The Strengthening Communities/Improving Lives and Livelihoods (SCILLS) grant program aims to expand economic growth and increase educational opportunities by supporting individuals and communities to more knowledgeably and skillfully use the Internet.
Proposals should focus on one or both of the following thematic areas:
The Foundation is seeking projects that help communities leverage Internet access to build financial opportunities, increase economic independence, and create sustainable income sources.
Such projects could include:
- Entrepreneurship: Increasing digital literacy among girls in order to help them become small business owners.
- Agriculture: Using the Internet to increase agricultural yields by better understanding demand and market changes.
- Climate change: Adapting a local business to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly or more resilient to climate change.
- Innovation: Creating tech hubs or makerspaces that allow rural populations to create innovative solutions to local problems.
The Foundation is seeking projects that support communities to leverage Internet access to increase entry to basic education, improve learning outcomes and increase teaching skills. Such projects could include:
- Remote education: Enabling communities to access culturally relevant educational opportunities, such as learning materials in local languages.
- Teacher education: Supporting teachers to leverage the Internet to upskill themselves or to further increase the educational opportunities for their classrooms.
- Innovation: Creating unique learning opportunities that can be replicated across similar contexts.
Aligned with the above focus areas, the Foundation seeks projects that address the following cross-cutting issues:
- Digital literacy, inclusion and hygiene
- Relevant content, that is localized and tailored to the needs and languages of target communities
- Concrete incentives to Internet adoption
These are not to be considered as stand-alone goals of a project, but rather a means by which proposed programs may expand economic growth and/or increase educational opportunities.
The target countries for this program are Bangladesh, Colombia and Senegal.
The basic eligibility requirements for all Foundation grants are outlined here. All applicants must ensure that they meet these basic requirements.
Additionally, the Foundation is seeking applications from organizations that:
- Have a demonstrated understanding and track record of success in working in one or all of the Focus Areas detailed above
- Have a deep knowledge of their countries and networks that extend beyond capital cities and urban areas
- Are committed to the using the Internet as a force for good
- Can demonstrate previous experience in managing large (over $100k) grants and possibly experience in sub-granting to local groups
The selection criteria against which the Independent Program Review Committee (IPRC) will review eligible applications is:
- The proposed project supports the overall goal of the SCILLS funding program
- The proposed project effectively responds to a clearly identified need
- The applicant has a plan to ensure the project will be sustainable beyond this funding
- The applicant demonstrates the necessary knowledge and experience to accomplish the project goals
- The applicant has identified relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and established reasonable targets
Grants of up to $150,000 USD will be awarded for projects lasting up to 24 months.
The 2021 SCILLS cycle will take place as follows:
- Statements of Interest accepted: 3 May to 28 May 2021
- Initial pre-screen by Foundation staff: 31 May to 11 June 2021
- Screened applicants invited to submit full proposals: 14 June to 23 July 2021
- Independent Program Review Panel evaluation: 6 August to 16 August 2021
- Decisions will be shared: Beginning 30 August 2021
Grant will begin no earlier than 11 October 2021.
How to apply
Applicants are strongly encouraged to register their organization in the Foundation’s grants managements system prior to the application window opening, which can be accessed here.
Only applications submitted in the Foundation’s grants management system by the deadline (May 28, 2021 at 9pm UTC) will be considered for funding.
Incomplete applications or applications that do not meet eligibility requirements will not be considered (see “Eligibility” section above).
To prepare your application in advance, a PDF copy of the Statement of Interest may be found here.
To help you develop your grant application, we’ve compiled an online training course on designing impactful and effective programs:
If you have questions about this program or the application process, please email [email protected].
Who are the current SCILLS grantees?
The inaugural cohort of SCILLS grantees are:
- Fundacion Capital: Promote the resilience of 500 female micro-entrepreneurs, through digital trainings and personal coaching sessions.
- Makaia: Close the IT Gender gap and build IT and programing skills among 165 NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) youth in rural areas.
- HIAS, Inc: Provide 50 vulnerable Venezuelan women and LGBTIQ+ people with opportunities to build their entrepreneurship skills and generate income to help their families meet their basic needs.
- Croissance TIC Dakar: Build entrepreneurial skills together with digital competency to 30 early stage and growth-oriented entrepreneurs, with facilitation of access to finance and a focus on female participants (30%).
- Synergie pour L’Éducation au Numérique et aux Médias: Train teachers on how to leverage the Internet to improve their teaching and support students to build ICT skills through in-school “tech clubs” and inter-collegial hackathons.
- Paradigm Initiative: Equip young people living in under-served communities with demand-driven digital literacy and entrepreneurship skills and connect them to internships, online work or entrepreneurial ventures with a high possibility of earning a sustainable income.
- Practical Action: Provide entrepreneurship training, access to an online marketing platform and financing to 2,000 women weavers and 20,000 jute farmers in Northwest Bangladesh
- Teach for Bangladesh: Promote the use of mobile Internet for learning in Bangladesh, building knowledge, skills, and behaviors of 3000 marginalized children, 100 teachers, and 8000 parents conducive for online learning.
- BRAC USA: Leverage the inherent capabilities of digital fabrication laboratories across Bangladesh to empower communities in driving local innovation, create sustainable economic opportunities, and meet the demand for scarce resources.
What changes have you made to this program since it was initially launched in 2020?
The Foundation launched this funding stream as a pilot in Year One with the goal of learning how best to implement the SCILLS program in the future. Over the last few months, we have worked with our grantees in the three focus countries to begin learning how to best: shape our partnerships with our grantees, adapt programming to different local contexts, measure impact, and respond to changing external factors.
We learned a number of things in our first year. One important learning gathered through this program and others is that the SCILLS program is not currently well-placed to support programs that seek to improve health outcomes. Such programs often require long-term, significant grant support, as well as strong ties to national ministries of health. In reflecting on our own organizational capacity and grantmaking practices at this point, we have for the time being, decided to move away from funding health related projects under SCILLS. As such, we have removed the “health” area of focus from the 2021 call for applications.
Why did the Foundation decide to focus on these three countries (Bangladesh, Colombia, Senegal)?
As the Foundation established the SCILLS program, we realized that given our small size, we would not and are not able to accept applications from every country. To minimize the volume of applications and ensure a focused impact, we decided to limit applications to three countries in three distinct regions. These selections were made as a result of conducting research to determine countries with sufficient commonalities on which we can build a common methodology and approach to our programs. The Foundation staff looked at World Bank statistics, interviewed regional experts and local actors as well as reviewed reports from think tanks, universities, research institutions and private businesses to help us determine where to target SCILLS. Colombia, Bangladesh and Senegal all feature the following attributes:
- Lower-to-middle income countries
- Medium-to-high Internet penetration rate
- Established organizations operating in-country
- Strategically placed in the region for expansion in future years
- Provide a balance of need and relative ease in operating environment (i.e. ability to send funds into the country, relative peace/stability, areas where the internet is not yet being accessed to benefit communities)
Header image from Images of Empowerment used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)