Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation: Call for Proposals


About the Call for Proposals

UNHCR Innovation Service is happy to announce a Call for Proposals that provides targeted financial support to country operations interested in tackling specific challenges relating to Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation. These challenges have emerged from the previous rounds of funds, operational experience across the organisation and research undertaken within the programme. Furthermore the impact of COVID-19  requires UNHCR to develop more creative and inclusive approaches to digital access and participation, as operations rely on remote channels to provide services in light of social distancing measures. This adapted approach gives space and resources to support UNHCR teams address key issues they may be facing in light of COVID-19.

Challenges will be issued on a rolling basis on different thematics. Only UNHCR country operations are eligible to submit Expressions of Interest to open challenges. Each challenge will have its own specific Background Note, evaluation criteria, and application process.

The  financial and technical support included within each Call is generously provided by The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and managed by the Innovation Service. Successful applicants to any Call for Proposals are able to draw down on this fund in financial year 2020 – spending against the Innovation Service’s cost centre, per the details and timeline in each call.

About the Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation Programme

This programme aims to enhance UNHCR’s approaches to ensuring refugees have access to digital technology and connectivity, and that when UNHCR is engaging with communities through such channels we do so in a way that is accountable to them, accessible to different groups, and facilitates meaningful participation in humanitarian action. Through this programme a broad spectrum of challenges and thematics have been identified – whether through operational interventions to date or novel research – that warrant further exploration through field testing and learning. The purpose of this call for proposals is to provide space for such exploration, at the same time providing opportunities for country operations to make progress along identified priority areas. The precise dynamics of the individual challenges within the Call for Proposals may differ but all come together to help UNHCR improve its understanding of how the agency can contribute to enhancing refugees’ digital access and participation, and undertake effective & creative humanitarian programming in this space with accountability and inclusion as core driving values.

General Principles

While each Call will have different criteria, some general principles, based on the values of the Service, will apply to all:

  • An initiative that builds and/or strengthens multi-stakeholder partnerships by leveraging different expertise and capacities across these partnerships (these can range from formalized partnerships through to ad hoc working/advisory groups);
  • Initiatives that seek to address sustainability challenges which often result from short-term solutions and/or lack of local ownership;
  • Initiatives which – in line with the Global Compact on Refugees – promote self-reliance;
  • An initiative that has inbuilt mechanisms to enable iteration, learning, including from failures, feedback from communities and documentation;
  • An initiative that demonstrates willingness to engage in organizational knowledge sharing;
  • An initiative that demonstrates how its approach or solution is building on lessons learned from previous experiences and trialling something new or different
  • Initiatives should demonstrate active and meaningful participation of Persons of Concern (PoCs) in the problem definition, identification of needs, design process and planned engagement in implementation, monitoring, iteration and documentation.

What we’re not able to support:

  • Repeat funding for ongoing connectivity initiatives (unless these are being significantly iterated/adapted due to learning and fulfill the criteria above);
  • Initiatives that seek to implement tried and tested solutions, for example connected community centres (unless these are significantly adapted to new contexts/operational environments);
  • Initiatives which propose ‘tried and tested’ approaches or vanilla application of existing methodologies;
  • Initiatives which don’t leverage multi-stakeholder capacities nor significantly engage PoCs in design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Active Challenges

The Innovation Service is working closely with UNHCR Divisions and Bureaux in the development of challenges and specific teams outside the Innovation Service will be involved in evaluating Expressions of Interest, which will take place every 6 weeks. Similarly, new calls may become available as specific challenges on Digital Access Inclusion are defined and prioritised. The following calls are currently active.

Community-led Networks to enhance last-mile connectivity

Can local community owned connectivity infrastructure be a suitable solution for sustainable provision of connectivity services in rural areas?

  • Community Based Approach that enhances self-reliance
  • Requires an enabling regulatory framework and supportive authorities
  • As a potential solution when markets aren’t addressing key connectivity needs

Follow the link below to read the Background Note and submit an Expression of Interest

Apply here

Safety of forcibly displaced persons online

Where forcibly displaced persons are accessing connectivity services, how can digital risks be minimised?

  • Risks exist both prior to accessing, connecting and then while utilising connectivity services
  • Different types of connectivity and access carry different types of risk
  • Certain community groups may be more at risk than others, particularly in a digital environments

Follow the link below to read the Background Note and submit an Expression of Interest

Apply here

Support digital access and inclusion of people with disabilities

Can we ensure that we leave no one behind in our efforts for digital inclusion by enhancing access to people with disabilities?

  • Covering thematics from device access to special pricing plans
  • Addressing digital literacy barriers is vital to ensuring safe access
  • Consider how digital access and inclusion can support our engagement with these community members

Follow the link below to read the Background Note and submit an Expression of Interest

Apply here

Online community-led misinformation and rumour management

Can communities actively identify and manage rumours and misinformation online?

  • A community-based approach that builds on communities’ own social media practices
  • Supporting source verification, fact checking and sharing of factually accurate information along with referrals to appropriate actors as necessary
  • Strengthening UNHCR’s ability to ‘listen’ and respond to perceptions and attitudes online.

Follow the link below to read the Background Note and submit an Expression of Interest

Apply here

Strengthening community-based protection through engagement of online social media influencers

  • Translating traditional Community-Based practices online
  • Working with community members to create engaging, relevant and timely online content that reaches different AGD groups
  • Building community trust relating to humanitarian intervention online across multiple channels

Follow the link below to read the Background Note and submit an Expression of Interest

Apply here


How often will you review Expressions of Interest?

The Innovation Service aims to review Expressions of Interest every six weeks. Due to the limited funds available it will not be possible to proceed with all EoIs, however it may be possible to collaborate to explore alternative fundraising options.

How does this build off of previous rounds of funding supporting Connectivity for Refugees?

Following two years of providing dedicated flexible funding to UNHCR’s country operations for projects relating to Connectivity for Refugees, the Innovation Service is launching a third round of financial support with a different modality than the prior two funds. The first two rounds of the ‘Connectivity Fund’ generated a significant amount of learning for the Innovation Service in terms of what makes an effective innovation funding mechanism. Based on this learning, this third iteration will utilise an adapted modality that focuses on more targeted areas of Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation, also removing some administrative barriers, which we hope promotes even more innovation and creativity within successful operations.

Our team is interested in collaborating but it doesn’t fit into one of the open calls. Can you help?

Whilst we have active calls, if you believe you’ve something innovative that tackles issues relating to Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation that falls outside the scope of the current calls, we’re still interested in hearing from you! Please get in touch at [email protected].

How much funding can we apply for?

This will depend on the specific challenge but generally we’re unable to provide more than USD 50,000 to ensure that a number of different country operations can benefit from the available support. If further resources are required, joint-fundraising can take place to support projects with larger scope.

If selected, how long do we have to expend the provided financial support?

Funds allocated through the Call for Proposals are required to be expended by 31st December 2020 as per the duration of the agreement with Luxembourg.

I have other questions that I need answered.

Please get in touch at [email protected]

The Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation: Call for Proposals is possible thanks to a generous donation from The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.