands of women residents to claim their rights to health and sanitation. 

How Research Supported Systemic Change: The team then successfully used the research findings – which filled key information gaps about conditions in Mukuru – to engage municipal authorities and push for policy action. Their efforts resulted in the declaration of a Special Planning Area for Mukuru, setting in motion a 2-year process to develop an integrated plan for the redevelopment of Mukuru (led by AMT with a consortium of 40+ organizations). The planning processes placed residents at the centre of decision-making and demonstrated a model for widespread citizen participation in urban planning.  In late 2020, the government began redevelopment of Mukuru based on those plans. 

Read more here and here.  

  1. Strengthening inclusion, participation, and good governance using Kenya's Community Land Act and scaling community land protection in the face of large-scale investments in Sierra Leone 

The Justice Challenge: In recent years, governments across Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been granting vast land concessions to national elites and foreign investors for agro-industrial enterprises, forestry, and mineral extraction. In many cases, these land concessions dispossess rural communities and deprive them of access to natural resources vital to their livelihoods and economic survival. Even when communities welcome private investment, the investments may be undertaken in ways that lead to environmental degradation, human rights violations, loss of access to livelihoods, and inequity.

The role of Legal Empowerment: Namati’s Community Land Protection Program deploys paralegals to support communities to use national land laws to protect their customary and indigenous lands and strengthen land and natural resource governance. They educate communities about land law and policy and then support them to draft community bylaws, harmonize their boundaries with neighbours, elect a land council responsible for land and natural resource management, and complete the administrative steps in the registration process, including mapping and surveying their lands. During the process, communities strengthen their land governance — instituting intra-community safeguards to protect the rights of vulnerable groups and to ensure that local elites do not engage in corrupt or exploitative practices at the expense of the wider community.

The research: Namati led action-research to test community-led approaches for registering collective land rights. Drawing largely on case data and community experiences, the research sought to understand: (i) What are the institutional and policy barriers to securing community land tenure? (ii) How can land registration processes and community-level rules protect women and minorities from exclusion and disenfranchisement? In Sierra Leone, the focus was on identifying conditions for scaling-up land protection support, from a village by village approach to experimenting with collaboration among neighbouring communities and the possibility of documenting rights at the larger chiefdom-level. In Kenya, in collaboration with IMPACT, Il’laramatak Community Concern, and Samburu Women’s Trust, the team tested implementation of a recent Community Land Act. 

How Research Supported Systemic Change: In Kenya, the team supported communities to push central ministry officials to identify a process for registering the first-ever applications for community land title under the new act. In addition, the team used lessons from action-research documenting community efforts to register to increase county officials’ awareness of hurdles to implementation. In Sierra Leone, lessons from the research are feeding directly into recommendations for a draft Customary Land bill. Community members are also drawing on insights and evidence from their experience, documenting their collective land rights to advocate for the passage of the draft bill.

Read more here

  1. Governance, land, and the gendered politics of displacement in urban Pakistan

The Justice Challenge: Economically disadvantaged communities living in and around Pakistan’s urban centres have faced threats to their land and livelihoods in recent years. Public authorities and investors have placed an emphasis on land acquisitions and infrastructure projects to spur economic development. At the same time, media reports have documented regular disregard for city master plans, and rampant urban expansion, driving the urban poor to the fringes of cities and forcing farmers in rural areas off their lands. Government efforts to protect citizens, for instance through an anti-encroachment court and a special force in Karachi have proved largely ineffective. Land disputes have been left unresolved in court and in some cases settled by force. Affected populations have been left with little power or avenues in which to air their grievances or seek remedies. 

The research: Responding to those challenges, this action research project investigated three intertwined issues: (1) how rural and urban communities in Pakistan respond to their marginalization in decision-making processes and defend against displacements; (2) how communities organize and demand redress, including better compensation; and (3) how communities experience loss of well-being as a result of loss of land.

The research was led by the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, in partnership with the nongovernmental organizations, Karachi Indigenous Rights Alliance and Urban Resource Centre. Together, the team supported informal settlement communities, especially women, in and around Karachi faced with pending or ongoing eviction and displacement. The research documented community-led efforts to use different tools and mechanisms, including the law, to increase community members’ awareness of their rights and their ability to seek government support and redress, and negotiate equitable terms to protect their rights and interests. The project also developed training on psychological well-being and vulnerability involved in land acquisitions. Research activities included use of GIS mapping to document the extent and impacts of historical and current loses of land, as well as access to services. That data was used by senior lawyers in public interest litigation at the High Court to protect neighbourhood lands. To supplement those efforts, the team performed media analysis of public discourse of informality of housing and lands in settlement communities. A paralegal attended cases at the High Court and Supreme Court involving informal settlement lands to document how relevant laws have been applied in practice and identify obstacles for affected communities to secure their rights. 

How Research Supported Systemic Change: In the process of collecting data, working with communities and disseminating project information, the research team joined a larger-scale advocacy effort aimed at promoting public awareness the rights of communities facing eviction and displacement in and around Karachi. Those and larger efforts to engage with public officials at all levels of government were paused with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Read more here