Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Network (ALL-IN) Research Grant
 - Expression of Interest

Deadline: August 1st, 2020 11:59 PM EDT

  Download Solicitation

Call for Proposal – Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Network (ALL-IN) Research Grant


The Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Networks (ALL-IN) program, a collaborative research grant program between The Feed the Future Market Risk and Resilience Innovation Lab (MRR) and the International Center for Evaluation and Development (ICED)[1] and funded by USAID announces a call for research proposals from researchers at African institutions (defined below) to advance host country leadership in defining and implementing research projects

Selected research projects will further the mission of the MRR Innovation Lab to generate and transfer into action innovations that will bolster resilience, keeping rural individuals, households, communities and markets in positions of economic viability from which they can sustain and accelerate a path of inclusive agricultural growth.

Effectively meeting the mission described above requires shifting the locus of research control to economists in African countries. ALL-IN is designed to provide the historically under-resourced African economic research community the resources it needs to fully engage and further develop and to fully utilize local institutions’ clear pathways to local policy impacts. African researchers will take the lead in defining priorities and will then draw on US university-based mentors for support as needed to enhance their capacity in implementation and management of large-scale research projects.

We invite researchers and institutions that have the skills, talents and ideas for impactful research, even if lacking in experience implementing and managing large-scale research projects. As part of this award, the ALL-IN collaborative team will provide, as needed and appropriate, support to researchers and their project managers in developing the capacity to manage and lead this award and others of a similar nature in the future. This award is intended to provide the opportunity to institutions – both researchers and staff – to learn by doing, in collaboration with mentors and peers at the ALL-IN management institutions.

All selected recipients of research funding under ALL-IN will be onboarded as an independent cohort and then become part of the MRR Innovation Lab’s virtual research consortium, which will meet annually for peer review and feedback on projects. These meetings, along with other ad-hoc meetings as appropriate, will provide the opportunity to further enhance capacity, create opportunities for future areas of inquiry and both broaden and deepen research networks for all participants.

Question and Answer Session #1[2]   16 July, 4 p.m. EAT

Expressions of Interest Deadline:       1 August 2020

Question and Answer Session #2        20 August, 4 p.m. EAT

Proposal Deadline:                               30 August 2020

We anticipate that 9-12 awards will be made under this request for proposals with a maximum award amount of $450,000.

In order to encourage researchers with ideas that are promising, but not yet fully developed, we will offer a seed grant funding window.  Seed grants will provide modest funding (~$5000) and other support to allow development of a full proposal in time for submission in November 2020.

Scope of Research and Geographic Focus

ALL-IN calls for researchers at African institutions to take the lead in defining priorities within the following thematic areas:

  • Resilient Escapes from Poverty: Bundled programs that can have a bigger and more lasting impact on persistent poverty than the sum of their parts.
  • Financial and Agronomic Innovations for Inclusive Growth and Resilience: Expanding the potential of insurance, stress-tolerant seeds and other tools to manage the risk of drought, flood or other disasters.
  • Resilient Systems for Broadly-based Agricultural Growth: Ensuring that markets and other social systems are competitive and do not bypass women and young people.

The grant selection committee will prioritize proposals that will allow contribute to local policy-relevant research questions in the thematic areas above. For examples of potential research topics, please see appendices 1 and 2. Across all our research priorities, we also encourage projects that include deliberate learning objectives related to gender, youth and nutrition either as a primary focus of the research or as a relevant cross-cutting issue(s).

Research proposals should ultimately be focused on achieving global and/or regional impacts. While some exceptions may be made, field-based research activities should take place in Feed the Future target[3], resilience focus countries[4] or Feed the Future aligned[5] as indicated by USAID (with top favorability to feed the future target countries, then resilience focus countries, then aligned as the least favored of the three categories).

Eligibility & Definition of African Research Institution

This solicitation’s eligibility is limited to researchers from local African Institutions who are interested in advancing the research agenda of MRR and ALL-IN especially those in Feed the Future target, Feed the Future aligned or resilience-focus countries in Africa as indicated by USAID.   Following USAID practice, we define a local African institution as 1) majority African owned and/or managed and 2) majority African board of directors composition. If you have questions about the eligibility of your institution, please contact ICED at .

Each proposal must identify the lead-PI from the Africa-based research institution and have an identified mentor from a US-based university. If you have difficulty identifying a mentor or would like assistance getting in touch with a mentor you think may be appropriate, please contact the ALL-IN team through ICED and we will facilitate the contact.

Support of USAID Objectives and Initiatives

 The MRR Innovation Lab is funded in support of the US Government’s 
Feed the Future Initiative and the related Global Food Security Act (GFSA) of 2016. The Global Food Security Research Strategy calls for a “pipeline of innovations, tools and approaches designed to improve agriculture, food security, resilience and nutrition priorities in the face of complex, dynamic challenges.” Because USAID and Feed the Future are the source of funding for these awards, projects are expected to contribute to the goals and objectives as outlined in the GFSA and the Global Food Security Research Strategy. Projects might also connect with non-Feed the Future USAID initiatives (such as PEPFAR).

Each USAID mission has its own set of strategic objectives, priority value chains and programming. We encourage you to explore your proposed country of study on the USAID website and the individual mission website to show how your activities relate to ongoing work at mission. A clear plan of outreach to and interaction with the mission throughout the life of the project is required. 

Funding Ceilings

  • Maximum request amount: $450,000
  • Funding for seed grants and feasibility studies: We anticipate that most seed grants will be approximately $5,000, however this is not a firm maximum.

Application Deadlines

 Expression of Interest Deadline: 1 August 2020

These expressions of interest (EOIs) are used for the purposes of identifying the appropriate number of external reviewers with appropriate expertise.   EOIs will not be screened, and every team that submits an EOI is eligible to submit a full proposal as described below.  You MUST submit an EOI as a condition for submitting a full proposal. 

Expressions of interest must include the following:

  • Lead PI (including institution and email address)
  • Tentative Proposal Title
  • Collaborator & mentor information (if known at this time; optional)
  • A brief (short paragraph) description of the research that will be proposed
  • If you do not have a mentor committed but have a mentor in mind and would like assistance making the connection, please also note that in short paragraph description for the EOI and the ALL-IN team will try to assist. You may list more than one potential mentor.

Expressions of interest must be submitted at the following link:

Submission Deadline for Full Proposals: 30 August 2020 (requirements described below)

Grant Duration: Up to 3 years

For further information please contact us at or visit

ALL-IN Managing Institutions

Core Management Institution:

The International Center for Evaluation and Development (ICED)

ICED is an international and independent think-tank, specializing in innovation and research in Monitoring and Evaluation for development. Managed and governed by highly experienced, renowned and passionate experts knowledgeable of current trends and issues in evaluation, research and development, ICED can operate effectively at the nexus between evaluation, knowledge translation and development.

This Africa based and African led organization is committed to the highest professional and ethical standards to support development in Africa in a manner that is consistent with our guiding principles. This commitment is evident in the work that we do and shared by our sponsors, partners, associates and other stakeholders.

Headquartered in Nairobi Kenya, ICED is registered in the United States, Ghana and Kenya as an international not-for-profit organization supporting evaluation research and innovation for development in Africa.

ICED’s core business seek to:

  • Advance evaluation research, innovation and adaptation in Monitoring and Evaluation to drive transformational development in Africa;
  • Support governments, private sectors, civil societies and other institutions to strengthen monitoring and evaluation theory and practice for organizational transformation;
  • Build capacity and professional development in monitoring and evaluation;
  • Policy engagement, convening and knowledge management for transformational development

Collaborating Institution:
 The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR) at UC Davis develops and tests financial and market innovations that take the most promising agricultural tools for families in developing economies from the lab to the field. Our mission is to generate and transfer knowledge and innovations that promote resilience and empower rural families, communities and markets to share in inclusive agricultural growth. The MRR Innovation Lab focuses the most advanced tools in development economics and related fields on three core themes:

  • Resilient Escapes from Poverty: Bundled programs that can have a bigger and more lasting impact on persistent poverty than the sum of their parts.
  • Financial and Agronomic Innovations for Inclusive Growth and Resilience: Expanding the potential of insurance, stress-tolerant seeds and other tools to manage the risk of drought, flood or other disasters.
  • Resilient Systems for Broadly-based Agricultural Growth: Ensuring that markets and other social systems are competitive and do not bypass women and young people.

In addition to funding research and building the capacity of local institutions, we translate our work into accessible policy documents and sponsor outreach events that integrate our findings into a coherent and effective voice about priorities and options for governments, NGOs and others working to reduce poverty and increase prosperity worldwide.

The MRR Innovation Lab was established at UC Davis in 2019 by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (cooperative agreement no. 7200AA19LE00004).

Appendix 1: Sample Research Sub-Topics

Enabling Resilient Escapes from Poverty
We have learned that enhancing material assets, social assets, psychological well-being or risk management can alter poverty dynamics. The next step is to learn how to exploit the synergies between these interventions in order to cost-effectively address deep-rooted rural poverty at the individual and community scales, especially in the wake of violence and civil conflict.  Illustrative examples include but are not limited to:

  • Psychological dimensions of shocks and poverty and solutions that enable resilient escapes from poverty;
  • The linkage between poverty and resilience in conflict zones and/or areas of recurrent crisis;
  • The synergies between building assets and securing assets with risk reduction mechanisms;
  • Interactions between psychological and material assets and learning to effectively harness their synergies; and,
  • Breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty through interventions that allow households to protect the human capacities of their children.

Financial and Agronomic Innovations for Inclusive Growth and Resilience:  
Research bringing forward a series of index insurance innovations that can promote Resilience-Plus.[8]  We have also learned that insurance is no magic bullet, and we need a next generation of innovations to make index insurance more effective, and to open the door to a broader set of tools that allow individuals to flexibly blend financial (savings, credit and insurance) and agronomic instruments to manage the risks that threaten their resilience.  Illustrative examples include but are not limited to:

  • Better models of crop identification and predictions of crop yields and losses for use in the design of high-quality agricultural index insurance;
  • Price or revenue insurance;
  • Using insurance to unlock credit for smallholder farmers;
  • Improve the salience and availability of index insurance for women farmers;
  • Innovation and evaluation of a set of flexible financial instruments that blend indexed savings, credit and insurance contracts;
  • Develop and test instruments for managing idiosyncratic risks (especially those risks that weigh heavily against women’s assets); and,
  • Explore the complementarities between on and off-farm livelihood activities, as well as financial and agronomic risk management technologies including stress tolerant seed varieties and techniques and investments in soil and water management.

Resilient Systems for Broadly-based Agricultural Growth

Prior research makes clear the power of relaxing system-level constraints, and yet we also know that market and other social systems can bypass men and women in vulnerable phases of their life cycle. Finding ways to supersede these tradeoffs and create systems that are competitive and inclusive is warranted. Illustrative examples include but are not limited to:

  • Tapping into social networks to resolve systemic information problems (without deepening existing disadvantages with regard to inclusiveness);
  • Design and targeting of learning subsidies so that they do not bypass women and their networks;
  • Using IT solutions, farmer groups and contract farming mechanisms to encourage smallholder commercialization by creating more competitive markets for small-scale farmers that offer them better prices for inputs and outputs and better-quality inputs; and,
  • Stabilizing public finance, perhaps through risk facilities that integrate sovereign and individual risk, to make it more effective in stabilizing markets and communities.

Across all our research priorities, we also encourage projects that include deliberate learning objectives related to gender, youth and nutrition either as a primary focus of the research or as a relevant cross-cutting issue(s).


Appendix 2: Current MRR Research Portfolio

Do No Harm: Evaluating the Welfare Effects of Behavioral Insurance Interventions in Ethiopia

Glenn Harrison, Georgia State University

Gender, Nutrition-Sensitive Agricultural Programs and Resilience in Bangladesh

John Hoddinott, Cornell University

Reducing Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard in Digital Loans for Agriculture

Sarah Janzen, Kansas State University

Smoothing Seasonal Hunger Through Planning in Zambia

Supreet Kaur, University of California Berkeley

Better Borrowing to Promote Access to Water and Improve Dairy Farming in Kenya

Michael Kremer, Harvard University

Assessing the Resilience of Seed Systems in Uganda using Comprehensive and Supply Chain-Structured Genotyping

Travis Lybbert, University of California Davis

Trust in Financial Services for Agriculture in Ethiopia: A Field Experiment on Picture-Based Crop Monitoring

Maria Porter, Michigan State University

The Value of Linking Farmers to Maize Value Chains in Rwanda

Jonathan Robinson, University of California Santa Cruz

Irrigation, Property Rights and Land Markets for Resilient Growth in Rwanda and Senegal

Elisabeth Sadoulet, University of California Berkeley

Promoting Resilient Agricultural Growth with Area Revenue Insurance in Ghana

Ashish Shenoy, University of California Davis

Resilience in the Aftermath of Disaster in Mozambique

Dean Yang, University of Michigan

[1] For brief descriptions of both the MRR Innovation Lab and ICED, please refer to the end of this RFP and the information provided on the websites found via the hyperlinks.

[2] The Question and Answer Sessions will both be held on Twitter via Twitter Chats. Follow @ICED_THINKTANK and @MRRInnovLab to stay engaged and join the chat. For those not able to join the chat, the questions and answers will all be posted on the ALL-IN Solicitation website after the chat.

[3] Feed the Future target countries in Africa include: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda.

[4] Resilience countries include: Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe.

[5] “Aligned countries” are those in which the U.S. Government supports ongoing agricultural development programs but are not designated as target countries. This can be determined through a review of the relevant USAID mission strategy.