June 30, 2022
9:30-10:30AM EDT
Online, United States

On June 30, 2022, IPA's Human Trafficking Research Initiative (HTRI) held a Q&A session for its 2022 Request for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for full research funding.

You can now view the slides that were provided in the presentation at the beginning of the session. Please see below (embedded on this page) for the video recording of the session. 

Please don't hesitate to reach out to the HTRI team with any questions.

Jeni Sorensen:
Okay, it's a couple of minutes past, so we're going to go ahead and get started. I'm Jeni Sorensen. I'm going to be presenting today about our open call for proposals. My program manager, Sarah Consoli, is here and we'll be helping to monitor the chat. So please do keep yourself on mute for now. If you have a question during the presentation, please write it in the chat. Sarah will be monitoring the chat to make sure that we can get to the question. If you're asking questions she knows we're going to get to later in the presentation, she'll probably hold off on interrupting me, but otherwise you can just ask it in the chat. If you want to use your raise hand feature, we would ask actually that you wait until the end of the presentation again - sometimes we get questions in the middle, we know we're going to get to them. So maybe after the presentation is over, you can raise your hand. It'll be about 15 minutes of slides and then we'll be sharing this all. So don't feel the need to write furiously. We will be sharing this on our website in the coming days.

Jeni Sorensen:
Okay, so if you're here, you're here to talk about the Human Trafficking Research Initiative's request for expressions of interest for full research funding. Again, this is our agenda. So we're going to provide a brief overview and then we're going to talk about the competitive fund. Just a couple of slides to tell you some overall information that we're going to get into the request for EOIs. And so talk about the timeline, the process, eligibility requirements, and then we're going to give you some resources as you're developing your proposals. I'm sorry, my screen appears to be going slowly. Okay, there we go. All right. So, the overview of HTRI and I'm the director of HTRI. Sarah here is the associate program manager. We have two scientific advisors, Dr. Guy Grossman and Dr. Cecilia Mo. They provide an important advisory role for our program. So they don't, they're not full-time staff, but we do depend on them for a lot of overview advice. And then they also serve as standing members of our selection committee. As some of you may know, HTRI started in 2020. So we're approaching the end of year two of the initiative, and our goal is to rigorously study anti-trafficking interventions. So we're currently a five year program and we have a re-granting competitive fund, which is why you're all here today. To give you an overview, the competitive fund is one of our main activities, so we provide seed funding for early stage research. You might have seen our call for proposals come out earlier this year for that, and then this is for one of the full scale randomized evaluations. So full and partial funding. We also have research that our academic leads are leading. And then we have a research and learning agenda that helps to provide kind of the structure for everything that we want to do to give some information about the research that's been done to date.

Jeni Sorensen:
And then there are learning questions and the research and learning agenda that you should be referencing as you're developing your proposal to make sure that it's approaching or addressing one of the research gaps that we've identified. And then finally, as this initiative moves along, we'll be doing more in this fourth area of compiling and distributing research resources, doing outreach to policymakers, you know, talking about your research results should you be successful. And we've been doing some other things too, like the conference. We just had a conference for the last few days that we led with ILO and IOM on human trafficking, forced labor and child labor, which was really, really cool. I wanted to give a little bit of information about the current research projects. If you've seen our website, if you haven't checked in the last 12 hours, you only saw the seed grant funding descriptions. We have uploaded a couple of new project summaries just in the last, again, late yesterday. So some of those are here. And there's a couple more that we're just working through the approvals processes, so we can't put those there, but we wanted to provide that information for you so you can get a sense again of what we have already funded. So you can see whether it kind of fits what you're looking at. So you can see a lot of what we've done so far is in the prevention area and targeted awareness and behavior change campaigns. The ones that are full, randomized, controlled trials are in blue. So one is safe migration from Nigeria. We're funding prevention education in schools in Brazil, looking at static versus two-way information provision for refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. So that is geared towards people from LMIC or low- and middle-income countries, but who are in refugee camps and asylum seekers in Greece. And then one is looking at behavior change campaigns to address practices of restavek, which is child domestic servitude in Haiti. In the technology and partnerships area, we're looking at social media to reduce exploitation of migrant workers in Hong Kong. We do have one that we expect to be signed soon to reduce exploitation and supply chains. So we can't share information about that because papers aren't signed yet, but we hope to soon. And then we have school and job based interventions. So education and employment alternatives for young women in the denotified tribes in India. And finally, educational interventions to address child trafficking in northern Thailand. So as I mentioned, you can find, we will share these slides afterwards. You'll be able to find the descriptions of these funded projects on HTRI's web page as well.

Jeni Sorensen:
All right. The Competitive Fund, again, an overview of this. We, as I mentioned earlier, we have seed funding. So we've completed two rounds and we're working on the awards for the second round. We expect to release another round in early 2023. So if you are developing your proposal, you realize you're not quite there with a full research study and you think you could use some money to examine your existing data sets, travel funds, other things like that. We will have another call coming out probably in January 2023. So you can just try to keep an eye out for that. But for today, we're going to be talking about round two EOIs that are due on August 5th for full scale randomized evaluations or other similar rigorous evaluation techniques. One thing we wanted to note right up front is these are the definitions that we're using for HTRI. These are the TVPRA definitions of sex trafficking and forced labor. So please do make sure that if you're applying for this funding, that your research topic and research question focus on these definitions. Our geographic focus is for low- and middle-income countries. We are funded by the US Department of State, so we cannot fund any programs that take place in the United States. There are other agencies that that do focus on the United States, like the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice. So unfortunately, we can't fund anything that's in the US. And then we do have 15 priority countries, we call them priority countries, but really we will fund programs anywhere that are strong.

Jeni Sorensen:
But these are programs where our donor has existing implementation programs and they would like to see some coordination with them. So you can see this list. I saw Sarah, you went off mute, is there a question? No, I'm good. I just want to make sure, okay. All right. We're going to get into the details of this EOI, the timeline, the process, and the requirements. So this process does take a while, so I apologize in advance for that. The expression of interest call came out earlier this month. They're due the beginning of August. Then we have a selection committee that is comprised of our academic leads and other people who are experts in the field, policymakers and others who have, again, experience with RCTs and human trafficking specifically. So we convene them. And then we send the EOIs that we believe should be moved to the next round to the Department of State. And they review them, sometimes send them out to the different embassies that would be engaged, the different countries that would be engaged. So there's a little bit of a lag between each part of the process because of that, those different pieces. But we want to make sure, again, that everything is good to go. So we don't want to encourage anyone to apply for a full RFP unless it's going to be a viable project. So then with the selected applicants for this round would be notified in late September or early October.

Jeni Sorensen:
We try to give you at least six weeks, if possible, eight weeks to develop your full proposal. That would be due in late November 2022. And then because of the different holidays that lots of people take, it probably will be January 2023 once we would notify you of award, and so then we would immediately work on contract negotiations and then you would start your interventions early 2023 and you should plan to close those before the end of spring 2025.

Jeni Sorensen:
So the basics of applying for HTRI funding. The EOI submissions, you should follow the guidelines. We have detailed guidelines on our website and then there's an online portal to submit your application on the HTRI website. If you have any problems, please do reach out, maybe test it and make sure that you have access before you start putting all of your information. Applications should be submitted in English, and consortiums and multidisciplinary groups of researchers and organizations are encouraged. But we do ask that there is one lead organization and one lead principal investigator that are specified, so that we know primarily for contracting purposes and communications purposes, it's good to know who is leading this effort. And then the due date is before midnight Eastern US time on August 5th. And if you again, I mentioned this portal, we haven't had any problems in the past, but if you do have any problems, please do let us know and you have to send us an email before the deadline or your proposal will not be considered for funding.

Jeni Sorensen:
And we have a very strict cutoff for application submissions. The evaluation criteria are here. They're also in the guidelines. But just to go over them very quickly, we do want to make sure that these are relevant to HTRI priorities. So we're looking at the use of causal inference methods to test counter-trafficking strategies. We are looking at project viability. So whether you have partnerships that you've referenced, whether there's policy credibility, whether you have a dissemination plan. Some of these things are covered briefly at the EOI stage in more detail in the RFP. But these are, again, things to be thinking of as you're developing your EOI. Your academic contribution - this is where it's really helpful for you to reference the existing studies that have already been done. There are some that have been done in human trafficking, you can look at the Research and Learning Agenda and then we'll have a reference page at the end to give you more places to look for those. And you can also reference studies or other things that have been happening or gray literature in kind of similar environments or similar trafficking-adjacent fields like child labor or maybe criminology, social work. There's again, things that have not been done specifically on counter-trafficking yet, but you can use those as references.

Jeni Sorensen:
And then policy and survivor relevance, we did add survivor relevance this time. We want to make sure that these are survivor centered and survivor informed in your design and execution. And then, finally, the research funding and value for money. So we want to make sure that the study is commensurate with the value of the expected contributions. For research focus and methodology, we will consider three research types. So we will have full funding for experimental research and impact evaluations. We can provide partial funding for impact evaluations if you already have some existing funding and you just need additional funding for maybe a new arm or an endline or something like that. We can consider that and then we can do - sorry and then that's the next one actually - funding for new arms of existing impact evaluations. So let's say you have an impact evaluation that's on something different, but you want to add questions around human trafficking, then we could provide funding for that. Okay. So we are really focused, HTRI is focused because IPA is focused on experimental research. We are looking mostly for that, but we will consider quasi experimental research, natural experiments, and other rigorous methods for funding. But you just need to explain why an impact evaluation is not possible and why this other research methodology is necessary and how it's rigorous in the given context. But research that is primarily or fully qualitative in nature won't be considered for funding. It won't even go to the selection committee. Again, we recognize, it's not that we don't recognize the need for qualitative research, we think that that's also very important. But the focus of what we're doing is more of the causal inference. And so that's what we'll be looking for when we're considering your application.

Jeni Sorensen:
For eligibility, we need to have at least one of the PIs, they should hold a PhD or be currently pursuing a PhD program in a relevant social science discipline and have experience in field research and randomized evaluations. This is because this kind of research does take a specific skill set and knowledge. And so we want to make sure that there's at least one person on the team who has that skill set. Projects should benefit people and communities from low- and middle-income countries. So as you saw on our project summary page, we can in some cases fund interventions in high-income countries as long as those are focused on people from low- and middle-income countries. And research projects in low- and middle-income countries are strongly preferred. We mentioned earlier, you need to use the TVPA definitions of sex and labor trafficking in your research. And an important point is that our funding can only be used for research and research-related programmatic costs. So we can't just pay for a program. You should have, the ideal scenario is that you have a program already that is funded and that you're ready to do, and you're adding research to that, so we can add funding for the research-related costs, but not for the full program.

Jeni Sorensen:
And then finally, we mentioned that projects taking place in this list of countries are encouraged, but we will consider strong applications from, that look at all countries, except for the US. All right. This is, I think this might be our last slide. This is our resources for you to look at. Again, our Research and Learning agenda is referenced several times in the guidelines. Please do look at that when you're applying. We have that organized under the four P's. We just updated it. So it should be pretty up to date. We have an FAQ. So that's going to actually with the questions that you might be asking in this session, we'll be adding to that. So please just continue to check that out. Check that out as you're developing your proposals. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report will come out at some point before this call is due. So again, keep an eye out for that. It should be late June or early July. And then, some other external resources that you can look at. The Research to Action Project has a gap map, an evidence gap map that's really interesting and a global research agenda that you can reference. Walk Free as a promising practices database. There's the Global Modern Slavery Directory. If you're looking for implementing organizations to work with, that's a good resource. And finally, Delta 8.7 has more kind of policy-focused information. Okay. I think that's it for us, so we're happy to turn it over. I'm going to turn it over to Sarah to let us know if we have any questions and to keep an eye. Please do raise your hand or feel free to put a question in the chat.

Sarah Consoli:
Hi, we can start with Kimberly's question and then we just had one come in the chat.

Jeni Sorensen:
Okay. Kimberly, you're...

Kimberly Babiarz:
Still learning that mute button. Good morning, everyone. I just have a quick clarifying question on the slide that you had that showed that you were interested in funding research only and not the sort of overall project. If we want to add a new treatment arm to an existing project, you know, there are going to be programmatic costs that are involved in adding that arm. Is that going to be considered or should we try to find other funding to cover that part?

Jeni Sorensen:
So Sarah, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that we can support those costs. So anything that's related to the research, because you are, there will be an additional cost to add that arm. Then, yes, we could cover that.

Kimberly Babiarz:
Perfect, I just wanted to make sure.

Sarah Consoli:
The first question we had was the timeline for, in terms of interventions and the research project duration for seed grants versus full research projects. Okay.

Jeni Sorensen:
So, sorry, so what is the timeline for the implementation of the...

Sarah Consoli:
For the research project taking place. Yeah.

Jeni Sorensen:
Yeah. So the timeline would be, you should expect a start date around, I would say maybe February 2023 to be safe, and you could go for about a little bit over two years. Our program is currently slated to end at the end of September 2025. So we would want to have enough time for you to disseminate your results as well after that. So approximately a two-year time frame at this point. And then if that changes, we can let you know. But that wouldn't happen before the end of this call.

Sarah Consoli:
And I'll just mention too, it definitely depends on your proposal. So if you're applying for partial funding, maybe just a midline and endline, your duration of your project that we're funding might only be eight months to a year. That two-year time frame probably would be for a full RCT or something that you're doing from start to finish. So we take into account the feasibility of your project in the timeline that you propose. And then for seed grants, generally, I would say those are about maybe seven months, 7 to 9 months, kind of depending on the nature of the seed grant. And again, that funding next call wouldn't be released until early 2023. So we can definitely answer more questions about that. But keep that in mind, those would be for a pilot grant or a travel grant to explore research partnerships. So those are definitely a lot shorter than these full projects.

Sarah Consoli:
And then we got a question about what is the lead organization? You mean licensed organization or kind of clarifying what lead?

Jeni Sorensen:
Yeah, sure. The lead organization is just the organization that is planning to absorb the funds for this project. So we would need to put a sub agreement into effect. And so this can be, it could be a university, it could be an NGO that's what it means.

Sarah Consoli:
Yeah. And so you just have to be eligible to receive funding from the US Department of State, so that could be lots of different institution or agency types.

Jeni Sorensen:
Yeah. And that actually makes me remember that we probably should have put this in the slides and we can put this in the FAQ. If you're working with an organization that has a negotiated indirect cost recovery agreement with the US government that's called a NICRA for short, we need to take your NICRA. So sometimes for universities, that becomes a problem because the NICRA can be quite high and they ask if we can request it not be taken, and we can't. But there are, sometimes if you're a university, off-campus NICRA rates that are lower than the on-campus NICRA rates. So that's something, I think just get in touch with us directly if you have questions about that.

Sarah Consoli:
Yeah, and at the EOI stage, you just have to submit kind of a rough estimate of your budget and not the exact details, so we can discuss further should you move to the full proposal stage, if you have questions on that.

Jeni Sorensen:
And if you don't have a NICRA, then the maximum that you can ask for your indirect cost is 10%.

Sarah Consoli:
Feel free to put in the chat or raise your hand if you want us to clarify anything further after we answer your question. The next question is, can one organization apply in two different countries? I assume that's probably for two separate proposals.

Jeni Sorensen:
And yes, I mean, you can do either situation. We've had some organizations apply multiple times. So, yes, you can submit as many applications. I mean, please don't spam us, but if you have four good project ideas and you think that they're all viable, then you can submit four applications. And you can also submit multi-country evaluations.

Sarah Consoli:
Okay. And then someone just had a question about clarifying the timeline for the full proposal, and they saw the dates of September, October, and then the second date in November. So the difference between the two, just answering that September, October is when you would be notified if you move to the full proposal stage after our selection committee has reviewed the expression of interest forms. And then, in November, late November is when the full proposal would be due. And the next question is, can for-profit agencies be the prime recipient lead organization?

Jeni Sorensen:
Yes, you can be. One thing to note is for for-profit research groups, the value for money can be a challenge because unlike with universities where professors are often fully paid or are only asking for a few months of salary during the summer, for-profit research groups do need to put their full salary costs in there. We understand that if the research proposal is strong enough, I think the committee will typically say that's okay. But just to be aware, it does make it a little bit harder because so much more goes into salary costs and often indirect costs as well.

Sarah Consoli:
Yeah. There's also, it's best if you're positioned to receive a subaward versus a subcontract. So if you're able to receive a subaward, I think typically that isn't a problem. But just to clarify, that's kind of how IPA's funding distribution works with this competitive agreement we have with the Department of State.

Jeni Sorensen:
Yeah, and sorry, and if you don't know the difference between subaward and subcontract, you can reach out to us. If that's your situation, then we can talk to you about that.

Sarah Consoli:
The next question is, can you explain more about what you are looking for in the initial expression of interest?

Jeni Sorensen:
Yeah, what we're looking for is, I think it's the guidance and the eligibility, oh sorry, not eligibility criteria - the selection criteria pretty much cover it at the earliest stage of the EOI stage. I think we're just making, want to make sure that there is a strong research question, strong and specific research questions. So nothing too general. That you have a team that has, again, the experience that you have maybe implementing partners or a local presence. We're just trying to mainly assess the viability of your research question and whether we think that it can be sufficiently powered as well. So again, that's all kind of covered in the guidelines. But those are the primary things that we're looking for at this earlier stage. Sarah, do you have anything that I missed in that one?

Sarah Consoli:
Yeah, no, I think that covers it. Reasonableness of cost and strength of the research design. Again, you don't have to give us full power calculations or describe it in too much detail. But just to give the selection committee a sense of your research methods and the feasibility of executing your research, and often that ties into the strength of your partnership with the program implementer. And so just demonstrating all of those factors. And something to clarify too - Jeni and I don't sit on the selection committee, so we're able to help answer questions about proposals at this stage. And the selection committee is made up of our academic leads and some other practitioners and researchers in the space. And so that's why we're able to kind of help guide you along.

Jeni Sorensen:
Yeah. Yeah. And the intention is to have kind of a minimal lift. We recognize it's still work, but we want to make sure that you don't spend too much time putting together something that won't be funded. So, again, if you have a question, you're really not sure whether the thing that you're looking at is viable. You can reach out to us. We have been having calls with potential applicants, we're happy to talk with you about that. If we get, if you're not really sure that that what you have is ready for an impact evaluation, let us know.

Sarah Consoli:
Okay. And then we had a question on, if the applicant is from a university, are there limitations on overhead or is it all an allowable cost?

Jeni Sorensen:
Yeah, good question. So whatever the, if the university has an overhead rate, that's again, it's negotiated with the US government, that's all allowed. So it does, again, it can be challenging if a university is the prime applicant because then that overhead is being taken on all of the costs, which can be quite substantial. So sometimes we have seen universities that work instead through the implementing partner to actually get the grant and then they, the university is a sub to the implementing organization. So it's all allowable. But it is up to you to try to figure out how to make it the most cost-effective and to have the maximum value for money. And I do see the next question, too. So I'll just say the maximum is the maximum. We can't go over the cap. So unfortunately, that's what we can do is, is $450,000 for a full randomized evaluation. So we recognize again that that's not a lot for every organization. It can be challenging. So that's unfortunately, that's what we can give because we have a limited amount of funds just like everyone else. So if there are multi-country evaluations that you want to propose, you may need to find additional funding to support some of the other costs. And yeah, that's it.

Sarah Consoli:
With the multi-country I'll also say it's, the selection committee definitely will look at that a little bit more critically. Just in terms of, will it be able to show causal impact? Will there be internal validity with the study? Are you able to feasibly compare the intervention going on in different contexts? So. Especially considering the limitations. And I mean, it's a large cap, but it's definitely, I think, a bit better suited for a single country full scale study. So considering that when you're developing your research design. Right. I think we made it through all the questions. Feel free to raise your hand if you have any others. Yeah. Great.

Jeni Sorensen:
All right. If there are no further questions, again, we will, for everyone that's attended today, we'll send the slides around and post this recording on our website if you need to refer back to it. And again, reach out if you have questions. Sarah mentioned we're not on the selection committee. We just convened the selection committee, so we are happy to help you put the best possible application in front of our selection committee. We want strong research. We want to help you put that together. So please reach out to us and we'll reply. We are getting a large volume of emails so we do apologize. It might take us a few days to get back to you, but we are definitely going to do that. I think there's maybe one more question that came in.

Sarah Consoli:
Yeah, we got one question. The first is if we can be reached via email. Yes. The best email address, I'll put it in the chat, is our HTRI inbox, and Jeni and I will both see that and we'll get back to you, again as soon as possible. But feel free to follow up with us if needed too there. But email's definitely the best way to get ahold of us. And the next question was, I'm a PhD candidate in data systems and society. Can you provide more info on the applicants' requirements on the fields of study? So I think that's in terms of where.

Jeni Sorensen:
We don't have requirements about which fields of study you are focused on, as long as you have a PhD or you're working on acquiring a PhD. We said social science field, but data systems is probably more hard science, I'm not sure, but that also would be fine.

Sarah Consoli:
Yeah. You basically just have to have relevant experience to do a randomized evaluation in this context. And sometimes if your, maybe your field isn't, maybe if it's the data systems, you might not have field research experience. You could always bring someone on who maybe has done a trafficking adjacent research project that kind of complements your work and maybe has done randomized evaluations. So definitely encourage multidisciplinary research teams to kind of round out and make sure you fill up all the eligibility criteria that are listed in our EOI guidelines. I'll put our email up in the chat right now. Thank you.

Jeni Sorensen:
And for the people who have just joined, we're actually wrapping up. So we will be sending out the slides and the presentation after this. But we're happy - if you want to sign off now, if you're done, you can sign off. If you have additional questions, we're happy to stay on for another minute or two.

Jeni Sorensen:
Thank you. Okay. I think it looks like we're done. Thank you so much, everyone.

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