UNICEF is calling for proposals to Impact Catalyst Fund for 2023. The Impact Catalyst Fund (‘ICF’) is a strategic initiative of the UNICEF Evaluation Office which aims to support high-quality impact evaluations in priority thematic areas of the UNICEF Strategic Plan 2022–2025. The ICF provides matching grants of up to US$400,000 to support the design and primary data collection (at least two rounds) for rigorous impact evaluations (preferably randomized controlled trial (RCT) designs).
The ICF 2023 call for ideas concentrates on the topic of child marriage and societal norms, where impact evidence on UNICEF programming remains limited. UNICEF national offices can decide to scale up “high gain,” transformative initiatives to decrease child marriage and eradicate harmful practices in the “Decade of Action” by producing scientifically sound evidence. Through a methodologically unified and carefully chosen portfolio of rigorous impact evaluations, it also contributes to the institutional and global learning on child marriage and other harmful practices.
Who can apply for the UNICEF Impact Catalyst Fund 2023?
The current Call for Proposals invites UNICEF country offices (COs) to submit a proposal to conduct a rigorous impact evaluation for the planned or ongoing program/intervention. The ICF 2023 Call for Proposals is open to any UNICEF country offices with relevant programmatic priorities. Based on the Impact Feasibility Assessment in 2022 and identified evidence gaps in this thematic area, the following ‘higher gain’ geographical and programmatic approaches will be prioritized under the 2023 ICF Call for Proposals:
Countries with ‘high-burden’ status (>50% prevalence of child marriage (e.g., Niger (76%), Bangladesh (59%), Mozambique (53%), Burkina Faso (52%)) and West and Central African countries ~ Geographic hot spots (including cross border) and highly vulnerable populations (e.g., rural, high poverty, low education – where there is some evidence of child marriage increasing). ~ Fragile and humanitarian settings (e.g., post-disaster or climate shocks, in the Sahel region or other settings – or among refugee and displaced populations) with the application of non-traditional or innovative models to influence social norms.
Interventions that focus on learning, achievement, and perceived post-school options including labor market interventions.
Girl-level empowerment programs are able to ‘unbundle’ a specific component of programs.
Interventions that evaluate a key influencer’s role in norm change (e.g., religious leaders, role models).
Interventions that incorporate and evaluate men’s and boys’ roles in norm change.
Edutainment, radio, and social media with targeted audiences (highly scalable and cost-effective).
Health and protection services take a systems-level approach with explicit child marriage objectives.
Diverse forms of family economic support plus gender norm change components
UNICEF COs can apply for an ICF grant with interventions and programs planned or implemented jointly with other UN agencies or national or international NGOs. In such cases, the UNICEF CO remains the grant recipient accountable for meeting the implementation and quality assurance requirements set out below. It has to ensure, however, that key implementing partners are involved in the governance and technical process through mechanisms specified by the UNICEF Evaluation Policy 2018.
What are the selection criteria?
The selection panel consisting of UNICEF HQ and independent impact evaluation experts will apply the following criteria to select the best impact evaluation proposals: Relevance to ‘high gains’ programmatic and geographical priorities described above.
Scale and scalability of programming – potential for large sample sizes and maturity of programming.
Potential for utilization of evidence – plans for future program expansion 2023–2024 and beyond. Demonstrated demand for and/or interest in rigorous evidence from national counterparts and a wider range of stakeholders.
Technical feasibility for the use of rigorous causal analysis through a counterfactual design (e.g., RCT or quasi-experimental methods) and potential for methodological innovation.
The extent to which ethical standards can be met.
Senior management commitment and available co-funding for the IE.
All selected proposals must meet a number of requirements:
CO Management: The country office assigns an IE manager and program focal point who will work collaboratively from the onset of the project to the dissemination of results.
National ownership: Key national counterparts are consulted and informed on the technical aspects of the IE project throughout its implementation through participation in the technical reference group and other established mechanisms.
National capacity: CO identifies national academic experts and national data collection companies that are partnered with the IE implementing partner.
Inclusion into the CO Costed Evaluation Plan (CEP): If not already included, the selected project can be added to the ongoing CEP in addition to already planned activities.
Quality Assurance: IE project will have to conform with the UNICEF Evaluation quality assurance standards (GEROS) and all products submitted to the internal database EISI in due course.
Data access: Raw data and all supplementary files should be archived under the UNICEF open access policy.
Ethics:Evaluation and program focal points must complete the mandatory UNICEF course on Ethics for Evidence Generation. IE design and data collection protocol should get approval from either a local/national research ethics board or UNICEF LTA ethics clearance companies.
Dissemination and utilization: A comprehensive dissemination plan must be developed and include policy advocacy and sharing knowledge through a community of practice at the national, regional, and global levels. All evaluation subjects should learn about the results of the impact evaluation in a language and format accessible to them.
How to apply for the Impact Catalyst Fund?
All applications should be submitted using a provided template outlining program modalities, and the purpose and expected use of impact evidence in the national policy process and organizational decision-making. Endorsed by the CO Representative, the application must indicate the CO planned allocation of funds for the IE. The proposal will be a starting point for further communication with the program and evaluation staff at the country and regional levels as a part of the ‘impact feasibility scoping’ process3 to verify the program timeline and other parameters. While responsibility for submission will lie with the CO team, regional evaluation teams are encouraged to discuss and technically support the COs in their submission. All proposals should be sent to email@example.com with a deadline of 30 April 2023.
All COs receive notifications of final decisions. By 30th June the selected proposal and CO teams will begin a formal inception process to refine the design, project timeline, and budgets. On 31st May, all shortlisted proposals will be contacted by the ICF team and regional evaluation focal point to collect additional information and clarifications.
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Amrita is a graduate student in International Relations and Diplomacy with a keen interest to work in the field of the humanitarian and development sectors. She has years of experience and knowledge in proposal writing, report writing, and data analysis. She now uses her acquired skills to contribute to research in the development sector.