Deadline: 1 June 2020
The Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) is pleased to announce its fifth call for proposals: Can technology accelerate learning and skills?
Through this call, SIEF aims to fund experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations that examine the extent to which technology can accelerate learning and skills for both children and adults in low- and middle-income countries who are currently not learning adequately with their current set of services. As maintaining implementation fidelity is not easy in many low- and middle-income countries, experiments that help uncover which implementation approaches promote sustained use of these technologies will also be a priority. As in SIEF’s previous call on nimble evaluations, researchers can also propose evaluation designs for specific questions coming from operational teams in the World Bank and DFID.
This call for proposals will be split into two different funding windows. First, there will be an emergency window focused on school closures resulting from the current Covid-19 global pandemic that, at the time of writing, has led more than 150 countries to close their schools, affecting more than 1.5 billion children worldwide. This window is intended to generate evidence that would be immediately useful for countries’ education systems as they deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, there will be a more general window for the use of digital technologies to address learning and skill deficits more broadly and for any longer-term responses to the pandemic.
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SIEF will use this call for proposals to meet four objectives that advance SIEF’s core mandate of supporting evidence-based policy design in low- and middle-income countries.
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- Building evidence on the benefits and costs of scalable and affordable technology-based interventions: Technology has been proposed as a solution for low levels of learning and skill development among both children and adults. Experimental evidence on this has been scant, mixed, and mostly limited to small scale pilots.
- Building evidence on how to successfully implement of technology-based interventions: Ensuring implementation fidelity is a major challenge in many middle- and low-income countries (as well as in high-income countries). When measured impacts of a program suggest limited or even no effect, it is typically not clear if the program was the wrong solution to the policy problem or if the program was just not implemented correctly.
- Spurring innovations in the use of project-generated data and machine learning: SIEF is particularly interested in learning about less expensive data capture methods in low and middle income countries, as well as data re-use.
- Facilitating successful matches between researchers and operational teams: As in SIEF’s previous call for proposals, SIEF will use the screening process to match operational teams with interested external researchers.
Why focus on technology?
Today’s learning crisis is evident along many dimensions.
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- Learning poverty: 53 percent of 10-year old children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a short story (rising to over 80 percent in poor countries).
- Access and equity: 263 million students are still out of school, including 61 million children of primary or secondary school age. Conflict and violence are major barriers to getting children to school. At the time of writing, more than 150 countries have announced Covid19 related school closures, leaving close to 1.5 billion children out of school.
- Relevance: Technology is rapidly becoming a part of daily life, both inside and outside the home. Many governments wonder whether their young and adult citizens are being adequately prepared with the appropriate skills to live in a changing world.
SIEF will offer a maximum grant size of $300,000 and expects to fund approximately 10-12 evaluations in this funding round.
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- SIEF is a Bank-executed trust fund, which means that only World Bank task team leaders can apply for funding and only their respective units receive the awards. These task team leaders provide fiduciary oversight for SIEF funds and, at the same time, increases the likelihood that governments engage with evaluation results. They also ensure that both intervention and evaluation designs will deliver evidence that countries will find useful.
- While only World Bank task team leaders can submit full proposals to SIEF, each proposal must have at least one experienced researcher dedicated to the evaluation. This researcher can be a current staff member of the World Bank or can be an external researcher who will eventually be hired as an individual (as a World Bank short-term consultant) if the proposal turns out to be successful.
- No universities or research organizations or firms can participate in SIEF’s call for proposals, as it is not a procurement process. Moreover, if a researcher collaborates with a task team leader on a proposal, any organization, firm, or institution that also compensates that researcher will not be eligible to be a vendor for any evaluation activities. For researchers accustomed to applying for grants that go to their respective institutions, this is important since for activities financed through Bank-executed trust funds, the World Bank can only compensate universities, firms, and organizations through vendor contracts.
- Digital technologies are technologies that capture, transmit and display data and information electronically and include all devices, applications, and networking elements that allow organizations as well as people to connect in the digital world. Digital technologies cover any communication device or application, encompassing smartphones, computers, and network hardware and software, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning, e-books, information management systems, among other tools that facilitate communication between users. For the purposes of this call, television and radio would be considered digital technologies, even if their transmission is not yet digital everywhere.
For more information, visit https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/sief-trust-fund/brief/call-for-proposals-can-technology-accelerate-learning-and-skills
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