Ascend Learning & Innovation Fund FAQs

Thank you for your interest in the Ascend Learning & Innovation Fund! Below you can find a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). More information is also available in our Fund Guidelines. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Fund Team at [email protected]

1. I have an idea, but I am not sure if it is a good fit for the Fund. What should I do?

2. What do I need to do to apply for the Fund?

3. What counts as an ‘innovative’ idea?

4. Can projects take place in more than one country?

5. Can projects take place in countries covered by the Ascend East and South Asia programme?

6. Can projects take place in countries that are NOT covered by either Ascend West and Central Africa or the Ascend East and South Asia programmes?

7. Does the applicant need to submit any supporting documentation at the concept note submission stage?

8. Can an applicant submit more than one application?

9. Can projects exceed the budget limit of £350,000?

10. Is the fund open to proposals addressing other NTDs outside of the five priority diseases?

11. What are some of the factors which led to concept applications being successful in Cycle 1?

12. What are some of the factors which led to concept applications not progressing to detailed proposal stage?

1. I have an idea, but I am not sure if it is a good fit for the Fund. What should I do?

We want to hear from you if you have an idea! Please reach out to the Fund Team at [email protected] if you would like to discuss your idea.

2. What do I need to do to apply for the Fund?

The application process for the Fund consists of two phases: 1) the Concept Application, which is open to all interested applicants, and 2) the Detailed Application, which is by invitation only. All interested applicants should submit the Concept Application. Please email the completed document to [email protected], along with the annual accounts of your organisation. We recommend reading through the Fund Guidelines before submitting your application

3. What counts as an ‘innovative’ idea?

Innovation in this context is not just limited to high-tech or brand new solutions, but is about i) developing and testing creative solutions to known challenges ii) focusing on learning and being open to adapt as innovation has an inherent risk of failure and iii) supporting a vision for scalability and increasing impact. Examples of innovative work may include bringing in learning from outside of the NTD sector or bridging the gap between research and implementation.

4. My project idea takes place in a country outside of the thirteen Ascend West & Central Africa countries – can I still apply?

Projects can operate in more than one country. You must provide relevant information for the proposed activities in each country, outlining the operational context and providing specific details of the problems to be addressed in this context. The project does not have to follow the same approach in each country, but all project activities must contribute to achieving the project outcome. You should provide a clear rationale for working in multiple locations/countries and demonstrate how there will be cross-learning between the countries.

5. Can projects take place in more than one country?

Yes! We would encourage multi-country proposals which are implemented in countries that are covered by both Ascend West & Central Africa (led by the Sightsavers consortium) and Ascend East Africa and South Asia (led by Crown Agents).  FCDO are prioritising projects which have an impact across both geographies and where evidence and lessons learnt can benefit both programmes.  If you are submitting a multi-country proposal, activities must be implemented in at least one of the target countries noted above.  Please refer to the fund guidelines for details.  If you are unsure if your project is eligible, please contact the Fund team on the email address above.

6. Can projects take place in countries that are NOT covered by either Ascend West and Central Africa or the Ascend East and South Asia programmes?

Priority is given to projects implemented in Ascend-supported countries. Whilst we can consider multi-country applications that are implemented in neighbouring countries there MUST be a strong rationale e.g., support filling emerging critical gaps in NTD intervention coverage. Please contact the Fund Team if you are considering a project that is implemented in a non-Ascend supported country before completing a concept application.

7. Does the applicant need to submit any supporting documentation at the concept note submission stage?

Yes. Additional documentation is required to demonstrate how applicants meet the minimum partnership criteria. Please refer to section “4.3 Compliance and due diligence” of the fund guidelines for the list of documents relevant for your organization. If required, additional documents might be requested for compliance review.

8. Can an applicant submit more than one application?

Applicants are free to submit different innovative ideas in multiple applications for any cycle. The fund team will evaluate each application on its own merit and will score each application independently.

9. Can projects exceed the budget limit of £350,000?

The fund will not award projects funding higher than the amount of £350,000. Any proposal which needs to be implemented in stages should be presented as such, with a separate submission per stage in different funding cycles if over the maximum funding amount.

10. Is the fund open to proposals addressing other NTDs outside of the five priority diseases?

Priority is given to projects which address the five priority diseases. However, we welcome proposals that include additional activities to tackle other NTDs included in the London Declaration on NTDs (link), where there is a strong case that these can be integrated based on geographical overlap with priority diseases, and a clear justification of need based on disease burden and a lack of other financial support.

11. What are some of the factors which led to concept applications being successful in Cycle 1?

Please see our case studies (link) to view projects which have been awarded funding under Cycle one. The projects that have been successful address a common problem facing multiple countries, provided a clear evidence of need, showed promised for achieving impact in a short timeframe and showed the potential to scale. We are looking to fund more projects which have the potential to inform how the Ascend programme is delivered. Timing is important as projects must demonstrate how findings will benefit the programme before the contract date of January 2022.

12. What are some of the factors which led to concept applications not progressing to detailed proposal stage?

In previous cycles, some proposals did not progress due to duplication and overlap with ongoing activities of the broader Ascend West and Central Africa programme. Please closely review the Ascend activities annex and reach out to existing Ascend partners where possible before submitting your concept application. This will help to ensure your project idea is adding value to existing programme activities. In addition, proposals did not progress as the idea did not meet the fund’s definition of innovation and presented an idea which is already commonplace in NTD programme delivery (refer to FAQ 3). Applications also fell down on value for money particularly where there was a high proportion of the budget being spent on staff salaries and the number of beneficiaries in country was very low.