The Grants Program

The Research and Innovation Grants offered through USAID’s Democracy Fellows and Grants Program support data-driven solutions to USAID’s work in the democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG) sector. Current and former Research and Innovation Grant programs are presented below. To be notified of new Research and Innovation Grants, interested academics are encouraged to join the DFG Mailing List.


Learning Agenda Questions (April 2016 – December 2016)

The DRG Center’s Learning Agenda is a set of questions that address assumptions and questions integral to how USAID designs programs in the DRG sector. Under each question, existing data will be organized and disseminated, new evidence will be generated, and new programming recommendations produced. As a first step, five research teams led by Northwestern University, the University of Denver, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Virginia, and Wayne State University will produce a multi-disciplinary overview, assessment, and synthesis of the empirical research relevant to one of the research questions.


Theories of Democratic Change Research Initiative (November 2013 – July 2017)

The purpose of this research initiative is to improve the capacity of the DRG Center to conduct strategic planning by strengthening the link between sector analysis and program design. This project responds to an expressed need from USAID’s DRG field officers to have a tool that allows them quickly and confidently to ground DRG programming and programmatic assumptions in extant academic theory that provides justification for the implied causal linkages behind how a program intervention will affect both intermediate outcomes and high-level development results. A team led by Yale University and the University of Virginia conducted the research for Phase I: Theories of Democratic Backsliding. Phase II, launching in Summer 2016, will cover theories that explain paths away from authoritarianism; Phase III will cover theories that explain democratic consolidation.


DRG Research and Innovation Grants: Initial Solicitation (October 2013 – August 2016)

The 2013 Research and Innovation Grants Annual Program Statement (APS) funded innovative research to enhance both a deep theoretical and an applied understanding of dynamics within the DRG sector. Eight research teams led by Arizona State University; the College of William and Mary; Georgia State University; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Denver; the University of Michigan; the University of Notre Dame; and Williams College conducted cutting-edge research in diverse fields in the DRG sector, including human rights, electoral integrity, community governance, and transitional justice, among others.


Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Campus Challenge Research Grants (April 2013 – March 2016)

Since 2001, USAID has implemented C-TIP programs in more than 68 countries. Despite the complexity of the crime and efforts by many national and international organizations to eliminate it, there is limited research on the nature and extent of human trafficking, its underlying dynamics, and the effectiveness of C-TIP programs. Through three Research and Innovation Grants, research teams led by Texas Christian University, the University of Southern California, and Vanderbilt University implemented public opinion surveys in USAID priority countries for C-TIP programming, generating data to inform the design of programs to raise awareness about trafficking among vulnerable populations and to influence knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to trafficking.


Understanding Social Movements Grant (November 2013 – February 2015)

The social movements of the Arab Spring brought protesters onto the streets in several countries in and beyond the Middle East, leading to unprecedented political transitions and changes. Traditionally, the international development community, including USAID, has focused on supporting formal civil society actors, yet the success of a social movement also depends on informal actors. Under this grant, a research team led by the University of California, San Diego conducted a mixed-methods case study to explore the informal networks, systems, and leadership that characterized the social movements of the Arab Spring.

DFG has aggregated the questions we receive most frequently. You may also review the complete list of Q&As for each DFG grant program.

Q1. What are the roles of USAID and IIE?

Q2. Are non-US organizations eligible?

Q3. Do PIs or other research personnel have to be US citizens?

Q4. I want to work on this project with a colleague at another university—how do I do this?

Q5. Can I submit an application as an individual?

Q6. Can grant funds be used to cover course buyouts or summer salary?

Q7. I don’t yet have my PhD—can I be a PI on the grant?

Q8. Can my organization submit more than one application?

Q9. Does the grant amount include just for research costs, or does it include my organization’s indirect costs also?

Q10. I am currently working on a research project that is relevant to the grant solicitation—can I apply for co-funding of that work?

Q11. What is geographic code 937 and what does it mean for my application?

Q12. What is a DUNS number and how does my organization get one?

Q13. What are the different types of DFG grant solicitations?


Q1. What are the roles of USAID and IIE?

A: Grants are awarded under USAID’s DFG program, which is funded by USAID’s DRG Center and implemented by IIE. DFG grantees will receive their grants from IIE, but USAID will work closely with IIE to ensure that grant goals and deliverables meet USAID needs, and USAID input may be reflected in IIE’s technical feedback.

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Q2. Are non-US organizations eligible?

A: Yes. All non-US universities, research institutions, think tanks, or other non-profits are eligible, as long as they are not specifically prohibited from receiving US government funds because of the Mandatory Standard Provision on Preventing Terrorist Financing or related regulations.

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Q3. Do PIs or other research personnel have to be US citizens?

A: No. Unlike Democracy Fellowships, there are no citizenship requirements for personnel working on DFG grants, either as staff or consultants. All proposed staff must be compliant with the Mandatory Standard Provision on Preventing Terrorist Financing.

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Q4. I want to work on this project with a colleague at another university—how do I do this?

A: Applications must be submitted by one institution only, but research staff from two or more universities may collaborate on a single application, unless the grant solicitation specifies otherwise. The applying institution should engage staff at other universities as consultants or subcontractors, depending on the applicant’s institutional policies and scope of the proposed research. See Question 11 for more information on geographic code 937 and how that affects consultants and subcontractors.

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Q5. Can I submit an application as an individual?

A: No. Applications must be submitted through the researcher’s affiliated institution. However, independent researchers may be included as consultants or subcontractors on applications submitted by institutions.

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Q6. Can grant funds be used to cover course buyouts or summer salary?

A: Grant funds may be used to cover any reasonable expense needed for the effective completion of the proposed research including course buyouts, summer salary, etc., to the extent permitted by the policies of the applying institution. Applicants should be aware that cost is a factor in the evaluation of grant applications and that proposed levels of effort (how much time is charged for each person) must be justified in the application. Some grant solicitations will specify how much of the budget is to be allocated for specific expenses, in which case applicants should follow the directions in the solicitation.

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Q7. I don’t yet have my PhD—can I be a PI on the grant?

A: Unless specifically mentioned in the grant solicitation, USAID has not set minimum qualifications for Principal Investigators or other restrictions on whom, within an organization, may apply. Graduate students and ABDs are eligible to apply, and should work with their relevant departments and sponsored project offices in submitting an application. Research teams will be scored against the depth and relevance of previous research work in this area.

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Q8. Can my organization submit more than one application?

A: Unless otherwise specified in the grant solicitation, organizations may submit more than one application but must submit a separate, complete application for each distinct proposal. Each application will be reviewed individually against the scoring criteria.

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Q9. Does the grant amount include just for research costs, or does it include my organization’s indirect costs also?

A: The total funds requested must include all costs—direct and indirect—that the applicant would charge to the grant, if awarded. Total funds charged is not the same as total funds required, and many DFG grants include cost leverage. Applicants may charge indirect costs, as established in their Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) with a federal agency. Grantees without a NICRA will need to direct-bill indirect costs; at the application stage, applicants should itemize these costs and present them in the indirect budget line in the budget template provided.

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Q10. I am currently working on a research project that is relevant to the grant solicitation—can I apply for co-funding of that work?

A: IIE welcomes co-funding to maximize the effectiveness of scarce research funds. Applicants may submit applications to fund a discrete piece of ongoing work, if that work is responsive to the specific DFG grant solicitation. However, applicants must make clear how the proposed work builds on and extends the ongoing work and defend how and why the incremental work is important over and above the project as a whole. Applicants must also identify any co-funding for the incremental research from other grants or internal resources and justify the additional funds requested.

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Q11. What is geographic code 937 and what does it mean for my application?

A: There are many rules that govern what can be procured with money provided by a USAID-funded grant—including what country benefits from the economic activity generated, which is demarcated by geographic codes. The terms “procure” and “procurement” cover transactions for goods and services, and do not include grants which are categorized, instead, as “assistance.”

The DFG program, including all grantees, have the geographic code 937, which encompasses the United States, the recipient country, and USAID’s list of developing countries. So, everything that DFG grantees procure over the value of $25,000 must comply with 937. Note that hiring a local research firm counts as procurement. There are two exceptions to this requirement:

  1. Hiring a consultant. Hiring a consultant also qualifies as “procurement,” but this particular type of procurement has been exempted from the code 937 requirements for grantees and subgrantees. DFG grantees may hire consultants that either are or are not citizens of the US, the recipient country, or on USAID’s list of developing countries (see link above).
  2. Being a non-US organization not registered in a developing country. These grantees fall under the “recipient country” category, and may also procure goods and services from their own country.

Grantees are responsible for ensuring compliance with all procurement requirements. More information about geographic code 937 is available in ADS 310.

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Q12. What is a DUNS number and how does my organization get one?

A: With the passage of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), basic information on US government funded awards and subawards is submitted to a publicly available database. Recipients and subrecipients of US government funds are identified by DUNS number, to make sure that organizations with similar names aren’t confused. To comply with this reporting requirement, nearly all organizations that receive US governments now must have a DUNS number, with very few exceptions. If any of these exceptions apply to a DFG grant program, IIE will make it clear in the grant solicitation.

You can apply for a DUNS number at this website and consult this publicly available, step-by-step guide on how to obtain a DUNS number. Numbers should be received within 1 – 2 business days, but sometimes there are delays, particularly for non-US organizations.

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Q13. What are the different types of DFG grant solicitations?

A: The title of a DFG grant solicitation will include either the letters “APS” or “RFA”, which signify the type of grant solicitation. The differences between an APS and an RFA shape both the logistics of the grant solicitation and the design of the proposed projects (see table below).

  APS: Annual Program Statement RFA: Request for Applications
Logistics
  • Open for a year, but organizations should check review deadlines posted in the APS.
  • Presents a range of or ceiling for how much a grant could be worth, not a specific amount.
  • Applications can be reviewed for funding throughout the open period; however, all available funds could be awarded during the first review.
  • Funder can award as many grants as possible, within available funding.
  • Firm submission deadline (generally, 30 – 60 days after RFA is published).
  • Only one submission deadline.
  • Specific grant amount.
  • Specific project activities.
  • Funder generally awards one grant per RFA, unless multiple awards are specified.
Project design
  • Gives more freedom to the applicant.
  • Establishes overall goals of the grant program.
  • Applicant to defines and proposes the details of the project.
  • Provides a way for USAID to figure out “what is out there” and tap into applicants’ ideas and innovation.
  • Gives more control to the funder.
  • Specifies what the grant is expected to accomplish.
  • Applicant designs a project to accomplish the detailed scope of work presented in the RFA.

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