Posting a request for proposals is the fun part of philanthropy – giving creative people the chance to get funds to accomplish their goals is what we like to do. At JRS, we work hard all year to add value to our grant awardees by providing technical and management advice on project implementation, by publicizing their great work, and by advocating for access to biodiversity information. But we also try to stay humble, and keep in mind that the overwhelming value we provide to our awardees is our money.
We’re now a few weeks into the application period for our 2016 request for project proposals (RFP) relating to African freshwater and pollinator biodiversity. Making a new grant is always full of hope, expectation, and the exciting promise of new partners, new ideas, new outcomes, and new learning. This is especially true this year as we begin to focus on two domains where we expect high future demand for biodiversity data, information services and knowledge: freshwater biodiversity and resources, and pollinator biodiversity and services. Our goal is to expand the tools and processes used to collect, manage, and disseminate biodiversity data and information in sub-Saharan Africa, and to connect this knowledge to the people — the policymakers, conservationists, economists, and scientists — who make and influence decisions that are crucial to preserving biodiversity.
We’ve learned, often the hard way, that if there isn’t ongoing demand for the outputs of biodiversity informatics, our investments in technical and organizational capacity will degrade over time. Several data portals in Africa bear our logo but have little data or no recent activity. Those websites serve to remind us of the difficulty of sustaining technical infrastructure for which there is little demand and few resources. That is why we are increasing our investments in capacity building, focusing on demand for information in sub-Saharan Africa, and looking to invest where partnerships among data providers and data users create confidence in future impact.
So far, so good, as about 60 people have registered on our application portal and hundreds more have visited our RFP webpages. We’ve fielded dozens of questions, each within 24 hours, from potential applicants that are publically posted on our Frequently Asked Questions page. We’re also testing a new function in the grant application that lets applicants get some quick feedback on their proposal, the goal of which is to help applicants and help us get the best proposals we can. That’s our idea of fun.