The purpose of this page is to provide guidance to proposers who are submitting ideas to OTF. It includes field level information specific to the concept note and proposal forms along with the worksheet OTF and the program’s Advisory Council utilize to evaluate proposals. A broader overview of OTF’s proposal process, how it performs project oversight, and measures portfolio performance can be found on the Funding model page.
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The sections below outline information important to the review process that we have observed in good proposals.
This a very brief statement of what this proposal is for. It should only be a few sentences and very succinct without jargon and for a broad audience. Consider this an executive summary or abstract.
Describe the relevant political, economic, or social environment as it affects freedom of expression in the country or region that your project addresses. Identify the needs or problems that exist and explain how your project will make an impact as it addresses those challenges. Provide a synopsis of the proposed project goals, describe what is novel/revolutionary, and include answers to the following questions:
Includes a deep technical description (if appropriate):
Outline and address technical challenges inherent in the approach and possible solutions for overcoming potential problems. Discuss mitigation of technical risk. This section should demonstrate a deep understanding of the technical challenges and present a credible (even if risky) plan to achieve the effort’s goal. As applicable, this section should answer the following combination of Heilmeier and Internet freedom questions for each proposed capability/technology:
State the specific objectives you hope to achieve through the proposed activities. In many situations, an objective is similar to a milestone. The objectives should address the specific needs or problems identified in earlier sections. Often, one to five objectives are sufficient. In most cases, OTF pays projects on completion of an objective.
This section should demonstrate a deep understanding of each objective, its challenges, and introduce a credible (even if risky) plan to achieve the objective. If the objective is technical, outline and address technical challenges inherent in the approach, possible solutions for overcoming potential problems, and discuss mitigation of technical risk.
Each objective should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.): reasonably measurable, and therefore capable of being evaluated; limited in scope and time; and identify specifically what will be achieved with the funds requested for the particular project. Also, be sure to distinguish objectives from activities. For example, “to hold a workshop” is a proposed activity while “determine the online safety awareness and literacy of the population” is an objective.
Describe the planned activities of your project i.e. description and name, type (e.g. application version, video, website, report), event (e.g. code sprint, workshop, training), planned approach, what does accomplishment look like, duration, and associated objective. If the project requires funding from more than one source, please describe any other funding you have obtained, or hope to obtain.
If the project activity includes an events, provide the following information:
If the project includes code, application(s), publication, or website(s), please describe:
Rationale for the proposal cost should provide a detailed breakout of how the money will be spent and how prices and rates were determined. Provide labor costs, miscellaneous expenses, materials, hardware, software, required to complete activities. Note, OTF pays on completion of activities and deliverables.
OTF may ask the proposer to justify listed rates by providing examples of equivalent rates for equivalent talent, past commercial or government rates, or previously approved rates.
Please list all materials, supplies, equipment, and software. OTF may request as an attachment at least one quote from a vendor for any equipment and software requested in the proposal.
Objective 1 - $16,000
Activity 1.1 - $6,000
Activity 1.2 - $10,000
Describe how the project is going to maintain its operations, services and benefits beyond the proposed timeline and OTF funded effort. What are the proposer’s medium-term to long-term goals? What is the proposer’s vision and support strategy? How is the proposer going to ensure the work is not lost beyond this support?
Cost sharing and/or matching is not required but will be carefully considered – most likely positively. Please provide a list of the supporters, whether the funding is still active or proposed, the level of support you received, type of support i.e. grant, contract, service license and a short description of the projects being funded. Indicate whether this support is monetary or in-kind, domestic or foreign. Also, provide the names and contact information for any other funding organizations to which this proposal is also being submitted. Of specific importance, indicate if you have received funding from other government or government funded organizations, in particular RFA, the BBG, Department of State and/or USAID.
Describe your organization or individual’s qualifications for this particular project, including its history and past work. If appropriate, provide information about its mission, size, geographical reach, professional, and social character, and registration or incorporation status, including date. Identify the key individuals, whether paid staff or volunteers, who will be in charge of carrying out the proposed project and describe their most relevant qualifications, biographies, and links to resumes/CVs.
Please provide names and contact information for two or more individuals who know you or the organization’s work or the work of its key staff and volunteers.
Please include information on:
Identify related current and/or future involvement and interactions with the Internet freedom community. This includes Internet freedom, human rights, ICT, information security, or cyber security research efforts, products, reports, tools, etc. that have been contributed to or presented publicly at conferences, online, or that have been adopted to widespread use in this broad community. Provide brief descriptions and the dates of release or disclosure.
The below worksheet is used by OTF staff internally and our Advisory Council to evaluate proposals. The scoring system for each area is 1 is ‘poor’ or ‘very weak’ and 5 is ‘excellent’ or ‘very strong’ and 0 is considered non-applicable. In general, those with higher aggregate scores will make it farther in the process.
The below is asking you for those general thoughts you have after reviewing a proposal. It is a space to include comments and questions for areas we do not specifically ask for a rating. Comments and questions posted here will be aggregated back to the Advisory Council and to the proposal authors.
Things that you liked about this proposal
Any high level or low level specific bits that got you really excited or that you like about this proposal
Things that concern you about this proposal
Any high level or specific low level bits that leave you feeling uneasy or not good about his proposal
This is for dire warnings, notice of very serious dangers, and likely disasters
This section is asking you to score and comment on specific proposal topics. Comments and questions posted here will be aggregated back to the Advisory Council and to the proposal authors.
Scoring system: 1 is ‘poor’ or ‘very weak’ and 5 is ‘excellent’ or ‘very strong’, 0 denotes more information is needed – see questions for proposal author –, and n/a for sections the reviewer does not want to rate.
Project overview ___
Considerations on project overview: Are the project’s goals clear? Are the projects goals realistically met by the proposed solution? Does the proposal identify and acknowledge what the challenges will be? Does the proposal state how it is done today and the limitations? Is it clear and specific who could benefit and what will the impact be if the project is successful? Does the proposal cite an actual use case? Does the proposal state how much it will cost and how long will it take?
Objectives identified ___
Considerations on objectives: Does the proposal state a clear set of objectives and tasks for the proposed effort?
Appropriate methods and strategy ___
Considerations on Methods and Strategy: Does the project propose methods appropriate to the goals and objectives? Does the project effectively apply its stated methods? Does the proposal suggest modified procedures in response to changing circumstances? Will the project fill a potential need or function that is currently unfilled, be reinventing the wheel or creating a solution in search of a problem? Is the proposed solution viable in the real world?
Technical feasibility ___
Considerations for technical feasibility: Does the proposal clearly state the efforts technical goals? Are objectives articulated technically and succinctly? Does the proposal explain what is new in the approach and why it will succeed? Does the project increase or decrease known attack surfaces? Does it create new surfaces? Does the project buy tactical breathing space for existing problems or push towards convergence by changing the playing field? Does the project identify any expected or past hurdles in achieving technical goals?
Red team ___
Considerations for red teams: Does the proposal identify or recognize potential incentives to an adversary? Does the proposal consider potential illicit uses of the project? Does it discuss how an adversary might use the solution to further their own goals? Does the proposal identify potential unintended consequences of the project? Does the proposal identify and understand the proposed projects asymmetry? Given an attacker and defender of the project, does the proposal explain which role is more advantageous (effort, cost, time, etc.) and why? Does the proposal explain medium and long‐term strategies from both the attacker and defender point of view. Does the proposal discuss how to defeat the project, identify its deficiencies, or does it presume there are none?
Considerations for usability: Does the project demonstrate a high degree of usability/accessibility? Does the proposal demonstrate external demand i.e., demand originated from potential users rather than from would-be patrons of some possibly hypothetical set of users? Does the projects focus impact either a small number of high value or at-risk users or a more general large numbers of users?
Considerations for sustainability: What is the project’s plan for future development/implementation? Does the proposal state if the project has other funding sources? Does the project currently receive any U.S. government funding? Does the project identify any cost sharing or matching for the proposed effort? Will the project be able to support itself by the requested funding, community sources, or other in-kind or indirect support? Does the project have a diversified funding/support stream i.e., how dependent would the project be on OTF?
Considerations for collaborations: Does or should the project support a collaborative open source community? How does the project facilitate inter-project collaboration, including: talking with other projects doing similar things and identifying potential points of overlap; acted/planned to modularize code to enable others to reuse? Do the proposed deliverables assist other OTF projects/goals beyond this one project? Do the proposed deliverables assist other Internet freedom projects/goals beyond this one project?
Considerations for rationale: Is the proposed project and its trajectory in-line with OTF’s principles and goals?
OTF Program mission:
The Open Technology Fund (OTF) is a next-generation program by Radio Free Asia that uses public funds to support Internet freedom projects that:
Develop open and accessible technologies supporting human rights and fostering open societies and
Promote inclusive and safe access to global communications networks.
freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, open exchange of ideas and information, open Internet, Internet freedom, forward-thinking ideas and innovation, open philanthropy, transparency, accountability, alternative methodologies, new technologies, and collaboration
Program goals are to support:
Research in how Internet interference on modern communication networks occurs and to discover the technologies and methodologies that can circumvent interference;
Development of the technologies required to circumvent censorship and increase communication safety; and,
Implementation of circumvention tools for widespread use and adoption amongst non-technical citizens affected by censorship, interference, and illegitimate surveillance.
Cost realism ___
Considerations on cost realism: Is the budget realistic and commensurate with both the project needs and time frame? Is the project going to require funds immediately upon proposal approval?
Considerations for qualifications: Are project team member(s) clearly identified, along with work experience, in the proposal? Does the project’s team posses the skills uniquely qualifying them to complete the proposed scope of work? Does the project team have a history of successful work related to the current initiative? Does the project have a core team (leadership, developers, etc.) dedicated to this project? Have team members worked with at-risk communities in the past?
Considerations for the ability to Evaluate: Does the project articulate a measurable set of evaluation criteria and milestone metrics against results? Are the metrics both quantitative and qualitative? How difficult will an assessment of success or failure be?
Recommendation: Yes or No
Do you recommend supporting this proposal’s statement of work for the requested amount?