Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Integrating funding applications and baseline surveys

This idea falls into the category of "things I should have learned years ago!"

Over the last year or so I have been working on a number of research funding mechanisms in Ghana and Vietnam. Both involve something like the traditional two stage process of inviting simple / short Concept Notes for research, then from amongts the best of these, inviting fully developed Proposals for research. Quite a lot of information is provided by the grantee-to-be by this process, as well as by those who dont end up qualifying as grantees.

But up to now it has never occured to me that we should design this process to simultaneously gather information about the baseline status of these organisations and their activities, for subsequent monitoring and evaluation purposes. Especially information about their relationships with other actors at this early stage, which is of increasing interest to me. Instead, in one instance, we have organised a separate baseline survey some months later, involving the approved grantees only. Needless to say, this did not impress the new grantees, who had thought they had finished with form filling for the time being!

Another advantage of this approach is that by including the non-successfull applicants, we gather some wider contextual data, that will put the characteristics of the approved grantees in a broader perspective. Some of this information may reflect on the capabilty of the non-successful applicant, but other data may be more independent.

I have also been pushing a number of grant making bodies to use the application process to generate predictions of subsequent success, on a numerical scale. These predictions can later be compared to actual / perceived success, some years down the road. Not only is the correlation between the prediction and outcome of interest, so will be the positive and negative outliers (the unexpected successes and the unexpected failures). This is where case study investigations could help us learn a lot about what makes the difference between success and faulure.

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