Deadline: 14 September, 2018

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI) from organizations interested in submitting Statements of Interest (SOI) for programs that support Internet Freedom. In support of the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace, DRL’s goal is to protect the open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet by promoting fundamental freedoms, human rights, and the free flow of information online through integrated support to civil society for technology, digital safety, policy and advocacy, and applied research programs. DRL invites organizations interested in potential funding to submit SOI applications outlining program concepts that reflect this goal.

The submission of a SOI is the first step in a two-part process. Applicants must first submit a SOI, which is a concise, 3-page concept note designed to clearly communicate a program idea and its objectives before the development of a full proposal application. The purpose of the SOI process is to allow applicants the opportunity to submit program ideas for DRL to evaluate prior to requiring the development of full proposal applications. Upon review of eligible SOIs, DRL will invite selected applicants to expand their ideas into full proposal applications.


Priority Regions:

SOIs focused globally or focused on any region will be considered. Applications should prioritize work in Internet repressive environments.

SOIs regarding technology development should have clear regional human rights use-cases or plans for deployment. SOIs focused on digital safety, advocacy, and research should also have region- or population-specific goals and priorities that are informed by clear field knowledge and expertise.

Internet Freedom Funding Themes:

SOIs must address one or more of the Internet Freedom Funding Themes: technology, digital safety, policy and advocacy, and applied research. Each of the Funding Themes is described in detail below. Applications that do not address the Funding Themes will not be considered competitive.

Areas of Focus:

Within each of the Internet freedom funding themes, DRL has identified “areas of focus.” SOIs do not need to fit into one of these areas to be considered. They are provided solely to indicate a subset of areas of interest for consideration. Applications that do not address one or more of these “areas of focus” will not be penalized nor disqualified from the competitive process.

Key Program Considerations:

The following list of program considerations is provided as a guide to help applicants develop responsive, robust program proposals. This list of considerations will not be used as criteria to evaluate SOI applications.

  • Preference will be given to open source technologies with practical deployment and sustainability plans. These technologies are inherently more transparent and re-usable. At the same time, DRL recognizes that anti-censorship tools may at times rely on non-publicly disclosed information or code for a small portion of their system.
  • Consistent with DRL’s venture-capital style approach to Internet freedom, projects should have a model for long-term sustainability beyond the life of the grant.
  • DRL encourages applicants to foster collaborative partnerships, especially with local organization(s) in target countries and/or regions, where applicable. Where appropriate, applicants are invited to form consortia for submitting a combined proposal, but the primary organization that is developing and deploying the anti-censorship technology must be the lead (“prime”) applicant.
  • DRL strives to ensure its programs advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most at-risk and vulnerable populations.

Activities that are not typically considered competitive include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic research with no immediate application; theoretical exploration of technology and/or security issues;
  • Purchases of bulk hardware or bulk licenses for commercial encryption or technology products;
  • Technology and tools that dictate or suggest specific content;
  • Technology development without a clear human rights use case in an Internet repressive environment, or without a clear threat model and understanding of adversarial efforts;
  • Study tours, scholarships or exchange projects;
  • Projects that focus on expansion of Internet infrastructure, commercial law or economic development;
  • Projects that focus on a single country rather than a regional or global approach.
  • Stand-alone public awareness campaigns and/or public awareness campaigns not directly tied to one of the four funding categories listed above.
  • Projects not sufficiently connected to real-world impact of improving Internet freedom environments in any country or region; and,
  • Activities that go beyond an organization’s demonstrated competence, or without clear evidence of the ability of the applicant to achieve the stated impact.

Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms, and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources. DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.

To maximize the impact and sustainability of the award(s) that result(s) from this SOI/NOFO, DRL reserves the right to execute a non-competitive continuation amendment(s). Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and availability of funds. A non-competitive continuation is not guaranteed; the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not exercise the option to issue non-competitive continuation amendment(s).

II. Eligibility Information

Organizations submitting SOIs must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S.- or foreign-based non-profit/non-governmental organization (NGO), or a public international organization; or
  • Be a private, public, or state institution of higher education; or
  • Be a for-profit organization or business (noting there are restrictions on payment of fees and/or profits under grants and cooperative agreements, including those outlined in 48 CFR 30, “Cost Accounting Standards Administration”, and 48 CFR 31, “Contract Cost Principles and Procedures”); and
  • Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders including private sector partner and NGOs; and
  • Have demonstrable experience administering successful and preferably similar programs. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal awards. These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.

Applicants may form consortia and submit a combined SOI. However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant with the other members as sub-award partners.

There will be two deadlines for submission of SOIs – September 14, 2018 and February 8, 2019. An organization may submit no more than two (2) SOIs per deadline. Organizations that submit applications to the first deadline may also submit applications to the second deadline, regardless of the outcome of their previous applications(s).

For more information and to apply, click here.

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