Concept Note Guidelines

Relevant information around submitting a concept note to the Internet Freedom Fund.

What is the name of your project?

This can be your project’s name or a name for the effort you want to have funded.

What problem will your project address?

Describe the problem that exists. What change is needed? Why is your project needed? How will it contribute to the solution?

We are looking for a short and clear description of the problem you are trying to solve, and your approach to the solution.

How will you address this problem?

The projects and people we support all fall into one or more of the following categories: applied research, developing technology, deploying technology and training.

Some projects fall into two categories, and some even all four.

  • Applied research: Threats to Internet freedom are constantly evolving. OTF-supported research projects are advancing research into repressive Internet interference on modern communication networks and/or the methodologies and technologies that can best circumvent that interference. Research should be applied - that is, with direct feedback, insight, or applicability to the technology development process.

  • Developing technology: Technology development. OTF-supported development efforts are building a tool, whether it’s in alpha, beta, or live form. The tool should enable those in repressive environments to circumvent censorship, avoid surveillance, or otherwise increase users’ capacity to access information and communicate safety in some way.

  • Deploying technology: Getting Internet freedom tools into the hands of those who need them most. OTF-supported deployment and implementation efforts are enabling the widespread adoption and use of these tools among target audiences - those living in repressive environments and/or experiencing invasive censorship and surveillance.

  • Training: OTF supports digital security trainings when their focus conforms to the guidance provided in the digital security capacity building section. Training is also part of an effective and responsible technology deployment.

Give a brief overview of the activities in this project.

Briefly list key milestones and activities you will carry out.

We are looking for an overview of the activities you are planning for the funding period.

How does this match the OTF Mission?

The projects and people we support all work to increase one or more of the following: access, awareness, privacy, and security. Many projects we support fall into two or more of these categories. Here’s what we mean when we use these terms:

  • Access: to the internet, including tools to circumvent website blocks, connection blackouts, and widespread censorship.

  • Privacy: enhancement, including the ability to be free from repressive observation and the option to be anonymous when accessing the internet.

  • Awareness: of access, privacy, or security threats and protective measures, including how-to guides, instructional apps, data collection platforms, and other efforts that increase the efficacy of Internet freedom tools.

  • Security: from danger or threat when accessing the internet, including encryption tools.

OTF does not support projects working on Internet connectivity, ICT4D, legal analysis or policy advocacy. Read more about our common ineligible areas of focus.

Are there similar projects that exist already? How is your project different or complementary to those projects?

Provide links to websites, software repositories, articles about projects that are similar to yours.

What gaps does your project address? Does your project build on these projects? If so, how? Is there opportunity for collaboration with these other projects?

Who is the intended user of your project, and how will they benefit from it?

Tell us about the people who will use this project. How is it relevant to them? How will they benefit?

Our goal is to support efforts that aim to advance Internet freedom in the world’s most repressive environments. Ideally, this means we support organizations and individuals that are:

  • Working on projects that will directly benefit those living in the world’s most oppressive censorship and surveillance environments;

  • Located in or have direct experience with communities in the Global South;

  • Come from or have direct experience with repressive censorship and surveillance environments;

  • Come from or have direct experience with underrepresented and/or targeted minority groups, including those with a focus on human rights, LGBT, journalism, media, or activism.

How long do you estimate the project will take?

This estimate may be revised if a full proposal is required.

We are looking for a rough estimate of the funding period. If you are invited to make a full funding proposal, this figure will be reviewed and can be revised.

How much funding do you estimate you will need?

This estimate may be revised if a full proposal is required.

We are looking for a rough estimate of the funding amount. If you are invited to make a full funding proposal, this figure will be reviewed and can be revised.

Describe how you think the budget will be spent.

This estimate may be revised if a full proposal is required.

We would like rough estimate for the percentages of these spending categories.

Staff: you/your team's time Contractors: external contractors and vendors Travel: domestic or international travel Equipment: equipment for your work

Contracts, Not Grants

One thing that separates OTF from other funders is that we do not provide grants to our supported projects. Rather, OTF administers deliverable-based contracts based on proposals and scopes of work. This means that compelling applications need to clearly propose objectives, deliverables, and timelines in order to be considered competitive. OTF does not provide “lump sum” funding of any sort - funds are disbursed following completion of previously agreed upon metrics and deliverables.

Overhead Costs

OTF supports projects, not overhead. Generally, we do not support standalone costs which are not directly associated with the completion of objectives or deliverables. For example, indirect costs such as operational or administrative expenses are not supported. This is in part due to the contractual vehicle OTF relies upon to support projects in the internet freedom space. This policy ensures that programmatic funds are focused on the objectives specifically outlined by Congress.

In the very limited instances where OTF determines that an overhead cost would be permitted, such costs cannot be greater than 10 percent of the overall cost of the project. Projects seeking an exception bear the burden of clearly demonstrating how the lack of such an inclusion will prevent the completion of the project’s objectives.

See also: Contract Templates & USG Provisions

Which OTF labs would you be interested in using for your project?

The OTF Labs can provide expertise you may need for your project. Learn more about our Labs.

What is your name?

We will use this name as the point of contact for this application. You can use a pseudonym.

What email address should we use to contact you?

This email address will be used to receive all notifications and updates, and communicate about your project concept note.

How many people do you expect will be a part of this project?

OTF does not have any requirements regarding an applicant’s status - whether for-profit, nonprofit, or a single individual, located inside or outside the United States, so long as the proposed effort fits within OTF’s mission, goals, and focus areas, it may be considered.

Why are you, and your team members, the right people to work on this project?

Tell us more about you and your team. What are your relevant past experiences? What expertise do you bring to the project?