Getting Started / Part 2


Producing a Checklist

Developing a checklist based on the contents of the grantor's guidelines, a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a something like an announcement in the Commerce Business Daily (CBD) is the best way to assure that no part of the requirements will be overlooked. Carefully reading the document which contains the guidelines to identify the proposal requirements, along with with your knowledge of the client's needs, results in a checklist which provides an excellent guide for the formulation of the storyboards.

I've put an example of guidelines below. These are for the U.S. Department of Commerce's Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program. Read them over very carfully. I have not included all of the guidelines. There is an equally long set of budegetary guidelines which must be followed as well. But this will give you a sense of how complex these can be. (If you'd like to see the full text of the guidelines, click on the name link)


Guidelines for Preparing Applications
Fiscal Year 1998

A. Introduction to the Guidelines
The purpose of the Guidelines for Preparing Applications--Fiscal Year 1998 (Guidelines) is to provide detailed information on the specifics of filling out your application. Topics to be covered include the application deadline; general instructions on copies, amendments, pagination, etc.; instructions on preparing a project narrative; instructions on preparing a budget request; and other forms and instructions.

Although we supply you with a substantial amount of detail on the type of information needed to explain your project effectively, it is important to keep in mind that this is a highly competitive grants process, and the ultimate goal is to convince the reviewers that you understand the nature and significance of the problems that you hope to address, the needs of the target audience and community, the intricacies of the technology involved, and the importance of evaluating, documenting, and disseminating the success or failure of the project.

B. Application Deadline
Complete applications for the Fiscal Year 1998 Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) grant program must be received by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) no later than 9:00 P.M. EST, March 12, 1998. POSTMARK DATE IS NOT SUFFICIENT. Applications which have been provided to a delivery service on or before March 11, 1998, with "delivery guaranteed" before 9:00 P.M. on March 12, 1998, will be accepted for review if you can document that the application was provided to the delivery service with delivery to the address listed above guaranteed prior to the closing date and time. Applications will not be accepted via facsimile machine transmission or electronic mail.

If you send your application by carrier, you should retain a copy of your package tracking information so that you can confirm delivery of your application and prove that the carrier did receive your application. Applications must be mailed to:

or hand-delivered to:

Room 1874 is located at entrance #10 on 15th Street NW, between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues. See the inside cover of this Application Kit for a detailed map for hand-deliveries. Unfortunately, every year the Department of Commerce rejects many applications that arrive after the application deadline. Therefore, we urge you to allow sufficient time for the delivery of your application.

NTIA will provide a written acknowledgment of the receipt of each application and will publish a list of applicants in the Federal Register and on the TIIAP home page. The best way to confirm that your application has been delivered to NTIA is to contact the carrier directly.

C. Choosing an Application Area
For Fiscal Year 1998, TIIAP will support projects in the following application areas:

In order to assign each application to a peer review panel with appropriate expertise, TIIAP requires that each applicant identify one of the five application areas listed above that best categorizes the project being proposed.

You must choose a "primary application area" that most closely describes the project you propose. While it is clear that many projects will encompass or touch upon more than one application area, for purposes of systematic review it is important that you select a primary application area that constitutes the "best fit."

If appropriate, you may also identify a second application area that applies to the project. For example, if a project primarily emphasizes disaster relief but also includes a significant human services component, the primary application area would be "Public Safety" and the secondary application area would be "Public Services."

D. General Instructions for Preparing Applications
A TIIAP application is complete only when it contains items referenced below (excluding optional items) and original signed copies of all of the applicable Standard Forms. The application, including a Project Narrative and other supporting materials, must be complete, legible, and easily understandable. A complete TIIAP application includes the following items, and should be assembled in the following order:

Failure to submit a complete TIIAP application by the application deadline may result in the application being rejected by the Department of Commerce.

Page Formats
The application should be typed, single-sided, single-spaced, on 8 ˝" x 11" paper. All text should be prepared using a font of no less than 12 points with margins of no less than one inch (1").

The pages of a TIIAP application should be numbered consecutively, starting with the first page of the Project Narrative. Please number the Budget Narrative and the Statement of Matching Funds separately, beginning with 424A-1, 424A-2, 424A-3, etc.

Total Number of Copies
NTIA request that each applicant submit one (1) original signed application and five (5) copies, unless doing so would present a financial hardship, in which case the applicant may submit one (1) original and two (2) copies of the application. The application with original signatures should be clearly marked "Original." Each duplicate should be clearly marked "Copy."

In order to facilitate the review, the original application, designated "Original," and one of the five copies of the application must each be secured with a binder clip (please note: a binder clip illustration is not available in the HTML version of Guidelines you are currently viewing). The remaining four copies must each be stapled. Also, be sure to include copies of the Standard Form 424B, CD-511, LLL in the two binder clipped copies, but you do not need to include them in the four stapled reviewer copies.

Signatures Signatures are required in the following places in the application:

Standard Forms 424, 424B, CD-511, and LLL should be signed by someone who is authorized to commit the applicant organization, such as the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, President, or Executive Director. Original signatures should be in blue ink so that the original application can be easily distinguished from application copies.

Page Limit
Your total application must not exceed forty (40) pages. The 40 page limit includes the eight page (8) Project Narrative, and thirty-two (32) pages for appendices (e.g., tables, timelines, organizational charts, illustrations, maps, letters, references, résumés, and supporting documents). Please remember, the forty (40) page limit does not include the Executive Summary, Standard Forms, a table of contents, or budget information; you may go over the limit to include these items.

Because space is limited in the Project Narrative, it is important to include information in the appendices that clearly supports your case. Pages can be saved by leaving out supplemental material not specifically requested in the Guidelines. Also, do not include company sales catalogs, annual reports, CD-ROMs, disks, or video or audio tapes.

Amendments to Applications
Amendments to an application may not be submitted after the application deadline unless specifically requested by TIIAP staff. TIIAP will notify applicants if any additional information is needed to evaluate the application properly. Information may be requested of applicants at any time.

Changes in Applicant's Contact Information
If the contact information submitted in Box 5 of the Standard Form 424 changes after submission, the applicant should immediately notify TIIAP in writing.

Waiver Requests
As stated in the Notice, it is not NTIA's intent to waive any provisions of the Notice. However, under extraordinary circumstances, and when it is in the best interest of the federal government to do so, NTIA may, on its own initiative or when requested, waive certain provisions in the Notice. NTIA cannot waive requirements that are statutory, but only those that are discretionary. In addition, as described in the Notice, requests to waive the application deadline will not be considered until after receipt of the application by NTIA.

E. Instructions for Preparing the Executive Summary
Every application needs to begin with a concise, one (1) page Executive Summary, not to exceed 250 words. The Executive Summary is your first opportunity to introduce the reader to your project: it should be factual, brief, and focused on your efforts. In order to facilitate the review of your application, begin the Executive Summary with the following sentence:

    "This is a project intended for the [choose one of the five application areas listed in the Guidelines on page 2] primary application area."

If applicable, you can also choose another one of the application areas as a secondary application area. For example:

"This is a project intended for the Health primary application area; and Public Safety as a secondary application area."

The Executive Summary should briefly cover the core aspects of the project and address the following questions:

  • What are the goal(s) of the project?
  • What are the anticipated outcomes?
  • How will the proposed solution make a difference in the community?
  • How many sites are there and where are they located?
  • Who are the communities to be served?
  • What organizations are participating as project partners?
  • What technologies are to be employed?
  • What will users do with the technology?

F. Instructions for Preparing the Project Narrative
The Project Narrative is your opportunity to convince readers that your project fits TIIAP objectives and is deserving of federal support. It is the one place in the application where you can speak in your own voice--not filling out a form, not explaining budget details--but speaking directly about the goals of your project, the means with which you expect to achieve your goals, and the people affected by the project outcomes.

The following section provides information and examples on how to address each of the six Review Criteria and other requirements described in the Notice (see the section of the Notice entitled Review Criteria). Applicants should keep in mind that the information provided below is not a prescription for a successful application, but rather general suggestions on various approaches to make your case to the reviewers.

Also, please remember that readers will review your presentation from the perspective of how well you address the Review Criteria defined in the Notice. Therefore, review the discussion of the six Review Criteria in the Notice carefully before preparing your Project Narrative.

Outlined below are general suggestions for preparing the Project Narrative, followed by specific recommendations on how to address each criterion.

1. General Suggestions

  • Be succinct and clear: Please keep in mind that you are writing to a diverse group of readers--independent reviewers, TIIAP staff, and the TIIAP selecting official. You should not assume that the people who are reading your application already know any information about you, your organization, your project, or the individuals in the communities you are trying to impact. For this reason, it would be advantageous to discuss your project clearly and succinctly. Readers need to understand quickly and easily what you are proposing and how well your application responds to the six Review Criteria published in the Notice.

  • Proofread the Project Narrative once it is complete: One of the biggest mistakes applicants often make in writing their Project Narrative is to treat each of the Review Criteria as a separate and distinct writing task, rather than as a stage in a coherent and convincing presentation. Reviewers have continually noted that, too often, different parts of a single narrative appear to have been written by different people, and that no one appears to have read the narrative all the way through to check for stylistic inconsistencies, redundancies, factual omissions, and unexplained assumptions. Therefore, in preparing the Project Narrative, a good strategy is to let someone who is not familiar with the project--someone who understands information infrastructure--read and critique the application before you submit it to TIIAP.

  • Stay within the page limits: Keep your Project Narrative to eight (8) single-spaced, single-sided pages or less. Reviewers will be instructed to ignore any portion of the Project Narrative that extends beyond eight (8) pages. Use the thirty-two (32) pages allocated for appendices to expand upon the points you want to discuss in detail. For clarity, it is also important to reference clearly any supplemental information included in the appendices in the Project Narrative.

  • Do not use pointers to online resources: Because World Wide Web pages or other online resources can be altered after the close of the grant round, you cannot use pointers to online resources to augment your application. Reviewers will be instructed to ignore pointers to online resources. If you want to include documentation available on the Internet, you should print the material and utilize the thirty-two (32) pages allotted for appendices.

2. Addressing the Review Criteria
Because reviewers use the Project Narrative as the primary basis for analyzing and evaluating your project, TIIAP recommends that each section of the Project Narrative correspond directly to the six Review Criteria--Project Purpose; Significance; Project Feasibility; Community Involvement; Reducing Disparities; and Evaluation, Documentation, and Dissemination--described in the Notice.

(1) Project Purpose
You should use the Project Purpose section to define your project, to explain your ideas and why you believe that the project you are proposing is important and will make a real difference. In doing so, you will need to discuss the problems you are trying to solve, the solution you propose, and the outcomes you expect.

In writing this section, it would be helpful to show the reviewers that you have carefully thought through the ideas behind the project and have a clear understanding of how your project will have an impact on the community and users. You should succinctly describe the potential of the project to alleviate the problems you identify as well as the inherent limitations of the project. It is important that you make a convincing case to the reviewers that what you are proposing is both reasonable and achievable.

Defining a specific need or problem. A compelling application clearly defines a problem or set of problems or needs that can be addressed through the application of information infrastructure technology. There may be specific economic, cultural, or geographic issues--such as the lack of a skilled workforce, business disinvestment in the area, limited access to high quality medical care, or declining student test scores--that will be the focus of your project. In this section, you have the opportunity to focus on those issues. The following passage is adapted from a successful application from a previous grant round:

    "Chronically-ill elementary and secondary students that require frequent or lengthy hospitalizations must not only cope with the debilitating pain associated with their illness, they also face the prospect of falling behind their fellow classmates in their quest for an education. The nearest university-based hospital provides services to over 130 school-age patients from areas designated as Empowerment Zones and Urban Enterprise Communities throughout the state. The Pediatric Education Program employs five teachers that provide instruction to patients in order to keep them up to date with their academic courses. The staff is overwhelmed by the demands of providing instruction to the wide range of academic needs. In the case of more advanced courses, like language instruction and science courses, patients are unable to receive instruction unless the hospital staff can not locate tutors."

Proposing a credible solution that employs information infrastructure technologies. Next, you should show what you are going to do about the problem(s) you defined in the preceding section. It would be helpful to be specific and discuss how information infrastructure services and technologies will provide your community or organization with a realistic and effective mechanism for addressing these factors. Competitive applications demonstrate a logical link between the problem you define and the solution you propose. The successful TIIAP applicant cited above continues:

    "Under the guidance of local network information specialists, the classrooms serving the hospital's Pediatric Education Program, 120 hospital rooms, and participating schools will be connected to the state educational network. Hospital staff and patients will be trained on the use of Internet applications including email, listserves, World Wide Web-based searching so that patients and teachers can exchange correspondence, notes, and assignments. Desktop video conferencing will also allow students to participate in real-time discussions with their classmates and teachers. In addition, homebound patients will be allowed to borrow laptop computers to remain in contact with their friends in the hospital and their classmates."

Identifying realistic, measurable outcomes that you expect to result from implementation of the project. There should be a compelling reason to believe that the project you propose will make a difference; the nature of that difference can best be described by the outcomes you expect to result from the project. Your anticipated outcomes should be tied to your problem statement and include a range of measurements that actually help determine that the underlying need has been addressed. Some useful questions to consider include: What do you expect to change in your community? Who will be impacted? What specific, realistic outcomes do you expect to occur within the grant award period? Further, can you look beyond the grant award period and identify the longer term effects that you can expect to occur? The successful TIIAP applicant cited above proposed these outcomes:

    "We believe the communications afforded by the proposed network will allow students to maintain their academic progress, improve the quality of instruction to the patients, and alleviate the demands on the hospital staff. We expect patient's self-esteem and satisfaction with their hospital stay to increase. In addition, we expect the quality of patient's school work to increase as a result of utilizing communication linkages to their schools, their classmates, and their parents. The methods for identifying and documenting these outcomes throughout the project are further described in the Evaluation, Documentation, and Dissemination section."

(2) Significance
Once you have established what you intend to do, you should describe why the project needs to be done (i.e., why the project is significant). Based on their expertise in the field, reviewers will examine how the project you propose is innovative and exemplary.

Describing innovation.
While many of the project's innovations may be implicit in the description of the solution you are proposing, you should take the opportunity to explain these innovations directly. Remember that, as discussed in the Notice, innovations can take many forms, such as the use of an untested technology that extends end-user capabilities; an imaginative partnership or organizational model; new applications of proven technologies; or a creative strategy for overcoming traditional barriers to access.

You should highlight the aspects of your project and the model it proposes that are unusual or innovative. A useful approach to establish the innovativeness of your application is to place it in a national context by comparing and contrasting your project to other efforts or projects in your field.(1) Simply stating that a particular approach has not been tried in your community will not be sufficient: each application should provide insight on the use of network technology that can be shared with the rest of the nation.

Establishing an exemplary project.
Your application will also be rated on the degree to which your project is exemplary, or can serve as a model. We strongly encourage you to describe the aspects of your project that lend themselves to replication. For example, is the need or problem you are addressing common to a large number of communities across the nation? Is the solution you propose accessible to other communities, especially underserved communities constrained by geographic, physical, or financial barriers? Is the scope of the project's impact broad enough that other communities or organizations would find your approach an attractive alternative to other methods?

(3)Project Feasibility
Once you have clearly and systematically demonstrated that the project you propose is worth doing, you should demonstrate that your team can actually do it. Reviewers will assess the overall feasibility of your proposed project. In this section, you will want to show how you will implement the project by discussing the following issues.

Technical Approach. You should describe in detail the technology that you will employ in your project, your rationale in selecting this particular technology, and how the various components will be organized. Reviewers will scrutinize this section to determine whether your solution is appropriate and effective for meeting the goals set forth in the "Project Purpose."

You should try to be as specific and concrete as you can in this section so that there will be no confusion among the reviewers as to what the technology you are proposing will do and how it will work. Often the easiest way to explain or flesh out a technical plan is to append diagrams and other pictorial materials that allow reviewers to "see" what you are describing.(2)

When discussing the technical approach, you should specify in detail not only how the proposed technical and organizational system will work, but also (1) how it would operate with other systems; (2) how it can grow to accommodate additional users; (3) the technological alternatives that you have examined and the reason why you considered the approach you have chosen superior to others; and (4) your plans for maintaining and/or upgrading the system.

With respect to interoperability, you should describe as concretely as possible how your system will, or could, work with other relevant networks or services. For example, if you are planning to deploy a network that would be used to transmit medical images among several institutions, you should describe how your network would or could be integrated with other information systems at those institutions, or elsewhere in the community. You should also discuss your use of standards and, if you have chosen any proprietary, "closed" solutions when standards-based solutions are available, you should provide justification.

On the issue of scalability, you should discuss how the system you intend to deploy can accommodate growth beyond the scale defined for the grant period. This growth could be a growth in the number of users within the community, a growth in the geographic area to be served, or a growth in the services that would be offered with the system (i.e., discuss the capability to add services to those that will be provided initially).

With respect to technical alternatives, you should show not only that the technical approach you are taking best meets your goals, but also that, to the greatest degree possible, your project can take advantage of existing infrastructure and commercially available telecommunications services. If the latter is not the case, you must show why extraordinary circumstances require the construction of new network facilities.

You should also describe your plans for maintaining the system you deploy and for upgrading the technology (if applicable) or capacity to exploit new opportunities made possible by advances in technology.

Applicant Qualifications.
In developing this section, you have an opportunity to provide evidence that the applicant team has the ability to effectively deal with both the technical complexity and the organizational challenges associated with managing the project. It would be helpful to describe the qualifications of your project team, including both your own organization and all project partners, to show that all team members and partners have both the commitment and experience necessary to undertake the project and complete it within the proposed time schedule. You should address all of the participants' experience with information infrastructure projects, in serving the communities or populations targeted by the project, and with project management. You may want to append résumés for the key project personnel; if so, please limit the length of each résumé.

Budget, Implementation Schedule and Timeline.
Reviewers will carefully examine all the budget materials to assess whether the budget is appropriate and clearly related to the tasks you propose in the Project Narrative. In addition, you should be sure the resources outlined in the budget are sufficient to accomplish the tasks and objectives described in the Project Narrative. You should also present a proposed implementation schedule that identifies major project tasks and milestones that allows enough time for the project to be developed, implemented, and fully evaluated during the grant period. A clear timeline, setting out the milestones you expect to reach at various stages of your project's implementation, can help reviewers gain a much clearer perspective on what you are proposing. If space is a concern in the Project Narrative, you can append a timeline.

Sustainability.
To be competitive, a project should exhibit economic and organizational viability beyond the grant period. You should therefore present a credible plan, including a discussion of anticipated ongoing expenses and potential sources of non-federal funds to sustain the project economically and operationally. You should also address the question of whether you expect start-up partners and their responsibilities for various segments of the project to remain the same or change over time.

(4) Community Involvement
Once you have presented a coherent and convincing discussion of the project purpose and shown that what you are proposing is feasible, you will want to show that the communities to be served by the project support it and will participate in its development. In this section, you should discuss your partners, the steps you have taken and will take to involve the community (or communities), your plans for involving and supporting the project's end users, and how you intend to protect the privacy of individuals affected by the project. In addition, to the greatest extent possible, you should work to understand the needs and requirements of all potential end users, including those with disabilities.

Partnerships.
You should present a clear discussion of who your partners will be, what their respective roles in the project will be, what benefits each expects to receive, and what specific contributions each partner will make to the project in the form of financial support, equipment, personnel, or other resources. You should also describe plans for maintaining the partnerships that have evolved during the grant. It is essential that you document your partners' commitments to the project. It is helpful to append letters of commitment from the partners describing their roles and quantifying their contributions. If you have worked with these partners on projects in the past, discuss the nature and results of those projects and the project responsibilities assumed by each collaborator that you have worked with previously. Never assume that reviewers will automatically know who a proposed partner is, what that partner is capable of or willing to commit to the project, or why the partner is joining with you.

Involvement of the community.
In explaining the involvement of your community in the project, you will want to describe the steps you have taken to include a wide variety of community stakeholders in the planning of development of the project ideas. For example, have you held open meetings? Conducted surveys? Employed focus groups? Met with representatives of different community groups? Developed a steering committee or advisory panel that involves end users and other key stakeholders?

Useful tools to demonstrate demand for a project include surveys, focus group results, and letters from beneficiary organizations indicating their needs and interests. Letters from potential end users indicating how they intend to use the proposed services and describing the benefits that they envision are often very persuasive.

The following passage describes one previously successful applicant's approach to involving its community.

    "As we considered the scope of the project, we started with the assumption that the community had diverse ethnic, racial, and economic populations. We also assumed that the community needed better communications to overcome a general feeling of low self-esteem because of crime, joblessness, poor housing, and lack of a sense of community."

    "To test these assumptions, the staff surveyed the local churches, libraries, business groups, and local press to determine which local organizations and community leaders would make the best partners for the project. We then met with the partners and community organizations to discuss strategies for seeking community input, and to establish project goals and objectives within the timetable once the assumptions were confirmed. We concluded that the best way to do this was for the partners and community organizations to disseminate information to community residents explaining who the partners were, and what the proposed project was about. Subsequently, we created a needs assessment survey and carried out door-to-door surveys. Additionally, we invited the residents to attend a series of five focus group sessions in their neighborhoods. In the limited geographic area that the project proposes to serve, 165 members of the community attended these meetings. They represented all segments of the community. Most of the assumptions about community needs and the demand for the proposed services were confirmed in the survey and focus group results. Copies of the surveys and results of the focus group sessions are attached in Appendix D."

Support for end users.
A competitive application will show careful attention to the needs, skills, working conditions, and living environments of the targeted end users. You should identify and describe the end users. Discuss how you will work with them to ensure that they can use the services that the project will enable. How have they been involved in the design of the project? How will they be recruited? How will they be trained? How will you provide ongoing technical support? Also discuss how the end users will interact with the technology--how will they actually use the services that you offer? One way of describing this interaction is to offer a scenario of how the services would be used. The following scenario is paraphrased from a successful TIIAP application:

    "An elderly patient arrives at the emergency room complaining of a chronic cough. A preliminary diagnosis reveals evidence of tuberculosis. An automated tuberculosis protocol recommends appropriate antibiotics, further tests, and an isolation room. A message is sent over the network to the city Department of Health, reporting that a likely case of tuberculosis has been found. After about two weeks, the patient's fever and cough have subsided. The physician contacts the department electronically to arrange for the patient to be followed by the department for Directly Observed Therapy; with the patient's permission, relevant clinical data are transferred electronically to the department. Since the patient is unable to attend the Public Health Clinic, a public health assistant visits the patient and uses a hand-held computer to report on his/her condition. The patient's condition can be tracked over a period of months, and subsequent diagnoses can be made, using the same hand-held device. When the patient is well enough to visit the public health clinic, he/she accesses the tuberculosis information kiosk in the waiting area, which in turn accesses an automated protocol to provide the patient with valuable information."

Privacy. Finally, you should discuss your plans for protecting the privacy of the end users and beneficiaries of the project. For example, if you are proposing a project dealing with individually identifiable information (student grades, medical records, etc.), you should describe in detail both the technological mechanisms you will employ to maintain system security and unauthorized access to information and the policy mechanisms (e.g., staff education, usage guidelines) you will develop to deter improper use. If you believe that privacy and confidentiality are not important issues in your project, you should state so clearly and discuss your reasoning.

(5) Reducing Disparities
The previous section provided you with the opportunity to discuss the involvement of the community as a whole. In this section, you can now focus more directly on specific end-user populations and beneficiaries, and the degree to which your project will help to overcome existing disparities in access to information infrastructure technologies and services in your community. Remember that every TIIAP project is expected to target underserved communities specifically and/or extend the benefits of using information infrastructure applications to underserved groups within a broader community.

Description and documentation of the disparities.
This is your opportunity to describe and document the disparities that exist within the population(s) you propose to serve. Consider presenting a profile of the community or communities to be served, and the intended beneficiaries of the project, citing supporting statistics (e.g., per capita income, per cent of households living in poverty, population density, size of the region, computer usage, relevant health statistics, etc.) as appropriate. You may wish to append materials such as maps and other geographical representations of the project's impact. Wherever possible, use specific quantitative data to document the disparities. It is important not to assume that the statistics speak for themselves; rather, you should relate the statistics and other quantitative data to the project's overall concept, as outlined in the opening section of your narrative. In describing the disparities, it is also helpful to discuss the barriers to access that result in the disparities.

Strategies for overcoming barriers to access.
Having documented the disparities, you should then discuss your plans for reducing them. It is important to go beyond providing access where access was unavailable or limited before--describe specific strategies for overcoming the barriers responsible for limiting access and for reaching out to the populations you have targeted.

(6) Evaluation, Documentation, and Dissemination
Under Project Purpose, you were asked to think beyond the project ending date and to offer a realistic estimate of your project outcomes. Here is your opportunity to present: (1) a clearly defined evaluation plan that includes specific criteria for assessing your success in implementing the project proposed and for evaluating the degree to which the project achieved its goals and objectives; (2) a well articulated documentation plan which enhances evaluation and aids in information dissemination; and (3) an appropriate dissemination plan which ensures the results of your efforts are as broadly distributed as possible. Each element (i.e., evaluation, documentation, and dissemination) should be closely aligned and result in the systematic acquisition and assessment of information to provide useful feedback to the project team, TIIAP, and others interested in your project.

As described in the Notice, each application will be rated on the quality of its plans for evaluation, documentation, and dissemination. Reviewers will also assess whether you have provided sufficient resources (i.e., budget, staff, and management) to evaluate the project, document project activities, and disseminate project findings and lessons learned.

Evaluation Plan.
Your evaluation plan should be consistent with the objectives and goals as described in your responses to the first five Review Criteria. In addition, evaluation should not be viewed as what is done at the project completion, but seen as an integral element in the design, planning, and implementation of innovations.(3) Hence, the evaluation plan should be coupled with a program implementation plan and schedule. Clear goals and precise quantitative expressions of the conditions, circumstances, or populations to be addressed by the program, should lead to the formulation of specific and measurable objectives in the evaluation plan.

The topics listed below provide the basis for review of your evaluation plan, and you should address them with some specificity.

  • Evaluation Questions: What questions will the evaluation seek to answer? The project goals and objectives, implementation plan, and anticipated consequences provide the basis for formulating evaluation questions. Examine the relation between your expected outcomes, your efforts, and what is important to evaluate.

  • Evaluation Strategy: What approach will be taken to find answers to the evaluation questions? What criteria will you use to assess lessons learned from the project? Will you include a technology assessment? What populations will be included in your evaluation?

  • Data Collection: The type of data and method of data collection will depend upon the nature of the program, the questions, and the evaluation strategy. What kind of measurement instruments will be used? Will there be a mix of quantitative and qualitative data identified and collected? It would also be helpful to explain how project staff will collect data from the various sites and organizations involved in the project. When considering data collection techniques, you should ensure the allocation of resources are sufficient to conduct the proposed data collection techniques.

  • Data Analysis: You should describe the method you propose to use to analyze data. In addition, the techniques for analysis you identify should be appropriate for the types of data to be collected. For example, open-ended interview schedules will require extensive and careful coding of responses and tend to employ qualitative analyses. The baseline data collected will use statistical analyses to describe projects in relation to particular outcomes. Different statistical techniques require different methods of data collection and should be planned prior to implementation.

  • Evaluator(s): Specify the individuals or groups who will be involved in conducting the evaluation. What are their qualifications? What are the responsibilities for key personnel?

  • Budgeting of resources and staffing for evaluation. Your application's budget should reflect sufficient funds to carry out a thorough and useful evaluation.

  • Documentation Plan. In addition to data collection, your proposed documentation plan will significantly help in the development of the NII because each TIIAP-funded project will have been selected for its potential both to be replicated and serve as a demonstration. Accurate and complete documentation of the implementation process and the project operation is critical to the sustainability and diffusion of innovative applications of telecommunications and information technologies.

    Documentation is a form of data collection that goes beyond collecting baseline data. An effective documentation plan is essential for telling your story: documentation should provide the data for external evaluation of project impacts by other practitioners and provide answers to questions these innovative projects draw from all interested parties.

    In developing your documentation plan, you should refer to the implementation plan and timeline for guidance. Documentation techniques can include a project logs, visitor reports, databases, or videotapes of events that capture a running account of project achievements and milestones as they relate to project goals and objectives, unanticipated events (both positive and negative). Think of this as a chronicle that helps you tell others of the experiences you encountered in trying to implement this project and in trying to achieve the goals of the project. The information obtained through your proposed documentation plan will provide the foundation for disseminating information about the lessons of the project.

  • Information Dissemination Plan. This section should include a plan for disseminating information about your project. It is useful to include a description of who you intend to target in your dissemination and how and when evaluation feedback will be made available. You should provide details on how you will disseminate information: will you have a presence on the Internet and/or attend important national conferences to present lessons from your project? How and when will you provide demonstrations of your project? What organizations do? You can also include descriptions of the types of reports and other by-products you will produce during the course of the project.


Now That You've Read the Guidelines
If you've never read or seen guidelines before, you may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by all of the details and the amount of information; however, because the guidelines are your main source of information, you must use them to sort out each of the requirements and rank them. Then you can develop a checklist which assures that your proposal doesn't leave out anything.

In the course of preparing a proposal to respond to the above TIIAP announcement, a checklist was developed. Our sources of "intelligence" had provided us with enough advance information for us to begin work on the proposal before the announcement appeared, so the notice simply confirmed what we already knew, and since it was the official source document, we needed to make sure we adhered strictly to it.

The checklist follows below for your reading pleasure. Read it and notice how it sorts out the major elements of the guidelines, prioritizes them, and provides the organization needed to set up an outline for the proposal. The checklist also provides an easy reference for determining the supporting information needed for project and personnel needs. And it gives you an excellent place to begin to provide reviewers with direction. Comments and explanatons are in centered in brown type.


Checklist: TIIAP Proposal

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

Deadline: 9:00 P.M. EST, March 11, 1998.
Address to:

    Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program
    National Telecommunications and Information Administration
    U.S. Department of Commerce
    1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
    HCHB, Room 4092
    Washington, D.C. 20230


Notice that we changed the deadline to March 11th
This was done to give us an extra day to redeliver in case of unforeseen
problems with delivery.

Application Area: Education, Culture, and Lifelong Learning

Forms: (Assure that all forms are completed, signed, and included

    ___ Standard Form 424, Application for Federal Assistance
    ___ Executive Summary (1 page, up to 250 words)
    ___ Table of Contents (Optional, does not count against page limit)
    ___ Project Narrative (8 pages)
    ___ Appendices to the Project Narrative (Optional, up to 32 pages) includes timelines, technical diagrams, organizational charts, maps, letters of support, résumés, etc.
    ___ Standard Form 424A, Budget Information--Non-Construction Programs
    ___ Budget Narrative
    ___ Statement of Matching Funds
    ___ Standard Form 424B, Assurances
    ___ Standard Form CD-511, Certification
    ___ Standard Form LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (If applicable)

FORMATS
___ Typed
___ Single-sided,
___ Single-spaced,
___ 8 ˝" x 11" paper.
___ All text no less than 12 points
___ Margins no less than one inch (1").
___ Pages numbered consecutively, starting with the first page of the Project Narrative.
___ Budget Narrative and Statement of Matching Funds nmumbered separately, (424A-1, 424A-2, 424A-3, etc.)
___ One (1) original signed application and five (5) copies,
___ Original clearly marked "Original."
___ Duplicates marked "Copy."
___ Original application and ONE of the five copies secured with a binder clip
___ Remaining four copies stapled.
___ Copies of the Standard Form 424B, CD-511, LLL in the two binder clipped copies, but not in the four stapled reviewer copies.
___ Total application does not exceed forty (40) pages (not including Executive Summary, Standard Forms, a table of contents, or budget information) as follows:

    ___ 8 Page Project Narrative,
    ___ 32 Pages (max) for appendices
    ___No company sales catalogs, annual reports, CD-ROMs, disks, or video or audio tapes.

SIGNATURES
___ Bottom (box 18d) of Standard Form 424, Application for Federal Assistance signed
___ Back page of Standard Form 424B, Assurances signed
___ Bottom of back page of Standard Form CD-511, Certifications signed
___ Bottom of Standard Form LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities signed
___ Standard Forms 424, 424B, CD-511, and LLL signed by individual authorized to commit the organization


Notice that we did not include anything for
amendments, waivers, or changes in contact information.
We determined early on that
these would not be necessary.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
___ one (1) page long
___ Not more than 250 words.
___ Begins with "This is a project intended for the Education, Culture, and Lifelong Learning primary application area."
___ Defines the goal(s) of the project
___ Specifies the anticipated outcomes
___ Tell how the proposed solution will make a difference in the community
___ Tell how many sites are there and where they are located.
___ Tell how who the communities are to be served
___ Tell how what organizations are participating as project partners.
___ Tell what technologies are to be employed
___ Tell what users will do with the technology

PROJECT NARRATIVE
___ Succinct and clear
___ Proofed for...
     ___ stylistic inconsistencies
     ___ redundancies
     ___ factual omissions
     ___ unexplained assumptions


Many of the items on this list
can (and should) be used
by reviewers. By the time you are ready
to send out the proposal
you should be able to check
off any of these items.

PURPOSE AND EFFECTS
___ Project Purpose defined
___ importance of project
___ how it will make a real difference
___ project's have impact on the community and users
___ proposed project is both reasonable and achievable
___ specific need or problem is defined
___ how information infrastructure services and technologies will provide the community with a realistic and effective mechanism is specifically discuss
___ logical link between the problem and the solution.
___ what we expect to change in the community is defined
___ who will be impacted is indicated
___ specific, realistic outcomes which we expect to occur within the grant award period
___ expected longer term effects beyond the grant award period are identified

INNOVATIONS AND ALTERNATIVES
___ all innovations defined and explained
___ project is placed in a national context
___ insight provided on the use of network technology that can be shared with the rest of the nation
___ aspects of the project that lend themselves to replication described
___ technology that we will employ described in detail
___ rationale for selecting this technology is clear
___ All necessary diagrams and pictorial materials appended
___ how it would operate with other systems is explained
___ how it can grow to accommodate additional users is explained
___ technological alternatives discussed and why we consider our approach superior explained
___ plans for maintaining and/or upgrading the system discussed

INTERACTIVITY AND EXPANSION
___ how our system will work with other relevant networks or services described as concretely as possible
___ our use of standards and, if you have chosen any proprietary, "closed" solutions when standards-based solutions are available, justified
___ how the system can accommodate growth beyond the scale defined for the grant period is explained
___ showed not only that our technical approach best meets our goals, but that, to the greatest degree possible, our project can take advantage of existing infrastructure and commercially available telecommunications services.
___ plans for maintaining the system and for upgrading explained

TEAM MEMBERS, BUDGET, AND RESOURCES
___ evidence provided that the applicant team has the ability to effectively deal with both the technical complexity and the organizational challenges associated with managing the project.
___ qualifications of the project team are described
___ budget is appropriate
___ budget is clearly related to the tasks in the Project Narrative.
___ resources outlined in the budget are sufficient to accomplish the tasks and objectives
___ proposed implementation schedule identifies major project tasks and milestones
___ schedule allows enough time for the project to be developed, implemented, and fully evaluated during the grant period.
___ A clear timeline sets out the milestones you expect to reach at various stages
___ project exhibits economic and organizational viability beyond the grant period.
___ anticipated ongoing expenses and potential sources of non-federal funds to sustain the project economically and operationally are discussed
___ start-up partners and their responsibilities are discussed
___ communities to be served by the project support it
___ communities will participate in project's development
___ steps taken and will take to involve the community are discussed
___ plans for involving and supporting the project's end users are discussed
___ how we intend to protect the privacy of individuals affected by the project is discussed
___ needs and requirements of all potential end users, including those with disabilities, are addressed
___ benefits for partners and their specific contributions (financial support, equipment, personnel, etc.)
___ plans for maintaining the partnerships
___ partners' commitments documented to the project. (letters of commitment)
___ past work with partners addressed (nature and results of projects and the project responsibilities)
___ why the partner is joining with us

STAKEHOLDERS AND END USERS
___ steps taken to include a wide variety of community stakeholders in the planning of development of the project ideas.
     ___ open meetings?
     ___ surveys?
     ___ focus groups?
     ___ Met with representatives
     ___ Developed a steering committee?
     ___ Developed an advisory panel?
___ benefits that stakeholders envision are described
___ needs, skills, working conditions, and living environments of the targeted end users identified
___ end users identifed and described
___ end users involvement in the design of the project
___ end user recruitment
___ end user training
___ end user ongoing technical support
___ end user interaction with the technology
___ plans for protecting privacy of end users and beneficiaries
___ privacy and confidentiality discussed
___ disparities within the population(s) described and documented
___ profile of the community and beneficiaries
___ strategies for overcoming barriers to access

EVALUATION AND DISSEMINATION
___ a clearly defined evaluation plan
___ specific criteria for assessing success are included
___ specific criteria for evaluating the degree to which the project achieved its goals and objectives are included
___ well articulated documentation plan enhances evaluation and aids in information dissemination
___ an appropriate dissemination plan ensures the results of our efforts
___ dissemination plan ensures that results are as broadly distributed as possible.
___ each element (i.e., evaluation, documentation, and dissemination) is closely aligned, resulting in the systematic acquisition and assessment of information to provide useful feedback to the project team, TIIAP, and others interested in our project.
___ an appropriate dissemination plan assured
___ evaluation plan is consistent with the objectives and goals
___ evaluation plan is coupled with a program implementation plan and schedule.
___ Clear goals and precise quantitative expressions of the conditions, circumstances, or populations to be addressed lead to the formulation of specific and measurable objectives in the evaluation plan.
___ questions evaluation will answer are defined
___ project goals and objectives, implementation plan, and anticipated consequences provide the basis for formulating evaluation questions.
___ relation between expected outcomes, efforts, and what is important to evaluate is clear
___ approach to be taken to find answers to the evaluation questions is spelled out
___ criteria to use to assess lessons learned from the project are defined
___ technology assessment and defined populations are included in the evaluation
___ data and method of data collection defined
___ how project staff will collect data is explained
___ allocation of resources are sufficient to conduct the proposed data collection techniques
___ proposed method for analyzing data is defined
___ techniques for analysis are appropriate for the types of data to be collected.
___ individuals or groups involved in conducting the evaluation are identified
___ qualifications of latter are defined
___ responsibilities of key personnel are defined
___ budget reflects sufficient funds to carry out a thorough and useful evaluation.
___ documentation plan has potential to be replicated and serve as a demonstration.
___ Accurate and complete documentation of the implementation process and the project operation
___ sustainability and diffusion of innovative applications of telecommunications and information technologies is assured.
___ documentation provides the data for external evaluation of project impacts by other practitioners
___ documentation provides answers to questions these innovative projects draw from all interested parties
___ Documentation techniques include
     ___ project logs
     ___ visitor reports
     ___ databases
     ___ videotapes of events
     ___ unanticipated events
___ plan for disseminating information included
___ description of who we intend to target for dissemination
___ description of how and when evaluation feedback will be made available.
___ details on how we will disseminate information:
___ descriptions of the types of reports and other by-products we will produce during the course of the project.


As I said earlier, you shouldn't be intimidated by the extent of this. Yes, it's time consuming and tedious to produce a checklist, but the payoff is tremendous. You'll know when you're able to tick off all of the items that you have a proposal that meets every requirement and satisfies the grantor's need for specific information. And most important of all, you can rest assured that your proposal will not be tossed out an a technicality, because something was left out or overlooked.

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