About the RFP
CFED's Request for Proposals (RFP) process for this project triggered a tremendous response from the field. The RFP required that applicants be collaboratives that deliver flexible and integrated services to distressed communities and disadvantaged entrepreneurs across rural regions. The RFP process resulted in over 180 high-quality, highly competitive, collaborative proposals from 46 states. Given the caliber of the proposals CFED reviewed, it was a significant challenge to determine which proposals would go on to the next stage of the selection process.
Elements of Competitive Proposals included:
- Inclusive: Served diverse types of entrepreneurs (including entrepreneurs at different stages of development and from different populations).
- Market driven: Identified the needs of the entrepreneurs in the region and had a plan to penetrate the market.
- Comprehensive and Integrated: Included every element in the system (entrepreneurship education, training and TA, capital access, networks, and culture). Explicitly looked at ways to coordinate and eliminate duplication.
- Outcomes driven: Demonstrated a concrete plan for measurement.
- Engaged, Genuine Collaborative system: Included all partners and relevant stakeholders in designing the proposal.
- Sustainable: Included secured funds or in-kind support (although not required) and a feasible sustainability strategy.
- Politically conscious and capable: Contained a well defined policy plan with specific outcomes.
Components of Exceptional Proposals: In addition to these broad effective practices that responded directly to the RFP requirements, exceptional proposals comprised the following characteristics:
- Realistic: Included a realistic scope of activities that met the needs of the region and could show significant progress within a three year time span.
- Streamlined: Aimed explicitly to eliminate duplication. Built from the existing infrastructure of support rather than re-creating the wheel.
- Iterative: Revealed a process by which the system was designed including buy in and input from all the partners, opportunities for reflection and revision, and feedback from the broader community.
Out of the box partnerships: Sought consciously to bring in new players into existing partnership networks to better provide culturally relevant services, reach new markets, and improve communication and relationships among the players.
Areas for Improvement in Proposals that were not selected: Overall, proposals exhibited high levels of creative thinking, coordination, and planning, yet over half did not meet the requirements of competitive proposals listed above. Specifically, the proposals that did not advance to the semi-final round could have shown improvement in the following areas:
- Understanding of Entrepreneurs' Needs: The proposal demonstrated a good understanding of the region's general economic needs, but required greater knowledge of the entrepreneurs' needs. A solid grasp of the entrepreneurs' needs is necessary to design an effective Entrepreneurship Development System (EDS) for the region.
- Level of Inclusiveness: The proposal did not demonstrate how the EDS would serve a diverse customer base reflective of the market of potential entrepreneurs operating in the proposed region. Collaborative did not specifically address how it intended to serve a range of different types of entrepreneurs or a range of populations varying in gender, age, race and income levels.
- Comprehensive EDS: The proposal did not incorporate all five elements of a comprehensive EDS. Many proposals gave insufficient attention to access to networks and entrepreneurial culture.
- Collaborative: The collaborative did not fully engage partners. Several collaboratives appeared to be excessively driven by one particular partner or missing key partners (e.g., proposal stressed entrepreneurial education but did not include education stakeholders in letters of commitment). Competitive proposals grew out of a bottom-up, shared process (e.g., met several times, collaboratively designed the EDS) and articulated a truly collaborative decision-making structure.
- Sustainability Plan: The sustainability plan appeared unrealistic or overly risky (e.g., relied heavily on venture capital or revenue from fees paid by entrepreneurs).
- Policy Outcomes: The proposal demonstrated the capacity to engage in policy development, but did not outline specific, anticipated outcomes. requested that proposals be driven by:
CFED staff with assistance from a national expert advisory committee selected 12 exceptional proposals that advanced to the semi-final round of the selection process and received site visits during the months of October and November, 2004. In December, 2004, CFED recommended the six finalists to the Kellogg foundation to be considered for investments of up to $2 million each. The W.K. Kellogg foundation and CFED thank all applicants for their time and hard work in preparing their proposals and reaching out to new partners. It our hope that the process has helped all applicants develop new ideas and strategies for better serving rural entrepreneurs in their regions. The proposals demonstrated renewed vigor, creativity, and thoughtfulness from a wide array of organizations and communities about how to work better together to develop comprehensive services that meet the needs of rural entrepreneurs.
To learn more information about Entrepreneurship Development Systems please see our Mapping Rural Entrepreneurship Report.