RFP: Consultant Team for Building Resilience in the Return to Learning during COVID-19

  • Posted on 15 July 2020

Job Description

EDUCATION SUPPORT INITIATIVE

Addendum #01

RFP: Consultant Team for Building Resilience in the Return to Learning during COVID-19

The purpose of this addendum to the original posting is to provide responses to questions received by Dexis, and to update the RFP in response to those requests for clarification. All updates and modifications made to the original RFP can be found throughout the attached addendum in yellow highlighted text.

Questions/Requests for Clarification and Answers

Q: Are individuals eligible to submit proposals for this opportunity?

A: Yes, individuals are eligible and welcome to submit proposals for this opportunity, as are firms and groups/consortia of consultants. Please see the updated Instructions for Submission in the attached Addendum for more information on submission guidelines for individuals, firms and groups/consortia.

Q: What is the anticipated budget ceiling for this assignment?

A: The maximum ceiling amount of all awards (one or more) resulting from this RFP is $112,000 USD. This information has been included in the attached addendum as a separate section titled “Budget Ceiling”.

Q: Should travel costs be included in the proposal budget?

A: Based on the offerors’ proposed countries of interest, please include any local travel costs anticipated associated with those locations. Please find updated information for submitting proposal budgets in the attached addendum under “Instructions for submission”.

Q: Given travel restrictions (especially for Americans) and the requirement for primary research, will there be a preference for proposals constituting network of independent consultants already based in countries of interest? Or is the expectation that travel restrictions will change?

A: We are not operating under the assumption that travel restrictions will change, so proposals that offer a locally-based solution in countries of interest are absolutely encouraged.

Q: Given inherent health risks of virus and ethics of gatherings for primary research as specified in proposal, is international health care and evacuation an allowable cost in proposal? Up to what amount and for how many people?

A: Offerors are not expected to travel outside of the U.S. If any cooperating country nationals or local consultants are expected to perform work overseas, Offerors are expected to budget all applicable health care and DBA costs.

Q: Are there any parameters for country selection that can be shared?

A: Proposals should include an initial recommendation of countries of interest, given proposed local staffing capacity or opportunities. The focus should be on low to middle income countries, ideally where USAID works. Please refer to the updated language for “Instructions for submission” in the attached addendum.

Q: Could the final product be co-branded with a partner agency, and/or neutral network (ex. INEE)?

A: Deliverables cannot be co-branded unless you (the individual, firm or consortia) are formally bringing in other resources/partners to deliver the work.

Q: Would there be there an “act of God” or “no fault” clause in the subsequent contract? Specifically, if someone on the team or the individual contracts COVID and is unable to complete the work as agreed upon, would the contract allow for no fault for contract changes?

A: Any failure on the part of Offerors to satisfactorily perform any obligation under the subsequent contract shall not be deemed a breach of the contract if the same shall arise from any cause or acts beyond the reasonable control of such party (which does not arise, directly or indirectly, as a result of such party’s own negligence), including but not limited to acts of God, fire, storm, flood, or earthquake. Either party affected by any such condition shall promptly notify the other party in writing of the occurrence thereof, shall use its best efforts to remove or minimize the consequences of the same, and shall resume full performance of this Agreement at the earliest possible opportunity. COVID -19 shall be construed as a “Force Majeure” occurrence where the effect of COVID-19 pandemic affects the performance of contractual obligations of the contract during its currency.

Q: The information requested is at ministerial level, particularly access to policies that are detailed enough for nuance to be revealed through primary research methods. This will likely require a foundation of relationship with said ministry to gain meaningful access to documents and informants. UNICEF, UNESCO and USAID hold these kinds of relationships (albeit in only developing countries). Is the consultant able to partner with an institution to gain this access? OR will USAID be able to provide those contacts in the countries of interest?

A: Access to local education authorities will indeed be critical for success of this research. We would very much be open to research partnerships and will work with our colleagues in the field to facilitate introductions where possible.

Q: Could a case study in the American Tribal areas be considered?

A: Unfortunately, no, a case study of American Tribal areas would not be of interest to USAID.

EDUCATION SUPPORT INITIATIVE

Addendum #01

RFP: Consultant Team for Building Resilience in the Return to Learning during COVID-19

Background

The purpose of the Education Support Initiative is to recruit, hire and maintain technical, professional, operational, and support staff that supply services to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Education Office and education sector. It includes full-time positions as well as short- and medium-term consultants.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented global learning challenge. On April 2, 2020, at the peak of COVID-19’s impact on education globally, approximately 1.6 billion learners, from pre-primary through tertiary education, were affected by school closures in at least 194 countries— approximately 91.3% percent of the world’s enrolled students. Since this peak, countries have begun reopening education institutions.

When learners return to the classroom, many will have been out of education or training for several months. To respond to this disruption, it is critical to re-engage learners, including those who dropped out, and to address educational disparities faced by the most marginalized. Countries will need to navigate learner progression and adapt learning so that learners receive essential instructional content. They may implement catch-up programs and continue distance learning as part of remedial education efforts. This will be done alongside new infection prevention and control measures, while working to ensure the psychosocial wellbeing of learners and educators. At a school, community, and institutional level, education actors will also need to prepare for future localized or national closures in order to build more resilient education systems.

USAID developed a Return to Learning during COVID-19 Brief. The brief outlined 4 cross-cutting considerations and 5 priorities where countries–with support from USAID and other partners–will need to plan for the return to learning. Moreover, due to inequities in the education system that existed prior to COVID-19, and the differential impacts of the pandemic on girls and boys, children with disabilities, displaced learners, the extremely poor, and other marginalized groups, the brief focuses on equity and inclusion as a foundational issue within each of the priority areas and cross-cutting considerations. Finally, USAID believes that COVID-19 presents an opportunity to strengthen the resilience of education systems to adapt to shocks and stresses, thus resilience is foregrounded in the brief.

Problem Statement

Given the unprecedented challenge to learners and education systems created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to ensure that all learners, especially the most marginalized, are able to re-engage in education and continue to build literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional skills in the short- and long-term. Moreover, it is an opportune time to expand equitable and inclusive access to high-quality education by engaging learners who were out of school prior to the pandemic, as well as to strengthen the resilience of the education sector in countries USAID works in.

As ministries of education and higher education begin to plan for reopening education institutions during COVID-19, many are seeking examples, guidance, and best practices for exactly how to do this. However, while some literature exists around returning to learning after education disruptions (e.g., the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak), and some guidance is being developed particularly around the safety and health components of reopening education institutions during COVID-19 (e.g., health indicators for when to reopen or re-close; infection prevention and control in education institutions), few in-depth examples and little guidance are available specifically for how education authorities navigate the complex issues of school re-opening during or after a crisis. Moreover, the existing evidence is only modestly comparable, given the scale, scope, and duration of the current emergency. Finally, increasing the resilience of education systems around the world requires evidence that captures the complexity and in-depth nuance of crisis response and recovery.

This research, therefore, aims to fill this gap by conducting approximately 4 to 6 longitudinal case studies (conducted between July 2020 and June 2021) documenting, analyzing, and synthesizing the context-specific processes, decisions, challenges, and opportunities; highlighting lessons learned; and providing recommendations (if evidence allows) and / or considerations to help policymakers, donors, and implementers plan for safe, equitable, and inclusive returns to learning that builds the resilience of learners, schools, communities, and education systems during / after a public health crisis and future education disruptions.

Purpose

The purpose of this activity is to identify key themes and surface lessons learned and recommendations / considerations to inform re-openings elsewhere and in the future and to define further research.

This activity will explore, document, and analyze within and across countries over time the processes of planning for and implementing education reopening during COVID-19, as well as identify and document resulting access, learning (if possible), and resilience outcomes.

Moreover, the research will use and critique the USAID Resilience and Education Framework as a way of conceptualizing and planning for education during and after crises in resilience-focused USAID partner countries.

Audience

The primary users and uses of the deliverables produced under this activity include:

● Policymakers (e.g., ministries of education / higher education), to make evidence-based decisions about when and how to reopen education institutions in order to build resilience after a prolonged, large-scale education interruptions;

● Donors (e.g., bi- and multi-laterals, including USAID), to provide technical support to policymakers and to make evidence-based decisions around pivoting funding after prolonged, large-scale education interruptions; and

● Implementers, to provide technical support to policymakers and make evidence-based decisions about when and how to reopen their own education programs to build resilience.

Conceptual Framework: Resilience and the Return to Learning

According to USAID (2012), resilience is “the ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth”. Resilient education systems are able to provide safe, equitable access to high-quality education that builds literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional skills, even in the face of conflict or crisis.

USAID argues that COVID-19 presents an opportunity to build stronger, more resilient learners, communities, institutions, and societies. This can only be done, however, by ensuring that the return to learning is safe, equitable, and inclusive, and results in measurable learning outcomes for learners. Moreover, USAID posits that the pandemic provides an opportunity for enhancing the resilience of education systems. A resilient education system is then, in the face of shocks and stresses, able to ensure that learners continue to develop essential literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional skills (Shah, 2019).

In a recent White Paper, Transforming Systems in Times of Adversity (Shah, 2019), USAID sets forth a resilience framework for the education sector and identifies principles for partner countries with a resilience focus. Those principles include:

  1. Education programming needs to start with an understanding of current risk and resilience factors and their impacts on sectoral priorities and goals.
  2. Education sector support should identify multiple entry points for strengthening learning and well-being outcomes.
  3. Education sector support can better theorize the relationship between education and resilience.
  4. Education program outcomes also need to strengthen relationships, trust, and networks between and among communities and institutions.
  5. Ensure education program approaches enable innovation and variation.

The Frameworks for Resilience and Education and the Return to Learning during COVID-19 (see above) will be used as a conceptual framework for this research.

Preliminary Research Questions

Research questions, which will be further refined in collaboration between the consultants and USAID, to help achieve the objectives listed above, may include the following:

  1. Planning: What was the process by which countries planned for the return to learning during COVID-19?
    1. What policies and plans exist or were developed to support the return to learning?
    2. What were key triggers / decision points when planning the return to learning, and what were factors contributed to the decisions made?
    3. Who was involved in decision making, and how were decisions made about the return to learning across the education continuum (pre-primary, primary, secondary, tertiary, non-formal, technical training)?
  2. Implementation: What was the process by which countries returned to learning during COVID-19?
    1. How did countries reach and retain marginalized populations; adapt the academic calendar; adapt instructional time, curricula and learning supports (including integrating distance learning); modify exams and learner promotion practices; and re-engage educators and prepare infrastructure?
    2. What were the key challenges and opportunities that emerged to ensuring a safe, equitable, and inclusive return to learning, especially regarding (but not limited to) safety and wellbeing; communication, consultation, and collaboration; monitoring, evaluating, and learning; and policy and funding?
  3. Outcomes: Retrospectively, according to key stakeholders, what positive and negative, intended and unintended consequences were observed as a result of decisions made when planning the return to learning?
    1. What were the outcomes of the return to learning process on:
      1. equitable and inclusive access to education?
      2. learners’ well-being or ability to cope with adversity?
      3. promoting or inhibiting learners’ resumption of learning?
      4. building resilience of learners, schools, communities, and the education system?
    2. What do key stakeholders identify as the most important lessons learned from the return-to-learning process?
  4. To what extent are USAID’s Return-to-Learning Framework and Resilience and Education Framework useful for conceptualizing, planning, and carrying out the return to learning during and after an education disruption such as COVID-19? What changes could be made?

Methods

The consultants will, in consultation with USAID/E3/ED, select 5 to 7 geographic locations (sub-national or national) to conduct longitudinal (over approximately one year) case studies on the process of planning for and carrying out the return to learning, and synthesize findings across select contexts. Study contexts will be diverse, selected based on a number of criteria, including (but not limited to) the anticipated impact of COVID-19 and duration of school closures; centralization vs. decentralization of the education system; geographic diversity; inclusion of countries in crisis and context; representation of low and middle-income countries; etc. Decisions will also be made based on USAID mission staff’s willingness and ability to provide in-country support.

The consultants will collect primary data starting during the planning stage for reopenings and at several time points during the months after. Exact time points will be negotiated with E3/ED and based on obtaining the data necessary for answering the research questions. It is likely that as some countries return to learning more quickly and others contend with COVID-19 for longer (thus having longer or repeated closures), the duration of engagement in each study context may differ.

Data collection methods will likely include document review, key informant interviews, workshops / focus group discussions, and a brief open-ended survey. Analysis will be done “horizontally” (by analyzing data across several countries), “vertically” (by analyzing data within countries from donors, governments, and implementers), and “longitudinally” (connecting inputs, outputs, and outcomes of the return to learning). Reporting will include representation of all individual case studies, synthesis across all case studies, and relevant recommendations / considerations. Methods, analysis, and reporting should highlight the complexity, nuance, and contextualization of return to learning processes, decisions, challenges, and opportunities, and will be developed collaboratively with E3/ED.

All research must be conducted in a safe and ethical manner, and research plans must be reviewed by an ethical review board external to the research team. Given the current context, special consideration should be given to the health and safety of participants and researchers and may be restricted due to the pandemic. All research must be carried out in a way that ensures not to contribute to the spread of the pandemic; therefore, use of virtual methods may be explored. Research must also consider local (national or sub-national, as appropriate) practices, guidelines, and regulations regarding infection prevention and control measures, as well as socio-cultural practices and norms as related to COVID-19.

A notable limitation of this study is that in focusing on the national levels—particularly planning, administration, policy, and funding decisions and implications—is that this study cannot capture the perspectives of or effects on learners and educators. Therefore, additional research should explore this component in greater depth.

Deliverables

  1. Inception report including full research methods (data collection and analysis), work plan, team composition, timeline, and dissemination/engagement plan
  2. Two (2) developmental learning opportunities or products (e.g., brief, blog post, webinar, etc.) exploring in-depth some of the nuanced, context-specific, most relevant issues to continue to stimulate interest, build capacity, and disseminate emergent findings
  3. Final reports (case study reports + synthesis report), including executive summaries
  4. Policy brief
  5. Submission of at least 2 articles to a peer-reviewed journal for publication

Eligibility

The Offeror shall be a consultant, firm or a consortium of consultants with a proven track record of successfully working on similar assignments. Offerors should submit proposals that address all deliverables, however, offerors submitting proposals as individual consultants may submit proposals that address all or one or more deliverables. . Offerors who submit proposals covering one or more deliverables but not all shall not be penalized. Proposals must address the requirements laid out in the below instructions.

Experience and Qualifications:

If bidding as a firm or consortium, the specific make-up of the team is up to each offeror to propose. The offeror should clearly illustrate their proposed staffing plan and outline how the staffing plan will support the objectives of this scope of work. As the specific case study locations are not yet chosen, there may be vacant roles on the research team that would be filled and approved at a later date. Qualifications and experience of the whole team or individual must reflect:

● Experience using advanced qualitative research methodologies, both in the collection and analysis of qualitative data. particularly case studies.

● Experience in complexity-aware or developmental research methodologies is an asset.

● Experience researching education planning in crisis contexts preferred.

● Experience using and mining publicly available datasets that respond to the research objectives.

● Experience designing methods/measures that can produce useful, comparable data across a wide range of contexts.

● Ability to communicate fluently in French, Arabic, Spanish, or another language preferred.

● Work experience translating complex, technical information for broad audiences.

● Experience in the design, implementation and/or evaluation of international education, education in conflict and crisis, higher education, or accelerated education programs in development or humanitarian contexts.

● Experience in translating research findings into concrete policy and programming recommendations, including experience facilitating organizational or experiential learning

● Excellent writing and editing skills.

Budget Ceiling

The maximum ceiling amount of all awards (one or more) resulting from this RFP is $112,000 USD. This information has been included in the attached addendum as a separate section titled “Budget Ceiling”.

Instructions for submission

Please submit the following documents:

● CVs for core research team member(s) (please submit as one PDF)

● Biodata forms for core research team member(s) (please submit as one PDF)

● A proposal that clearly outlines your or your teams’ experience and expertise in conducting this type of project. Proposal should include a brief description of the research methods that will be used and how experiential learning will be facilitated across case studies. Proposals should include an initial recommendation of countries given proposed staffing capacity or opportunities. Because of COVID-19-related movement restrictions and the need for local education sector access/knowledge, proposals should include a description of the approach for identifying and remotely supporting research team member(s) based in the countries of interest.

● As the expectation is not that one (1) individual would complete this work in its entirety, individual consultant offerors must clearly specify the tasks and deliverables under this scope of work that they are able to complete individually.

● Offerors should include proposed budgets as part of their submissions. Please see below for specific guidelines:

○ For individual consultants and consortia/groups of consultants, please include a proposed daily rate for each consultant, and the proposed level of effort (LOE) in days for each individual.

○ For all offerors, please include any anticipated local travel costs and other direct costs (including type of cost, unit rate and type of unit) associated with the proposed countries of interest.

○ All submitted budgets should follow the limitations outlines in the “Budget Ceiling” section of this document.

● An example of a related product (please submit as one PDF with the cover letter or provide a hyperlink)

· Proposals should be submitted to ESI_Component2@dexisonline.com no later than 5:00 PM EST Wednesday, August 5, 2020

About the Organization

Are you looking for a company that offers meaningful program assignments and opportunities to develop professional skills and expertise? At Dexis, staff are empowered to be part of the decision-making process and collaborate with colleagues and management across the company to satisfy our clients. We create transparency in our operations with our clients and employees; and we offer our people opportunities to grow and challenge themselves in meaningful ways. Dexis follows a "find a way or make a way" business directive, and we’re paving the way for innovative management solutions in the global development and security assistance arenas worldwide. As a Dexis employee you will be challenged, empowered, and mentored. That’s how Dexis goes "all in.” How will you?

If you are passionate about this opportunity, submit your application by clicking the apply for this job online button.

Only those applicants who meet the above criteria will be contacted for interview.

Dexis is an equal opportunity employer offering employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, citizenship, physical or mental handicap, or status as a disabled or Vietnam Era veteran of the US Armed Forces.

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