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Call for project proposals: Strengthening the Capacities of Science Granting Councils in Gender and Inclusivity

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SGCI is calling for project proposals to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in gender and inclusivity.

1. Summary

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) is calling for project proposals to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in gender and inclusivity.

SGCI has agreed on two new partnerships: the first involving the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and IDRC, and the second with the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and IDRC. Both partnerships will be implemented over a period of 48 months (January 1, 2022–December 31, 2025). The partnerships will deepen and extend SGCI’s work in areas that are complementary to the activities supported under existing SGCI partnerships with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), IDRC, South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG).The goal of the project on Gender Equality and Inclusivity (GEI) that is to be funded under this call is to reinforce the capacity of Science Granting Councils (SGCs or Councils) to mainstream GEI into science, technology and innovation (STI). The SGCI’s ongoing work on GEI will be deepened and Councils will be supported to implement the knowledge and lessons acquired under two phases of SGCI projects (SGCI-1/SGCI-2). Achieving this goal could include work in three broad areas: promoting (i) the equality and status of women in research environments; (ii) diversity and inclusivity beyond gender equality in research environments; and (iii) the sex, gender and inclusivity dimension in research design and content.

The SGCI invites project proposals from organizations (including think tanks, institutes, universities, and agencies) with proven experience and track records to further deepen ongoing work with Councils to enhance GEI. The work, to be determined in consultation with Councils, may allow them to initiate and/or deepen various forms of strategies, activities, studies and additional mechanisms to implement cross-cutting work on gender and inclusivity. It could include offering training and technical support to SGCs (and related organizations such as Commissions or Funds) in specific areas of GEI in STI, supporting stakeholders’ dialogues on GEI, and commissioning research on specific gender related themes such as: a) the status of women and other groups in research and the barriers they face to participating in STI; b) the impact of gender diversity on research; and c) evaluation of current initiatives by the Councils and other approaches to promote GEI in research and organizational practice.

IDRC will enter into an agreement with the successful organization.

The following section provides the project’s background, context, potential objectives, and approach. Applicants are expected to use this information only as a guide in developing their proposals. The content of proposals does not need to be limited to the points outlined below and originality/creativity will be among the key evaluation criteria. 

2. Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa

Science Granting Councils (and related organizations such as Commissions and Funds) perform crucial functions that contribute to the effective and efficient functioning of national science, technology and information (STI) systems. These functions vary from country to country but include the disbursement of grants for research, development and innovation; building research capacity through scholarships and bursaries; setting and monitoring research agendas and priorities; issuing research permits; formulating/revising national STI policies; providing policy advice to governments; managing bilateral/multilateral STI agreements; and monitoring and assessing the impacts of publicly funded research and research funded from other sources.

Since 2015, the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI-1) has involved collaboration between several funders, namely FCDO, IDRC, NRF, Sida, DFG and most recently Norad. Councils from across East, Southern and West Africa have participated to strengthen their capacities to support research and evidence-based policies that can contribute to economic and social development. As many as 15 countries participated (Box 1), with the opportunity for Nigeria and Sierra Leone to now be involved.

Box 1: Participating SGCI countries

Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Initially, SGCI focused on strengthening the ability of the Councils to: (a) manage research; (b) design and monitor research programs and formulate and implement policies based on STI indicators; (c) support knowledge exchange with the private sector; and (d) establish partnerships among Councils and with other science system actors.

Work with the Councils in these areas has deepened in SGCI’s current second phase (SGCI-2). It has also broadened to include research excellence; strategic communications/uptake of knowledge outputs; GEI; partnerships with the public sector, NGOs and local communities; and support for fundamental research is also possible (see Box 2). Councils received funding to manage their own research calls and have drawn on their enhanced capacities to promote collaborative research projects and networking. 

Box 2: SGCI-2 themes

Theme 1: Strengthening the ability of science granting councils in research management

Theme 2: Strengthening the capacity of science granting councils to use data and evidence in policy and decision-making 

Theme 3: Supporting the ability of science granting councils to fund research and innovation

Theme 4: Supporting strategic communications, uptake of knowledge outputs and networking

Theme 5: Strengthening the capacities of science granting councils in GEI

The SGCI’s overarching theory of change depicts how the Initiative’s themes are linked to corresponding expected outputs and how these outputs contribute to the outcome and impact. The expected outcome in the medium-term is effective investments by the Councils in research, development and innovation, while the long-term impact is intended to be strong national science systems that contribute to economic and social development in sub-Saharan Africa.

Capacity strengthening and other forms of technical support to science granting councils are achieved through in-person or virtual customized coaching and group training courses and workshops implemented by teams of collaborating technical agencies and a monitoring, evaluation and learning consultant. Research projects are also funded jointly with participating Councils and managed either by the Councils themselves or through a collaborating technical agency. The SGCI also supports and promotes peer-to-peer learning between and among the staff of Councils.

The SGCI’s governance structure includes an executive committee that is responsible for high-level oversight, a panel of advisors to provide strategic guidance and identify networking opportunities, a committee to ensure greater engagement of participating Councils, and the Initiative management team that is responsible for the day-to-day management of the SGCI.

3. Project background and context

Since the mid-2010s, there have been increased calls for policy and implementation actions regarding the sex and gender dimensions of research design and content, as well as in internal institutional policies and practices. These include the Global Research Council’s 2016 Statement of Principles and Actions on Promoting the Status and Equality of Women in Research, IDRC's Equality Statement adopted in 2019 and IDRC’s Gender Equality and Inclusion Programming Framework, which was updated in 2021.

In response, policymakers and organizations have increasingly emphasized gender integration into science, technology and innovation policies and initiatives to achieve gender equality for all women and girls. However, inequality remains a key challenge to continental sustainable development. Findings of a study to assess current actions in gender mainstreaming across the science granting councils and the status of gender research and collaboration in the study countries show that “evidence of uneven progress in promoting gender equality in the operations of the Councils, including funding research and promoting the integration of gender dimensions in research content and curricula”. All SGCs participating in that study underscored national commitments to gender and the importance of gender in STI, but they acknowledged that at the structural and institutional levels there was a misalignment between policy and practice. For example, most science granting councils had very limited or no gender-related funding programs to promote gender and STI or to eliminate the barriers that women scholars face. Overall, the findings of the study suggest that SGCs need to strengthen their actions to mainstream gender in science and move towards their SDG5 targets.

It is in this context that an ongoing Gender and Inclusivity project (September 2020–February 2023) under SGCI-2 seeks to strengthen the capacities of SGCI participating Councils to become more gender-responsive and inclusive. This project also aims to support research and research environments that are gender transformative and inclusive and to promote STI policies and practices that are gender transformative and inclusive. In addition, the project supports the mainstreaming of an intersectional transformative approach in science granting councils’ development, implementation and monitoring of gender policy, programs and research to foster a lasting systemic change in national STI.

The ongoing project involves a participatory implementation approach to encourage meaningful partnerships between SGCs, strengthen their work, encourage project activities that are responsive to contexts and identify strategic entry points for change. This approach is intended to sustain longer-term structural change towards more gender inclusive work in the STI sector.

Some key results of the ongoing SGCI-2 Gender and Inclusivity project

The collaborating technical agency that is responsible for the ongoing project has developed an analysis of gender and inclusivity in SGCI documentation (2012–2020) that has helped understanding of how gender and inclusivity is framed within the broader SGCI. The collaborating technical agency and each of 15 participating Councils produced country profiles entitled Strengthening Gender and Inclusivity in the National System of Science, Technology, and Innovation. These profiles synthesize evidence from multiple gender-related indicators to provide the Councils and other stakeholders with a complete analysis of gender disparities (and progress towards closing gender gaps) in each country setting. 

A Gender Action Learning process involved the establishment of a virtual learning community with group and individual activities via e-mail, telephone and Zoom. This process also allowed Councils to identify areas of work that they wish to focus on through the Gender and Inclusivity project. So far, change teams of most participating Councils have identified the priority areas for intervention relevant to their contexts, formulated their own questions for learning and have begun to take ownership of the change process.

Key achievements of the ongoing Gender and Inclusivity project are summarized in Box 3.

Box 3: Key achievements of the current Gender & Inclusivity project

Monthly online forum: Creation of a peer learning space for councils to meet as peers, share experiences/perspectives, learn from each other and engage in action learning experiments.

Online learning hub: An experimental and ongoing learning hub to sustain the peer connections between formal meetings.

Ongoing accompaniment of SGCs: Supporting Councils individually to take their change experiments forward and to be more conscious of their thinking, processes and learning.

SGCI’s new partnerships with Norad, FCDO and IDRC

The new SGCI partnerships are designed to deepen and extend SGCI’s strategic engagement with the Councils in four key areas that are complementary to ongoing work under SGCI-2, including Gender and Inclusivity.

4. Project goal and objectives

The goal of the project to be funded under this call is to strengthen the capacity of SGCs, allowing them to initiate and/or deepen various forms of strategies, activities, studies and other mechanisms to implement cross-cutting work on gender and inclusivity.

Achieving this goal could include work in three broad areas of intervention of the ongoing Gender and Inclusivity project: promoting (1) the equality and status of women in research and STI systems (which could include women in the Councils as well as women leading or participating in research, amongst others); (2) diversity and inclusivity beyond gender equality; and (3) the sex, gender and inclusivity dimension in the design of research and content. Other than the Councils themselves, the successful collaborating technical agencies will be expected to work closely with other SGCI grantee collaborating technical agencies, the SGCI monitoring, evaluation and learning consultant, the Initiative management team and other relevant groups such as the gender working group of the Global Research Council.

  1. Promoting the equality and status of women in research

To support the Councils to promote the equality and status of women in research, the collaborating technical agency may propose various activities and approaches. The collaborating technical agency may draw on the 2016 Global Research Council’s Statement of Principles and Actions: Promoting the Equality and Status of Women in Research, which all Councils involved in the Global Research Council  have signed onto, and which outlines several actions that Councils might take to support the participation and promotion of women in the research workforce in their countries. These are further elaborated in the Global Research Council booklet Supporting Women in Research: Policies, Programs and Initiatives Undertaken by Public Research Funding Agencies. Also, results of a survey (2020) by the Global Research Council’s gender working group on the trends in collecting and reporting data broken down by sex or gender may be relevant. Some Councils may seek support to participate in the global work of the gender working group (especially through its Africa regional representatives) in promoting the equality and status of women in research. The selected collaborating technical agency may support special sessions during SGCI meetings and Council engagement in the Global Research Council’s Gender and inclusivity work. 

  1. Promoting diversity and inclusivity beyond gender equality

Research excellence is considerably advanced when a diverse group of people can participate as part of the human capital development pipeline and in the research enterprise. Beyond the focus on gender equality and the status of women in research, and under the scope of inclusivity, the collaborating technical agency may propose supporting research papers, dialogues and compilations of policy briefs where good practices, perspectives and experiences are shared amongst Councils and their partners. For example, a study that involved the SGCI, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World’s South Africa National Chapter and the German Research Foundation has contributed to greater understanding of intersectionality in the context of research funding. Intersectional perspectives recognize that the combination of elements of identity (e.g., race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, social status) creates certain circumstances that can produce oppression and discrimination.

The selected collaborating technical agency may consider commissioning research on specific gender-related themes such as: a) the status of women and other groups in research and the barriers they face to participating in STI; b) the impact of gender diversity on research; and c) the evaluation of current initiatives by the Councils and other approaches to promote gender and inclusion in research and organizational practice, as well as to support Councils to prioritize research that addresses inequalities and aims to prevent or reduce the impact of these inequalities on populations. 

  1. Promoting the sex, gender and inclusivity dimension in research design and content

As underscored in several studies and reports including the 2016 Global Research Council Statement of Principles and Actions, there are important reasons for considering the gender dimension in research, development and innovation and encouraging its development. There is a direct correlation between knowledge production that considers the concerns, abilities and needs of diverse groups of people and research excellence. A gendered scientific discourse contributes positively to how scientific priorities are decided, the parameters of research questions, how research teams are composed, how funding decisions are made, the methodologies used in conducting research, the findings and conclusions reported and finally, the way suggestions for future studies are formulated.

The selected collaborating technical agency may propose ways to support Councils to ensure that research they fund considers the sex, gender and inclusivity dimension across the research cycle, and specifically the research projects funded in collaboration with SGCI as part of SGCI-2. In addition, Councils could be provided with action learning opportunities and technical support towards advancing gender and inclusivity in their work.

5. Project approach

Applicants are expected to present how they will support and work with Councils and other potential collaborators as indicated above. In addition to participatory action learning in ways that promote ownership of the capacity strengthening process by SGCs and collaboration with different stakeholders, the support approach must allow for tailored methods responsive to each SGC’s context and need(s). Therefore, training and technical support to the Councils could involve customized in-country coaching (supported by local experts where this is feasible and desired by the Councils), in-person training courses/ workshops and use of online platforms. The selected collaborating technical agency is expected to propose new areas of work that will build on the achievements to date with the Councils on gender and inclusivity. The collaborating technical agency’s proposal should include activities under three headings: (i) technical support and training to SGCs as a group; (ii) technical support and training responding to individual SGCs’ needs; and (iii) research that informs both.                                                                 

This project should be implemented in very close collaboration with all other components of SGCI-2 in a joined-up manner and particularly the projects on research management, use of data and evidence in policy and decision-making and strategic communications and knowledge uptake. It will also be important to ensure that the work on monitoring, evaluation and learning and data management systems in this project are aligned with the SGCI’s overall monitoring, evaluation and learning process. The proposal should include a detailed description of how the project’s implementation approach will consider the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The project’s principal investigator, based at the lead organization, will be responsible for the project’s technical/financial management, reporting and other contractual obligations.

6. Timelines and budget

Activity

Description

Scheduled Dates

 

Call for project proposals and review process

Call for proposals launch

July 6, 2022

 

Deadline for submission of proposals

August 5, 2022

 

Outcome of selection process is communicated to all applicants

August 5-16, 2022

 

Successful applicant will work together with the Initiative management team

August 19, 2022

Finalization of implementation and workplans

Successful applicant will work together with the Initiative management team

August 2022

 

Signing of grant agreement

Preparation of project approval documents and development and signature of grant agreements between IDRC and the lead collaborating technical agency

August-September 2022

Project Implementation Period (36 months)

Selected collaborating technical agency consortium implements the gender and inclusivity project

September 2022– October 2025

The budget available for this project is approximately CAD$1,020,000 (all inclusive) over approximately 36 months. A draft budget should be submitted using the IDRC Workbook (https://idrc.ca/en/proposal-budget  or https://idrc.ca/fr/budget-de-proposition).

7. Application procedure and submission deadline

Proposals (25 pages or less, excluding annexes) should be submitted electronically to the SGCI secretariat (SGCSSA@idrc.ca) by August 5, 2022, at 5pm East Africa Time). Proposals submitted after this deadline will not be accepted. Please direct any enquiries about this call to the secretariat.

Proposals should be submitted in English in Word format. They should be concise and include the following elements at a minimum:

  • title, name, address and contacts of the project leader and name and address of the applicant organization;
  • executive summary;
  • project background and rationale;
  • goal, specific objectives, key activities and links to other SGCI themes;
  • approach to training and technical support;
  • expected outputs and outcomes as well as project-level monitoring and evaluation;
  • gender equality/inclusivity and ethical requirements (in submitting a proposal, any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest must be declared to IDRC);
  • risks and potential mitigation measures (this information should be presented in a table listing the major potential risks associated with the project implementation, as well as their probability/impact and potential management measures);
  • organizational profile(s) and key project personnel; and  
  • short biodata of the project’s key project team members (as an annex).

8. Project team requirements

The requirements for the project team members include the following:

  • Knowledge of gender and inclusivity in the context of national science, technology and innovation systems in Africa including the key actors (organizations), policies and the roles of science granting councils in brokering, facilitating, funding and coordinating the interactions amongst the various actors.
  • Expertise and experience (supported by relevant publications) in the use of gender and inclusivity approaches in the development/review of science, technology and innovation and related policies, as well as policy engagement approaches preferably within the context of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Experience in working with public sector science, technology and innovation organizations in Africa (especially science granting councils) in the context of capacity strengthening.
  • Ability to work in both English and French is a requirement. Applications without both language capabilities will not be evaluated. Ability to work in Portuguese will be an added advantage.

9.  Evaluation criteria

Proposals will be reviewed by the SGCI Initiative management team and scored using a 50-point scale as follows:

Criteria

Score

Expertise and experience of project team members in mainstreaming gender equality and wider areas for inclusivity in science, technology and innovation systems; working with the key actors (organizations) of Africa’s science, technology and innovation systems, including science granting councils; monitoring, evaluation, and learning; other relevant areas covered by the SGCI (e.g., science, technology and innovation systems policymaking processes); and work within sub-Saharan Africa.  

15

Originality, creativity and clarity of the proposal, demonstrating understanding of SGCI’s work and the project’s ambition and the roles of science granting councils in national science systems as well as a clear articulation of how the project builds on ongoing work on gender and inclusivity to support a sustainable reinforcement of the capacities of participating science granting councils  to become more gender-responsive and inclusive; support research and research environments that are gender transformative and inclusive; and promote science, technology and innovation  policies and practices that are gender transformative and inclusive.

12

Appropriateness of level of experience and expertise of team members in all areas relevant to the project’s implementation and the level of project team members’ presence in sub-Saharan Africa.

11

Clarity and soundness of the project’s approach to training and technical support, including appropriateness for sub-Saharan African councils, the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic and alignment with the SGCI’s joined up implementation approach.

7

Clarity/justification of the budget and the extent of its alignment with the proposed project activities based on value for money principles (e.g., economy, efficiency, effectiveness).

5

10. About the funding partners

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is a United Kingdom government department that pursues national interests and projects the UK as a force for good in the world. FCDO promotes the interests of British citizens, safeguards the UK’s security, defend its values, reduces poverty and tackles global challenges with international partners.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) is a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its main purpose is to work towards achieving the SDGs. Norad has five main priorities: to invest more strategically; be a key partner in sustainable development; contribute to a greener world; be a champion of innovation within development cooperation; and to strengthen and systematize the development, sharing and use of knowledge within Norad.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) is a government agency of Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It strives to reduce world poverty by allocating resources and knowledge with the goal of making a difference for people in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. To achieve this, Sida collaborates with actors from civil society and universities as well as the public and private sector.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is a Canadian Crown corporation that supports the generation of knowledge and innovation for positive change. IDRC generates, identifies, and tests scalable ideas and innovations; connects solutions with actors who can help to achieve large-scale impact; and examines early wins in scaling up in order to identify and share critical success factors.

South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) is a government mandated research and science development agency whose goal is to create innovative funding instruments, advance research career development, increase public science engagement and to establish leading-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community to aspire to global competitiveness.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is the self-governing organization for science and research in Germany. It serves all branches of science and the humanities. In organizational terms, the DFG is an association under private law. Its membership consists of German research universities, non-university research institutions, scientific associations and the Academies of Science and the Humanities.