Call for Proposals: The Synergy Study - How are Economic Factors and HIV Risk Related? A Social-Ecological Exploration of the Relationship between Economic Factors and HIV Risk

Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
Opportunity closing date: 
Friday, 19 February, 2016
Opportunity type: 
Call for proposals

FHI 360 is a global development organization with a rigorous, evidence-based approach. Our professional staff includes experts in health, nutrition, education, economic development, civil society, environment and research. FHI 360 operates from 60 offices with 4,400 staff in the U.S. and around the world. Our commitment to partnerships at every level and our multidisciplinary approach enable us to have a lasting impact on the individuals, communities and countries we serve–improving lives for millions.

RFP Title:
 The Synergy Study
RFP Number:   3569023-8011-005-2016-01
Issue Date:
 8 February 2016

The key dates for this RFP process are shown below:
February 8, 2016              
RFP released to potential subcontractors.
February 10, 2016           
Submission of questions or requests for clarification in writing via email to Whitney Moret at and copy to Meredith Cann at by 5 pm EST. Please note that inquiries and answers to inquiries will be shared with all applicants. Please do not contact any FHI 360 employees regarding this RFP. Contacting individual employees may be cause for disqualification. No Telephone Inquiries Will Be Answered
February 12, 2016           
Response to submitted questions.
February 19, 2016           
Submission of proposal due by 5 pm EST via email to Whitney Moret at and copy to Meredith Cann at
March 1, 2016                   
Selected candidate notified.
April 1, 2016                      
Anticipated contract start date. Start date is subject to change.  


The purpose of this Request for Proposals (RFP) is to solicit applications for a subcontract to implement, in coordination with FHI 360, the research study titled “How are Economic Factors and HIV Risk Related? A Social-Ecological Exploration of the Relationship between Economic Factors and HIV Risk”, otherwise known as "The Synergy Study".

The Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) project is managed by FHI 360, a non-profit human development organization.  ASPIRES supports evidence-based, gender-sensitive programming to improve the economic security and well-being outcomes of vulnerable families and children, particularly those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and others at high risk of acquiring HIV. ASPIRES is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), under Award No. AID-OAA-LA-13-00001. 
The overarching goal of PEPFAR in South Africa is to support Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programs that mitigate of the impact of HIV, TB and STIs on orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS and their families. Working in collaboration with five South African implementing partners (IPs), ASPIRES seeks to reduce insecurity and vulnerability of OVC aged 14 to 17 with economic strengthening (ES) interventions. The ES package of activities will focus on adolescents, encouraging savings and building financial literacy and fluency. These activities will be combined with an HIV prevention intervention (informed by technical assistance from ASPIRES) to improve communication skills and HIV knowledge for stronger sexual negotiation skills to realize an AIDS-free generation. The goal of the integrated ES and HIV education intervention is to support a healthy and economically secure transition to adulthood of vulnerable adolescents affected by HIV/AIDS.

In addition to numerous technical assistance activities, ASPIRES proposes a robust research agenda to evaluate these interventions, including the research study titled “How are Economic Factors and HIV Risk Related? A Social-Ecological Exploration of the Relationship between Economic Factors and HIV Risk.”  The purpose of this study is to explore how psychological, behavioral, economic and social factors interact to affect HIV risk behaviors among youth receiving and engaging with the integrated ES/HIV curricula in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study will employ a mixed methods, cohort design among 60 adolescent girls and boys, ages 14 to 17 who enroll in the ES/HIV prevention intervention.  We will work with our ASPIRES partner, Networking AIDS Community of South Africa (NACOSA), to recruit study participants. NACOSA is one of the IPs receiving ASPIRES technical assistance to provide HIV prevention education and ES programming to beneficiaries. The timing of the proposed study will be coordinated with these interventions in the study area so that data can be collected at strategic points, using a variety of qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. All research relevant to this RFP will be focused in and around NACOSA's program catchment areas of Mtubatuba and Ingwavuma, KwaZulu-Natal.   


The objective of this RFP is to identify a subcontractor to, in coordination with FHI 360, implement the research study titled “How are Economic Factors and HIV Risk Related? A Social-Ecological Exploration of the Relationship between Economic Factors and HIV Risk” during the period set forth in this RFP, from approximately April 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017. The subcontractor will be responsible for the data collection activities associated with the study, as well as for providing input during analysis and dissemination. Below is the scope of work.


The subcontractor will be responsible for implementing the research protocol, including logistics, obtaining necessary local IRB approvals, conducting data collection and managing those data, liaising with the implementing partner (IP) and other stakeholders as appropriate, contributing to data analysis and dissemination efforts as needed.  The subcontractor may also serve as an active intellectual contributor to any aspects of the project including research design, implementation, and writing of reports.

The activities to be conducted under this subcontract must be done in accordance with the approved protocol and standards of research ethics, and any subsequent approved revisions, which provide a detailed description of activities. A set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will also be developed. The subcontractor will review and provide feedback on these materials, and adhere to them once finalized.
More specifically, the subcontractor will carry out the following non-exhaustive list of activities during the expected period of performance for this activity of 21 months from April 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017.

  • Provide intellectual input on the study design, protocol, instruments, and other areas as needed
  • Generate data collection plans, including logistics and tracking participants over the study period, timeline, locations, supervision, and quality control measures
  • Develop data management plan, including data entry procedures, storage of instruments and data over the study period, and protection of participant confidentiality
  • Identify, hire, and supervise qualified staff as needed to complete activities.  Data collection staff must be able to read and speak English and isiZulu fluently. Previous experience conducting research with youth in the study communities is preferred.  Previous experience conducting in-depth qualitative interviews is also preferred. Please describe staff qualifications in application
  • Coordinate with appropriate stakeholders and partners in all aspects of project planning, implementation, and monitoring
  • Support development of study instruments, including providing relevant materials, translation if needed, and piloting instruments. If relevant, design and test electronic data collection methods
  • Translate data collection instruments and informed consent/permission/assent forms into isiZulu. Provide English back-translations of all isiZulu documents and work with FHI 360 to ensure meaning of text is maintained in translation
  • Oversee submission of study protocol to local ethics review board.
  • In collaboration with ASPIRES, prepare for, participate in and arrange for trainings for relevant data collectors and study team members on study methods, instruments, and research ethics
  • Collaborate closely with the implementing partner to recruit participants
  • Contact participants, screen, enroll, and arrange for data collection of up to 60 of the implementing partner’s beneficiaries aged 14 to 17 years based on a list of participants provided by the IP
  • Obtain parental/guardian consent and youth’s assent prior to study participation
  • Conduct ad hoc follow-up conversations with participants as needed to ensure accurate and complete datasets
  • Implement three rounds of qualitative data collection (mini in-person interviews), ensuring quality of data and maintaining ethical procedures. Each round of interviews will include a maximum of 60 youth participants
  • Provide reimbursements to study participants after each data collection event. Experience providing mobile money is preferred
  • Transcribe audio recordings of qualitative interviews into MSWord verbatim and translate into English transcripts
  • Monitor and clean qualitative and quantitative data
  • Submit all cleaned and translated transcripts to FHI 360 in the agreed-upon timeframe
  • Submit all data collection reports regularly to FHI 360
  • Provide intellectual input on data analysis as needed; conduct and complete specific portions of the data analysis as assigned and agreed upon with FHI 360
  • Work with FHI 360 to document lessons learned and best practices in the data collection and field implementation process; draft and submit written report on field implementation lessons and results
  • Contribute to preparation of all project reports and manuscripts, up to and potentially including co-authorship of primary report
  • Arrange for and, in collaboration with FHI 360, disseminate study findings at the local and national level
  • Provide logistical support upon request to FHI 360 staff for research monitoring or other collaborative visits
  • Submit regular work updates and participate in regular calls with FHI 360. Maintain open communication with FHI 360, particularly with respect to any changes in implementation, social harms, or other concerns that may arise

FHI 360’s ASPIRES Team will be responsible for:

  • Formal communications between USAID and the subcontractor
  • Oversight of protocol and instrument development (with input from subcontractor)
  • Oversight of the quality and ethical conduct of the research
  • IRB submission in the United States
  • Dissemination of weekly behavioral surveys via email
  • Data analysis (with input from subcontractor)
  • Dissemination of findings (with assistance from subcontractor)

There will be a primary peer reviewed publication of the study, led by the FHI 360 Project Leader, which must precede any publication or presentation of the results by the site investigator(s). All publications or presentations will conform to current FHI 360 policies and procedures (copies of these documents will be provided to all collaborators). The research site may not publish data collected in this study without prior written approval from FHI 360.
Collaborators must discuss and agree upon any planned publication before submission. Negative results will also be submitted for publication. Publications derived from this study should include input from the site investigator(s) and FHI 360. Such input should be reflected in publication authorship, and whenever possible, preliminary agreement regarding the strategy for order of authors’ names should be established before conducting the study.
All publications will include the following statement “This study was produced under United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Cooperative Agreement No. AID-OAA-LA-13-00001. The contents are the responsibility of FHI 360 and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.”
FHI 360 reserves the right to modify the assessment strategy (and this SOW) at any time, based on results and experience.


The mechanism for funding will be a cost-reimbursement subcontract.
The ceiling for this award is US$150,000.


Proposals must be prepared in English and delivered electronically by 5:00 pm EST in accordance with the instructions on page 1.
All submissions should include: 

  • Description of past experience conducting research relevant to the Scope of Work described above (max 5 pages) demonstrating
    • Professional experience and credentials
    • Overall solid experience in conducting public health and/or economic development studies
    • Solid experience organizing and managing qualitative research studies; particularly highly inductive ethnographic data collection
    • Ability to submit and obtain ethics approval (particularly within South Africa) for similar research
    • Ability to reach and connect with ethics committees and government officials to obtain necessary authorizations for data collection

Agencies must also provide a description of location(s) of presence relevant to this RFP.  Agencies with research experience in KwaZulu-Natal are preferred.

  • CV or resume (5 pages maximum each) for key personnel
  • Name and contact details for three relevant references
  • Workplan and timeline for completing required tasks
  • Budget and budget narrative, including
    • A detailed line item budget, budget narrative, and supporting documentation that clearly describe how the budgeted amounts are calculated must support the applicant’s budget. A brief narrative explanation and justification for each line item must be included in a separate section entitled “budget narrative” and include data to support actual costs and/or methodologies to support cost estimates. The budget narrative serves as justification for each cost included in a budget; should be presented in such a way as to be easily referenced from the budget; and should provide sufficient information so that FHI 360 may review a proposed budget for reasonableness.  All projected costs must be in accordance with the organization’s standard practices and policies.
    • Budgets must be sufficiently detailed to demonstrate reasonableness and completeness.  Applications including budget information determined to be unreasonable, incomplete, unnecessary for the completion of the proposed project, or based on a methodology that is not adequately supported may be deemed unacceptable.
    • Budgets should be submitted in applicant’s local currency. Please note that FHI 360 cannot honor exchange rates included in a budget.  Payments will be made according to the exchange rate at the time of payment.
    • Please indicate the inclusion/exclusion of any applicable taxes such as VAT.

FHI 360/ASPIRES will accept questions from interested parties through 5:00 pm EST on the date noted on Page 1.  Questions will only be accepted in writing. All emailed questions must contain the subject line “FHI 360/ASPIRES – Synergy Study Data Collection.”


Applications received under this Request will be evaluated and ranked by a committee, in accordance with the following criteria:

  • Capabilities and Experience: reflects understanding of the ASPIRES scope and matches firm's capacities with required activities
    • Geographical experience, including working with local IRB
    • Experience researching impact of economic development programs and/or public health programs
    • Qualitative and quantitative data collection experience
    • Experience partnering with other organizations, local and international
    • Ability to submit and obtain ethics approval (particularly within South Africa) for similar research.
    • Ability to reach and connect with ethics committees and government officials to obtain necessary authorizations for data collection.
  • Personnel: relevance of organizational experience to the proposed task.
    • Key personnel qualifications
  • Past Performance
    • At least three strong references demonstrated success working with large, complex research studies
  • Budget
    • Cost reasonableness: proposed price costs reflect a clear understanding of the requirements stated in this RFP, and are consistent with the various elements of the application.
    • Proposed price is reasonable in comparison with proposed prices received in response to the solicitation.
Evaluation Criteria Points
Capabilities and Past Performance/Experience 40
Personnel 15
Past Performance 15
Budget 30
TOTAL 100 pts

 Disclaimers and FHI 360 Protection Clauses

  • FHI 360 may cancel solicitation and not award.
  • FHI 360 may reject any or all responses received.
  • Issuance of solicitation does not constitute award commitment by FHI 360.
  • FHI 360 reserves the right to disqualify any offer based on offeror failure to follow solicitation instructions.
  • FHI 360 will not compensate offerors for response to solicitation.
  • FHI 360 reserves the right to issue award based on initial evaluation of offers without further discussion.
  • FHI 360 may choose to award only part of the activities in the solicitation, or issue multiple awards based on the solicitation activities.
  • FHI 360 reserves the right to waive minor proposal deficiencies that can be corrected prior to award determination to promote competition.
  • FHI 360 will be contacting offerors to confirm contact person, address and that bid was submitted for this solicitation.       
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