In order to truly shift the power and invest in locally-led adaptation innovations, we need to adopt a more holistic approach to financing climate solutions. This means going beyond financing project implementation and investing in pre-project implementation activities, such as proposal development.
Local NGOs in the Global South often rely on proposals to request and secure funding from potential donors. Developing proposals can be a resource-intensive process, requiring a substantial amount of time, money, and expertise. This can be a barrier for local NGOs, which often have limited capacity. Thus, NGOs must be able to clearly articulate their proposed idea to stand a chance of securing funding.
Donors’ current evaluation criteria implicitly assume that organizations that cannot write good proposals are incapable of implementing successful projects. However, this assumption is often flawed. This further creates a power imbalance, as donors are often the ones who set the agenda and decide which projects are funded. While organizations such as the Adaptation Fund, the Alstom Foundation, WWF South Africa, and the Standards and Trade Development Facility provide support for proposal development, through cash and in-kind contributions, there still remains a massive gap in this space, given that they only represent a drop in the ocean of the present philanthropic organizations. In situations where evidence of rigorous stakeholder engagement is required as part of a proposal, should the donor not be obliged to provide the required resources to allow the applicant to ensure compliance? Here, donors can provide grants to cover the costs of staff time, travel, and other expenses associated with proposal development.
Leveling the playing field
Investing in the proposal development stage helps to remove the financial barrier associated with accessing funding for organizations with limited capacity. It presents them with the ability to develop high-quality proposals that will increase their probability of being successful. Ultimately, this will increase the amount of funding that goes directly to local NGOs to address local adaptation priorities.
Creating an environment conducive for collaboration
This is aligned with the first of the 8 Principles for Locally Led Adaptation Action on “devolving decision-making power to the lowest appropriate level” developed by the Global Commission on Adaptation. These principles promote the empowerment of local stakeholders to lead in adaptation. Therefore, investing in proposal development will allow the relevant communities on the frontlines of climate change to have a voice in decisions that directly affect their lives and livelihoods through actively participating in the design of the proposal. When local communities have the resources to develop their own proposals, they are able to set their own priorities and design projects that meet their specific needs.
Investing in proposal development is an essential and yet often overlooked step in ensuring that locally led adaptation innovations are supported and funded. By supporting proposal development, donors can help to ensure that the needs of those most affected by climate change are met and that adaptation projects are designed and implemented in a way that is equitable and sustainable.
Nonsi Nkomo is the Business Development Coordinator at Solidaridad Solidaridad Southern Africa.
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