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 sales@onfrontiers.com 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.

How to Determine Your Worth as a Knowledge Worker

One of the most common questions we receive at OnFrontiers regards setting hourly rates. Engaging with an expert network can be an exciting freelance endeavor, but knowing how to value your hard-earned knowledge can be intimidating.

 

Instead of keeping track of your time and charging hourly rates, you can charge an agreed-upon project rate.

With this type of fee, the focus is on the result, instead of the amount of time you take to complete the project. Try to take your experience, dependability, and speed into consideration instead of just using the number of hours you think it will take when calculating your project fee. The client doesn’t need to know how you came up with your fee. They just need to know how much it will cost to get the job done.

An obvious benefit is a fact that you may finish the project faster than you thought. On the other hand, it could also take longer than you expected. What if the client changes their mind or doesn’t clearly explain what they want? The project could also become more time-consuming with the addition of new elements or unforeseen challenges.

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