Initial Letters of Interest due October 15, 2010

Foreign economic aid and government programs have spent billions of dollars during the past five decades to alleviate the high number of people living in poverty. No country has been lifted out of poverty as a result of these efforts, but the mindset remains the same: aid programs are the key to poverty alleviation.

Entrepreneurship, as a solution to eradicate poverty (i.e. a focus on wealth creation rather than poverty reduction via re-distribution), remains controversial because it goes against the prevailing mindset that solutions to public problems are created by the government, rather than from the private sector. The notion of creating wealth is often stigmatized, and businesspeople in developing nations are sometimes regarded as too self-interested to be a force for positive social change.

There are efforts by international organizations and personalities that aim to correct this, but these efforts often turn into “top-down” and “social engineering” solutions, or into calls for philanthropic donations and handouts, rather than focusing on economic integration, improved productivity, and growth. The prevalent mindset in trying to “solve” the problem of poverty focuses too little on the opportunity these new, vast markets represent as a way to create producers and consumers, and to connect all people to networks of productivity and exchange.

The aim of SEVEN Fund sponsored research is to challenge the prevailing state of mind in this field. We want to answer the question of whether wealth-creation may be the most effective solution to alleviate poverty. We invest our efforts and resources to find, research, and document examples where entrepreneurial success is shown to have led to poverty alleviation. In the process, we will seek to inspire entrepreneurs in developing countries with advice, investments, role models, and services.

At SEVEN, we believe that enterprise solutions to poverty already exist, but are not sufficiently studied, analyzed, and exhibited as examples. There are specific questions that have no formulated answers – it is our aim to sponsor research to explore and find these answers. For example:
  1. What are the most significant qualities of a successful entrepreneur, especially in the uncertain environment of a developing economy?
  2. Can entrepreneurship be taught, inspired, and diffused through a society?
  3. Could support for the entrepreneurial spirit serve as role models of sustainable solutions to poverty?
  4. What is the relationship between prosperity and progressive human values?
  5. How can enterprises contribute to making stronger societies?

Questions like these lie at the heart of enterprise-based solutions to poverty, and at the foundation of our understanding of how to help an economy grow and, ultimately, help bring about a high and rising standard of living for the vast majority of citizens. Answers to these questions will have implications for governments, multilateral donors, corporations, financial institutions, investors, and citizens in general.

Goals

This SEVEN Fund RFP has four goals:
  1. To expand scientific inquiry to include disciplines fundamental to a deep understanding of entrepreneurship and economic development that are currently unsupported by conventional grant sources. This includes the broad topic area of research that we encourage, as well as the inclusion of qualified “researchers” from various fields and backgrounds that other institutions would not fund. Our goal is to introduce fresh thinking and new directions into the discourse of poverty reduction and sustainable economic development;
  2. To forge and maintain useful collaborations between researchers and on-the-ground actors of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty;
  3. To provide the public with a deeper understanding in this area, and its potential implications;
  4. To find, research and analyze role-model entrepreneurs and companies whose lesson may inspire others.

About SEVEN

SEVEN (Social Equity Venture Fund) is a virtual non-profit entity run by entrepreneurs whose strategy is to markedly increase the rate of innovation and diffusion of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty. It does this by targeted investment that fosters thought leadership through books, films and websites supporting role models - whether they are entrepreneurs or innovative firms - in developing nations and shaping a new discourse in government, the press and the academy around private sector innovation, prosperity and progressive human values.

Applications

You enter into the RFP competition by completing an Initial Proposal of no more than three pages, with the PI’s (Principal Investigator’s) CV attached. Submission deadline for this RFP (Initial Proposals) is October 15, 2010.

Only applications submitted online via our website will be accepted. That form can be accessed at www.sevenfund.org/submit-loi. If you encounter problems, please contact SEVEN at info at sevenfund.org.

What kinds of programs and requests are eligible for funding?

The RFP competition focuses on academic and scientific research in the field of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty. We intend to award up to two grants for a cumulative $200,000 and duration of no more than twelve months. There is no geographic or other limitation on who may compete for these funds – anyone may compete for these funds.

Proposals will be evaluated according their relevance and impact

  • Relevance: Proposals should be topical, foundational, and innovative.
  • Topical: This Request for Proposals is limited to research in economics, government policy and business strategy, insofar as the research bears directly on questions in enterprise-based solutions to poverty. Although the distribution of funds across subject areas will be driven in large part by the quality of proposals received, a goal of the review process will be to fund diverse research topics that span the small and the large, and range from the elementary to the complex.
  • Foundational: This Request for Proposals is limited to research with potentially significant and broad implications for our understanding of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty.
  • Innovative: This Request for Proposals is intended to fill a gap, not a shortfall, in conventional funding. We wish to enable research that, because of its speculative, non-mainstream, or high-risk nature, would otherwise go unperformed due to lack of available monies.
  • Impact: Proposals will be rated according to their expected scientific impact per dollar, taking all relevant factors into account, such as:
      • Intrinsic intellectual merit, scientific rigor, and originality
      • Potential for significant contribution to the basic understanding relevant to the topic and a high likelihood for success and importance if successful (i.e., high-risk research can be supported as long as the potential payoff is also very high)
      • The likelihood of the research opening fruitful new lines of scientific inquiry
      • The feasibility of the research in the given time frame
      • The qualifications of the principal investigator and team with respect to the proposed topic

  • Cost effectiveness: Tight budgeting is encouraged in order to maximize the research impact of the project as a whole, with emphasis on scientific return per dollar rather than per proposal.

Application Process

Applications will be accepted electronically through a standard form on our website, and evaluated in a two-part process, as follows:

Initial Proposal - Due October 15, 2010 - Must include:
  • A 500-word project summary, explicitly addressing why it is topical, foundational and unconventional;
  • A draft budget description not exceeding 200 words, including an approximate total cost over the life of the award and explanation of how funds would be spent;
  • A Curriculum Vitae for the Principal Investigator, which MUST be in PDF format, including:
      • Education and employment history;
      • Full publication list.

  • Four expert references on the PI or the project team as a whole.

SEVEN will screen each Initial Proposal according to the criteria listed above. Based on this preliminary assessment, the Principal Investigator (PI) may be invited to submit a Full Proposal, on or about November 15, 2010, perhaps with feedback from SEVEN on improving the proposal. Please keep in mind that however positive SEVEN may be about a proposal at any stage, it may still be turned down for funding after full jury review. All jury decisions are final decisions.

Important Dates

  • Request for Proposals Publication: Date, April, 2010
  • Deadline for Initial Proposal: Midnight Eastern Standard Time, October 15, 2010
  • Invitation for Full Proposals: November 15, 2010
  • Deadline for Full Proposals: Midnight Eastern Standard Time, December 31, 2010
  • SEVEN Grant Award Announcement: Friday, February 25, 2011
  • Earliest Start Date for SEVEN Grants: March 15, 2011

www.sevenfund.org