IDRC-CIFSRF Funding: Guidelines for proposals

As you all know, the Canadian International Development Research Center (IDRC) has a new call for proposals through the Canada International Food Security Research Funds (CIFSRF) .

Project budgets under this call will be between CAD $500,000 to CAD $1,500,000, and the project duration shall not exceed 28 months, including the inception phase, all research activities, and final reporting. The deadline for submission of proposals is March 27, 2015. Successful applicants will be informed by the end of July, and it is anticipated that projects selected in this call will begin October 1st, 2015.

The purpose of this Email is to share with you some elements that I consider key for the development of a successful proposal responding to this call. Please don’t hesitate in contacting me if there is anything I can help you with. I am sure that all of you have developed and tested very important and useful technologies, practices, and innovations that could successfully be scaled-up, bringing them to the next level of broader impact in peoples life.

The call for proposals focuses on “taking effective, pilot-tested, innovations to a wider scale of use and application, this call will fund outstanding research-for-development projects that promise consistent and meaningful development outcomes (i.e. reaching important numbers of end-users) through the testing, demonstration and effective deployment of scaling up models, delivery mechanisms and approaches.”

“With a strong focus on achieving impacts at scale and realizing ambitious development outcomes, this call for proposals will fund projects aiming to bring effective, field-tested food security and nutrition innovations to a wider scale of use and application.”

Through this call for proposals IDRC is looking for research projects that will achieve “impacts at scale” aiming “to bring effective, field-tested food security and nutrition innovations to a wider scale of use and application. In this regards, it is important to keep in mind that the goal of IDRC is to support “Scaling-up” projects. Throughout the document, which can be found in the link above, IDRC shares what ‘scaling-up” means in the context of this call. Here are some extracts from the document, which are considered key elements for the development of a successful proposal responding to the call:

  • Scaling up innovations (and research results) can be defined as the process of increasing the reach, breadth, scope and sustainability of the changes, benefits and solutions that innovations bring to people.
    • Scaling up is sustainability: innovations can self-perpetuate or replicate after the end of the project.
    • Partnerships are essential for scaling up innovations and research results. Business firms, service providers and not-for-profit organizations are key partners that can make the process effective. Civil Society as well as public sector organizations may also be included in scaling up partnerships.
      • Future food demands will only be met by actively involving the private sector in the development and scaling up of innovations in local, national and global food systems.
      • Scaling up initiatives commonly attract co-funding and new resources to support and expand the process – before, during and after the life of the project.
      • CIFSRF is interested in scaling up those innovations that are particularly beneficial to poor rural populations, particularly women and small-holder farmers.
        • New and creative ways to empower women at every level and stage of the research need to be built into scale up initiatives.
        • Scaling up initiatives deliver meaningful development outcomes (i.e., reaching important numbers of end-users) through the effective deployment of scaling up models, delivery mechanisms and approaches.
        • Scaling up may occur when an innovation is used by an increasing amount of people in different geographical areas, countries or even continents.
          • Also occurs when innovations provoke meaningful changes in livelihoods, in organizations and businesses, in market relations, and in policy configurations

Besides the key points in the call for proposals mentioned above I'd like to share with you a summarized transcript I made from what the IDRC's Senior Program Specialist of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Renaut De Plaen, said about the key factors for scaling up, at the wrap up of the 2014's Global Food Security Conference. His talk is available in the webpage of our last GFS conference at: I encourage you to listen to this talk, since it contains useful information.

Dr DePlaen talk initially focuses on the presentations of the conference, but provides afterwards with some thoughts about what IDRC considers to be “scaling-up” projects. This part of his talk starts in the minute 10:40 of the presentation.

Scaling up key factors are:

1. Having a Good solution: technology, method or practice that has a strong science behind it; that is robust enough to perform in different conditions and that can be easily adapted to local practices. In order to be able to develop such good solution:

  • Local know-how needs to be incorporated
  • The research to be conducted is user inspired
  • Focus in women. Instead of focusing on the number of women that participate on the project, we need to move to more qualitative indicators, such as gender role, empowerment, decision making.
  • The incorporation of the youth is also very important.

2. Right business model for scaling up: for an innovation to reach a large number of farmers, men and women, it has to be affordable and can be implemented with not too intensive processes.  

3. Right partners help to co-develop, together with the researcher, and the farmers effective and practical business model to work in the real world which are connected to formal and informal network that have their interest both, in the business and in the social impact of that intervention. Those key partners are:

- Policy actors to enable the environment for scaling up

- Civil organizations reaching local population

Non-traditional-actors, such as the private sector, meaning especially individual entrepreneurs or small enterprises within the country of intervention, like food processors, sea distributors, farmer associations, cooperatives.

-We need to develop a common language and common tools to work with those different actors.

-The incorporation of students is very important. We need students who are excellent in their fields, but who also know how to communicate with people in other disciplines and with non-academicians. Students must become actors as well.  

4. Need to read the local context and to take advantage of opportunities that exist. Scaling up is not a straightforward process, we need to have the local conditions and factors, and very often scaling up some times depend on luck.

5. Importance of leadership in the long run. Scaling up is not a process that is going to take 2 to 3 years, it takes time and it does require long term funding, but funding is not the key challenge.  Even though it is not easy to find the funding, funding is available. More important and harder to get is the commitment over the long run that can take the innovation beyond the time and geographical barriers of the project.

When we think about research for food security we have to think beyond the research project, beyond the small interventions, and think about how scaling up can be addressed.


Hugo Melgar-Quiñonez, MD, Dr. Sci.
Director of the Institute for Global Food Security
Margaret A. Gilliam Faculty Scholar in Food Security
School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition
MacDonald Campus, McGill University
21111 Lakeshore Road

CINE Building room 209
Ste Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, H9X 3V9
Phone: 514-398-7671