User Experience and Discovery Lab: RFP FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about the User Experience & Discovery Lab Request for Proposals
Thu, 2024-02-01 18:44

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are responses to Frequently Asked Questions about the User Experience & Discovery Lab (UXD Lab) Request for Proposals.

You can submit any additional questions you might have to either [email protected] or [email protected] by the extended FAQ deadline of February 9, and answers will be shared here.

The deadline for submitting your full applications to [email protected] has been extended to 11:59 PM EST on February 23, 2024

Our Selection Criteria

  • Describe the profile of the ideal partner you envision for this project. Is it a digital agency? A research lab? A tech product company?

OTF remains open-minded about the types of partners we would work with under the Lab, and we see a potential role for digital agencies, research labs, and technology-focused partners within the Lab. 

The success of applications to the User Experience & Discovery Lab will primarily be linked to an applicant’s ability to explain how they will successfully deliver one or more of the Lab’s four service categories to OTF’s communities of interest: namely, circumvention, privacy-enhancing, and digital security tools.

  • Will preference be given to respondents who encompass all 4 scopes?

Applicants do not need to deliver all four service categories in order to be successful. For instance, if one organization can demonstrate they excel at user-centered research, but lack the capacity to offer other user experience services, then we would recommend they apply only for the services under Category I: User Discovery Services.

  • What is the average-sized implementation, what does support look like, and how long does it typically run for?

While we do not want to offer too strict guidelines on what engagements might look like, the User Experience & Discovery Lab is designed to offer smaller, ad-hoc support to technology projects that need user-experience support. 

Engagements under the existing Lab have ranged from roughly $2,000 up to just below $40,000, and have ranged from a day up to more than a month of full-time work. While this should not be used as a strict guideline for future engagements, we would encourage applicants to be mindful of the upper contract cap ($200,000), and to structure engagements in a way that allows them to flexibly support new partners over the full, two-year contract period.

If you’re interested in much larger engagements, we would always encourage you to submit your ideas to the Internet Freedom Fund for consideration, which is our mechanism for supporting larger-scale, longer-term, and higher-cost projects.

  • Is there a specific format required for support letters? Is there a template available?

In the RFP we ask all applicants to please obtain and share two letters of support from projects they’ve previously collaborated with. There is no specific requirement for the format of these letters, and you are welcome to attach any type of support letter that you like, as long as it is relevant to the Scope of the UXD Lab.

Please note that we ask you to source and attach the support letters with your application, either as separate attachments to your proposal, or attached to your main application. Please ensure that these are included in some form, as we require full letters rather than just the contact details of your references.

Collaboration Between Vendors

  • Can potential vendors apply as consortiums, or group themselves together into a single application?

We would ask each organization to apply independently, with scopes and rates determined by each organization individually. 

While we appreciate and encourage collaboration between vendors once the Lab is active and supporting projects, in order to run the RFP in a fair way we will need to be able to assess each organization and their work on their own merits.

  • How does OTF envision the collaboration between different vendors? Are there any opportunities for joint efforts or sharing expertise among the selected service providers?

OTF encourages different vendors to collaborate actively and openly during the active phase of the Lab. As we envision that different vendors will bring varied skill sets and perspectives to the Lab, we expect that some projects may benefit from multiple vendors’ support.

In the event of such collaborations once the Lab is active, we would ask for Task Order requests by different vendors to be submitted separately, with each vendor’s scope clearly outlined.

As mentioned above, we strongly encourage RFP applicants to apply separately, offering their own organization’s rates, scope of work, and other requested information. This is to ensure a fair RFP review process for all applicants.

Outreach & Promotion

  • Will selected vendors be responsible for procuring all of the potential work under this structure?

For the most part, yes. The strongest applicants will demonstrate an awareness of internet freedom technologies, and are encouraged to discuss their experiences of supporting such projects with user experience-related challenges. 

OTF will at times encourage applicants to its other funds (including the Internet Freedom Fund) to make use of the Lab’s services, but we will not provide referrals to specific UXD Lab vendors. Vendors are expected to engage in outreach and promotion to identify potential partners, and bring in fresh Lab engagements over the two-year contract period.

  • Could you explain what is meant by the request to provide ‘Promotion and Outreach’ services? Are vendors also supposed to provide sales-related services?

Applicants are invited to demonstrate the level of engagement and outreach they’ll seek with internet freedom-enhancing tools. Potential outreach could include promotion of Lab services on sector-specific mailing lists, social media promotion of the Lab services, and other forms of engagement with technology projects working to advance anti-censorship and privacy-enhancing technologies, and other internet-freedom enhancing projects. 

This could also include participation in sector-specific events for the internet freedom community.

  • Could you please also explain a bit more about the travel components of the RFP? How often does traveling take place, and is it a common practice?

At times, conferences serving the internet freedom community will be held, bringing together technologists, researchers, designers, and other practitioners to collaborate around technology design, development, and internet freedom-related topics. 

Applicants should demonstrate their awareness of these spaces, discuss any past participation, and indicate their intent to travel to, and participate in them when opportunities for supporting projects arise. 

Related travel costs are reimbursable, subject to OTF’s approval of their reasonableness and appropriateness during the review phase for each work engagement (or Task Order).  

Proposed Per Diem and Lodging costs associated with Travel should be in line with rates set by the US Government, available at the links below:

The degree of participation in internet freedom-related events is ultimately at the discretion of Lab vendors, and while OTF will never actively insist that vendors attend these events, vendors’ engagement would be welcomed.

Managing UXD Contracts

  • What is your process for matching projects to the selected vendors? If selected as a chosen vendor, will we have another opportunity to scope each potential IDIQ contract or is that estimation done on your end based on our provided all-encompassing hourly rate?

Vendors are expected to engage in scoping conversations with potential projects being supported. Projects engaging with the Lab will have an initial scoping conversation with their chosen vendor, and then the vendor will be responsible for submitting the work request to OTF for review, and approval.

OTF will either approve the request, ask for more information, or dismiss it, based on the reasonableness of the request, its relevance and impact on OTF’s mission, and the time and resources required. All work requests must use the hourly rates agreed upon in the initial RFP.

  • How does OTF handle changes in project scope or unforeseen needs that arise during the contract period?

While we always try to be as flexible as we can, IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity) contracts do impose some limitations on us when it comes to changing the fundamental contract terms. For instance, your hourly rate pricing cannot change once the contracts are signed, so please ensure that you offer a clear, simple, and adaptive pricing structure for your work in your RFP response. 

When it comes to the terms of Task Orders themselves (i.e. the actual engagements with projects), we can be more flexible. If the needs of a project being supported change from your initial scoping, you may request amendments to your Task Order to accommodate those needs provided they align with the Scope of the initial IDIQ. 

However, these amendments should be exceptions rather than the rule, and we expect your initial scopes to be detailed, and comprehensive overviews of the work you plan to do. This is one of the reasons we ask you to detail your scoping methodology in your application.