Awards, Competitions, Funding Grants

Call for Proposals – Innovation in Secondary Education 2014

The private donors and donor advisors that comprise the

Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE)

announce a US $13 million Call for Proposals on secondary education

The focus of the 2014 call is to both increase secondary education access and improve learning outcomes for marginalized populations.


In many developing countries, efforts are underway to provide secondary education on a larger scale and to build on the primary education gains that have occurred over the past several decades. However, secondary schools remain scarce, are concentrated in urban areas, are often of low quality, and enroll fewer girls than boys and too few poor and disadvantaged children.

Evidence shows that many children are leaving primary school without basic literacy and numeracy, and those who do make it to secondary school are often not learning the 21st century skills needed to pursue meaningful livelihoods or higher levels of learning.

donor organization


The PSIPSE is a funder collaborative that seeks to both increase access to formal and non-formal secondary education and improve learning outcomes for marginalized populations. The PSIPSE contributes to this goal through funding in-country interventions that accelerate innovation, contribute to evidence-based  policy  reforms,  and  engage  with  and  disseminate  learnings  to  key  stakeholders.

Members of PSIPSE include the following private donors and donor advisors

  • ·
Comic Relief
  • ·
MacArthur Foundation
  • ·
Dubai Cares
  • ·
The MasterCard Foundation
  • ·
Human Dignity Foundation
  • ·
Anonymous donor
  • ·
Intel Foundation


Please see the PSIPSE Long Term Goals document for a complete overview of PSIPSE, its members and its goals.

The amount of funding available through the 2014 call is US$13million, subject to the quality of proposals received.

The collaborative is looking for innovative, sustainable, and cost-effective education models that involve partnerships with key stakeholders and are focused on the following thematic areas of interest:

1.   Increasing access, demand, and retention at the secondary level, including projects focused on transition from primary to secondary school

2.   Improving  teacher  effectiveness  at the  secondary  level  through  innovative approaches that enable teachers to better act as facilitators to learning

3.   Improving adolescents’ learning outcomes

4.   Promoting 21st century employment-relevant skills4

Applicants may apply for support for the following types of projects. Please see Funding Categories document for complete details of each category:

1.   Pilot Projects: Develop and test new models, partnerships, or approaches to identified problems.

Pilots can be brand new projects or existing early-stage projects that need to be further refined, tested, and simplified. Pilot projects can be funded up to a total of US$500,000 over 2-3 years.

2.   Expanding & Adapting Projects: Project model is well defined, past the stage of development, and has already been piloted for a minimum of 2-3 years. Involves rigorous evaluation and continued adaptation as the project expands to new implementation sites. Expanding & adapting projects can be funded up to US$1 million over 2-3 years.

3.   Scale-up Projects: Projects that have already been piloted and have expanded in terms of reach, geographic scope, or adoption at a policy level; has been operational for more than 3 years; has conducted a rigorous, preferably external, evaluation of the model and can provide evidence of impact and cost-effectiveness with their application materials. Scale-up projects can be funded up to US$5 million over 5 years.

4.   Research Projects: Topics considered in scope include:

(1) rigorous external impact evaluations conducted in partnership with and connected to projects funded by PSIPSE (see full list of grantees located here or proposed for PSIPSE funding in the 2014 Call for Proposals cycle; and

(2) research with direct policy implications that addresses themes covered in this Call for Proposals. Research projects can be funded up to US$500,000 over 1-3 years.

The primary or main populations served by projects should be marginalized populations in focus countries.  Projects working with marginalized populations can be focused on working with adolescent:

  • boys and girls
  • girls only
  • boys only

All projects should benefit learners living in low-resource or poverty-affected areas, and can serve target populations including:

  • Out of school youth
  • Learners with physical, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities
  • Youth in school
  • Youth in conflict or post-conflict settings
  • Pregnant girls or young mothers
  • Children transitioning from primary to secondary level of education

The geographic focus of the Call for Proposals is East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo), Nigeria, Malawi and India. Projects operating in a combination of countries will also be considered. Please see Geographic Focus document for further details on specific regions where funding will be available.


The call is open to registered organizations, including private sector entities that operate in a non- profit capacity. PSIPSE cannot support projects with private sector benefit; collaboration with non- profit entities is preferred. Applicants may be single organizations or organizations working in a consortium (please see FAQs for more information). The call is not open to individuals.

Substantive partnerships with nationally headquartered groups are expected for projects led by organizations headquartered elsewhere. National and local level organizations that demonstrate capacity are given funding preference.


Projects that focus on lower and/or upper levels of formal or non-formal secondary education or transition from primary to lower secondary are eligible. The PSIPSE will NOT fund projects focused on:

1.   Large scale infrastructure building

2.   Individual schools seeking to build a new school or to add a new building at an existing school

3.   Scholarships or scholarship funds

4.   Technical or vocational training and TVET schools designed exclusively to prepare students for specific industries

5.   Research that focuses primarily on the barriers to secondary education access


The application process will involve three successive review phases, as seen below.


Letter of Inquiry


Proposal Development

Key ElementsMinimum applicant requirements satisfied. Assessment based on strategic alignment, organizational capabilities, proposal quality, sustainability and potential for learning
  •  Detailed program design
    •  Detailed Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning (MEL) Plan
    •  Detailed budget
      •  Detailed program design incorporating recommendations from donors
      •  Detailed budget
        •  Detailed organizational and financial information
        •  Further developed MEL Plan incorporating recommendations from donors
        •  References
EligibilityOpenShortlisted applicantsFinal shortlisted applicants
DeliverablesLetter of Inquiry (LOI)

submitted online

Proposal, high level budget

(budget template provided)



National organizations may be invited to attend an optional proposal development workshop in conjunction with other shortlisted applicants, and the Learning Partner (see below)

Proposal, organizational information and detailed budget
TimingDeadline for LOI questions to be submitted via email: May

14, 2014 @ 5:00PM Central

Time, US



LOI application closing date: June 13, 2014 @ 5:00PM Central Time, US



Shortlisted applicants invited to submit full Proposal first week of August, 2014

Proposal closing date: September 15, 2014 @

5:00PM Central Time, US




Review of proposals and possible communications with finalists to take place October – December 2014

Funding decisions made: December 2014 – March



Applications must be submitted online at More information on the application process is in the Application Instructions and FAQ documents.


A learning partner has been engaged for PSIPSE, who will synthesize learnings from the projects that the donor collaborative is supporting. The learning partner will also provide monitoring and evaluation technical support to projects before and after grant approval on an as-needed basis.


PSIPSE recognizes the rights of all children to be protected from any harm or abuse and is committed to taking all the necessary steps to ensure that children are protected and receive the support they need, recognizing  that  some  children  face  particular  risks  related  to  their  gender,  race,  disability,  etc. Applicants advanced to the Proposal phase will be expected to state how they are addressing child protection in their applications.


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