In August of 2020, Oxfam Novib requested the support of IWORDS in the preparation of a proposal for the European Commission’s LIFE Programme on Sustainable Finance. The project, BACPAC – Engaging with Banks to Commit to be Part of Climate Solutions, brought together Oxfam Novib (Netherlands) and two other members of the global Oxfam confederation (France and Ireland), research institutions SOMO and CIRAD, the Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe), the Fair Finance network, and LVOA (Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organisations) to form a consortium for this exciting project.
The LIFE BACPAC project proposed a comprehensive approach based on the ecological model where interventions at multiple levels will influence a lasting change and contribute to a climate-just society. When approved, the project will work on citizens’ awareness of the need for sustainable finance policies by commercial banks and European public financial institutions. It will also mobilize citizens to take action and engage with their Financial Institutions (FI) to demand a change in their practices, thus stimulating a race to the top among banks and public FIs towards alignment with the Paris Agreement. The project will focus on the energy and agri-food sectors, which are not only top greenhouse gas emitters, but they also have a profound impact on biodiversity and considerable effects on the function and productivity of ecosystems.
The IWORDS Global team provided support to Oxfam Novib and other consortium partners in the design of this intervention and the drafting of the proposal for the European Commission. Through participatory calls and discussions, a theory of change was drafted to clearly identify the vision of the initiative and the expected change. The programme was designed in collaboration with consortium members and the IWORDS Global team, and the proposal was drafted and uploaded onto the EC platform.
Working with such a large consortium provided an exciting opportunity for a truly regional project that, if approved, has the potential to meaningfully impact sustainable finance in the six countries. The different partners brought years of experience and, with the support of IWORDS, were able to come together for an innovative and inspiring initiative. The different profiles and experiences of the partners made this a truly comprehensive and well-rounded project.
Proposal preparations, especially those for complex donors such as the EU, are always challenging processes given the tight deadlines and demanding practices. With large consortiums, the challenges of course increase significantly as having more partners opens up more areas for negotiations and compromise. In this case, due to travel restrictions because of COVID-19, the consultants were unable to meet with the partners and all work had to be done remotely, posing further challenges in working with such a large consortium.
One of the main lessons learned from this process was the importance of a close coordination between those in charge of the programmatic and financial components. In a proposal, each component is absolutely dependent on the other and ensuring smooth collaboration between the programmatic and financial teams is crucial, whether they are part of the IWORDS Global team or the client’s. Both teams must be kept up to date of what the other one is doing and they must coordinate their work to ensure both components are consistent and in line with one another and with the guidelines of the call for proposals.
A second key lesson from this process is the importance of reviewing the donor platform with plenty of time. In this case, the EC platform required that all information be uploaded manually, as opposed to documents being uploaded. Thus, the process required a significant amount of time. It is crucial that such logistics are never underestimated as they could make or break a proposal preparation process. Leaving plenty of time to upload the proposal is essential, even if only documents need to be uploaded but especially if information has to be entered manually. Though often overlooked, not allocating sufficient time for this part of the process can lead to a failed proposal should any technical issues arise or if the process takes longer than expected.
A successful proposal preparation process relies on coordination, collaboration, and appropriate planning.