The Value of Localized Expertise in International Development Proposals

How to get the right stories and vignettes to support your technical approach

You’ve done your homework. You know about this proposal, about the technical area, about the country and the local context. You’ve worked with the right subject matter experts, both local and global, and you’ve come up with the best possible approach for this proposal.

You’ve put your team together – you have a great Chief of Party, your list of preferred consultants is top notch. Everything is in place and good to go.

But how do you get that extra touch of local flavor that shows your team really knows what’s happening on the ground? How do you provide the real narrative the overarching story that shows how your technical approach is going to solve this particular problem in this particular country?

You need real-life anecdotes to provide weight and immediacy to what you’re proposing 

Why do SME’s in Lebanon have a hard time exporting their products and getting connected with other markets? What has that meant for individual companies and their ability to grow and hire more people?

What happens to children and youth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when they don’t have access to the right educational opportunities? What has been preventing those opportunities to date? What prevented young Daniel or little Phiona from those opportunities and what happened to them because they weren’t able to participate in the right programs?

How do you get these anecdotes and vignettes?

To get these stories, you need to speak with experts on the ground who are doing the work. It’s that simple. These real-life stories are why development professionals are in this business in the first place – to support the struggling SME and to provide opportunities for at-risk youth, to protect local communities, and to get mothers and children connected to quality healthcare. It’s about the individual stories.

But sometimes it’s easy to forget those stories and focus on numbers, on data and statistics, on win-rates and cost-benefits. It’s easy to be over-confident in past experience and forget that proposals are not about getting new contracts and awards, but about solving real problems for real people around the world.

Not all experts have Phds

In many cases, the best experts aren’t the people with Phds in a certain technical area who have supported USAID or DFID projects around the world for the past 50 years. The best experts are the people on the front lines – the nurses who have worked in the hospitals and health clinics for their whole careers; the farm managers who have to deal with how climate change affects their crop yields; the social workers and teachers who work with at-risk youth day in and day out.

How do their stories and their realities factor in to your proposal? And just as importantly, how do you connect with them to hear their stories and experiences in the first place?

Here’s a few examples of questions that OnFrontiers teams have asked experts on the front lines:

To a nurse in Tajikistan:

  • What are the main challenges in providing maternal and child health care in Tajikistan? 
  • Do you have any specific stories which demonstrate why this is difficult and what the challenges are?

To a social worker in Mozambique:

  • Which populations are the most vulnerable to violent extremism recruitment in northern Mozambique? 
  • Do you have any examples of specific cases which show why these groups are particularly vulnerable?

To a renal nurse in Kenya

  • What are the dialysis treatment options currently available in Kenya? 
  • Can you share examples of how different factors ( cost, location accessibility and private vs NHIF payer) have affected patients seeking treatment?

To a commercial farm manager in Tanzania

  • How do the current government regulations affect your business in value-added beef and poultry products?
  • Are there any deals/ opportunities you were unable to pursue because of these regulations?

To a community conservation manager in Congo-Brazzaville

  • How has the timber exploration and palm oil culture expansion negatively affected specific communities in the Republic of the Congo?


How Chemonics Uses Knowledge Networks To Find Local Expertise While Abroad

With over $1.5 billion in USAID contracts, Chemonics is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s largest implementing partner. The international development firm is owned by its over 5000 employees in 100 countries around the world.

Here’s how their capture teams use OnFrontiers to engage the knowledge and talent they need, when they need it, to continue securing international development contracts.

The challenge: Finding local expertise to manage political dynamics and local relationships

The first time Isaiah Oliver, Director of Trade and Growth for Chemonics International, used OnFrontiers to find an expert, it was a rush job.

“We were doing some work for a supply chain program that was looking to manage the distribution of school books to schools in Honduras,” says Isaiah. “I had a very, very short turnaround — we had like 10 days or two weeks or something. The client, USAID (The US Agency for International Development) wanted us to show that we understood how to work with counterparts from The Ministry of Education and not just deliver these books on time, but also strengthen the local capacity to do so in the future.”

It was precisely the kind of challenge the OnFrontiers platform was designed to address.

The solution: OnFrontiers Knowledge Network Platform and Expert Marketplace

Faced with this challenge, Isaiah did what has become his first move whenever he is looking for expertise. He requested an expert through the OnFrontiers platform to initiate the process. Our research team conducts a search of the existing experts on the platform, then leverages known experts as referrals to expand our reach exponentially beyond our existing relationships. In tandem, the research team also uses the powerful tools, processes, and incentives that we’ve put in place to search across Linkedin, and other public and private platforms to recruit and onboard new expertise quickly for our customers.

The OnFrontiers difference is not simply the breadth of expertise of the platform, or the machine learning we use in the background to continually improve the process. The difference is that we create a context and marketplace for micro-consulting engagements to happen. Clients can immediately book consultations with the people that best match their needs. Experts, meanwhile, are incentivized to help. The model produces the right kind of results quickly and at a lower price point than traditional capture techniques.

The results: expertise and intelligence that contributed to a contract win

“OnFrontiers found somebody within 48 hours,” says Isaiah. “The expert had previously worked on book supply chain management and within the Ministry of Education and had existing relationships. That seems to me like a pretty spectacular result. It was surprising, for example, that the turnaround was that quick.”

Finding local expertise with the specific domain knowledge they were seeking helped Chemonics win the contract. To Isaiah, the process seemed exceedingly simple and solved a real need, quickly. “Okay, maybe through LinkedIn we can identify [an expert] and contact them and come to some sort of agreement with or without paying them,” says Isaiah. “But with OnFrontiers they’re already incentivized to provide really good input and help me get the information I need in such a short time frame. It is really quite remarkable. From that perspective, I really think that the service OnFrontiers provides is incredibly valuable.”

Advice for other contractors

“There’s no downside risk,” says Isaiah. “If they don’t find someone that you like you just doesn’t talk to them. I don’t know why other people aren’t doing this!”

Isaiah’s enthusiasm does not come solely from the above story, but from his prolific experience with the platform. Tasked with growth at Chemonics, Isaiah looks for efficiencies in his processes and comes back to OnFrontiers often with new searches. “Every time I come to OnFrontiers with a request, they find people who fit what I’m looking for. They exceed my expectations again and again.” In fact, at the time of this writing, Isaiah has a number of open searches on the platform for existing and future projects. OnFrontiers has become a crucial part of his capture toolkit.

Try OnFrontiers and see for yourself how we can match you with the expertise you need

Contact to learn more about how to use the OnFrontiers platform to find you the expertise you need. Or if you’d like to read another case study, read about how Washington Business Dynamics used OnFrontiers to win and deliver on their first USAID contract and expand their capabilities into new areas.

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