Addressing Stakeholder-Identified Priorities
Requests for applications (RFAs) or requests for proposals (RFPs) of many grants programs require that project proposals be linked to stakeholder-identified priorities for research, extension, education, and/or regulatory approaches in IPM. This criterion for evaluating projects may be poorly understood by proposal writers and/or inconsistently evaluated by proposal review panelists. This document discusses the issue to provide guidance to both grant writers and review panelists within the context of grants programs managed by the Southern Region IPM Center.
Clarity of the Link from the Proposal to the Priority
The evaluation of a proposal will hinge on how well the proposal writer explicitly shows that the project addresses a stakeholder-identified priority. Proposals are strengthened in this regard if the link is clearly made and if the priority addressed is relatively strong (as indicated by attributes discussed below).
"Stakeholder" refers to any person or group with an interest in IPM for the particular setting involved. Stakeholder groups include the groups mentioned below, but this list is by no means exclusive or exhaustive.
- "Farmers" or "producers", the traditional view of the definition of stakeholder. This remains a very important - some would say the most important - stakeholder group. Grower organizations (officers, employees, etc.) presumably represent many individual growers.
- Facility managers including, for instance, park managers, golf course managers, school facilities superintendents, building managers, etc.
- IPM providers of all types including consultants, pest control operators, industry field representatives, Extension agents, etc. These are often viewed as stakeholders who bring a wider or more global view than individual IPM users, because these serve many clientele.
- Researchers in the appropriate field, including those associated with any university, governmental or private organization.
- Extension staff and other educators, including those associated with any university, governmental or private organization.
- Home managers including homeowners, landlords and renters engaged in IPM in homes, lawns, gardens, etc.
- Consumers of products and users of facilities. This includes intermediate consumers ( e.g. buyers, distributors, retailers ) as well as the ultimate consumer.
- People interested in the community and/or environment affected by IPM. These may be individuals or groups including university, governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Usually proposals are strengthened by addressing priorities that are identified by a broad range of stakeholders. A priority identified as such by two stakeholder groups may be considered as having more value than a priority identified by only one group. Priorities agreed upon by many stakeholder groups are often considered more valuable than those agreed upon by few.
Needs and Priorities
The term "needs" is not synonymous with the term "priorities". Identifying priorities usually entails sorting the larger list of needs to pick those that are most important and/or should be addressed first. Thus the list of priorities for a setting is a subset of and often much smaller than the list of needs for the same setting. Many people feel that the power of a list of priorities is inversely related to the length of that list of priorities.
The timeliness of a stakeholder-identified priority affects its value. The date that the priority is identified helps to indicate timeliness, but even a chronologically "old" priority may be as valid and timely as a newly identified priority. To evaluate timeliness one should consider whether the results of prioritization are still valid, or whether, on the other hand, either the need has been addressed or other needs might have displaced it in the prioritization.
Access to the Priority
An important attribute of a stakeholder-identified priority for the purposes of evaluating grant proposals is that the priority can be easily found by any able person interested in finding IPM priorities for this setting. If an issue is truly a priority for a stakeholder group, that group should not care who addresses it but only that it be addressed well and in a timely fashion. Thus a real priority is readily available as such to anyone. Coincidentally reviewers should be able to easily verify the validity of any citation of a priority.
Some Sources of Stakeholder-Identified Priorities
There are many avenues for posting and finding stakeholder-identified priorities. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Pest management strategic plans (PMSPs), found in the national database, online at http://www.ipmcenters.org/pmsp/
- Published journals, either refereed or otherwise
- Publicly available results of stakeholder surveys
- Meeting reports or minutes from stakeholder organizations
- The Southern Region IPM Priorities page, developed specifically to enable publication of priorities that might otherwise not have a suitable avenue for publication (http://www.sripmc.org/policy/priorities/).
- Published priorities of grants programs sponsored by grower organizations or comparable sponsoring organizations.
PMSPs and Crop Profiles
The standard template for Pest Management Strategic Plans (PMSPs) includes stakeholder definition of priorities for research, extension and regulatory efforts. As such, well-written PMSPs should be excellent sources of stakeholder-identified priorities.
Crop Profiles describe the IPM situation at the time they are written and provide information about IPM needs. Crop Profiles are not required to entail either a strong component of stakeholder input or a structured process to prioritize needs.
For the purposes of grant competitions, the Southern Region IPM Center routinely does not consider Crop Profiles to be a particularly good source of stakeholder-identified priorities.
Letters of Support
Proposal writers often include letters of support from stakeholders or stakeholder groups, sometimes in lieu of any other linkage to stakeholder-identified priorities. The value of such letter can vary a great deal based on several considerations:
- If the review process utilizes a relevance statement that is distinct from the proposal, the appropriate reviewers may not see letters of support. That is the case with the Southern Regional IPM Grants program (S-RIPM), for instance. In that program, relevance reviewers would not even know of the existence of letters of support unless these are specifically referenced in the relevance statement.
- A letter can be a relatively powerful indicator of links to stakeholder-identified priorities if the letter explicitly describes wide support from a stakeholder group. Examples include descriptions of group processes or decisions such as survey results, meeting minutes, resolutions passed by the group, priority lists developed by the group, etc.
- Review panelists often suspect that a letter of support may have been solicited by the proposal writer and provided by the stakeholder almost as a courtesy. This suspicion is stronger when several letters from different stakeholders contain very similar text. In this case, the letter or letters may be of little value in the grants competition..
- If a letter is the only way that a proposal addresses stakeholder-identified priority, reviewers may presume that the attributes discussed under "Access to the Priority" (above) are lacking.
- A letter of support may often be a valuable indicator of cooperation by individuals, which can be important in evaluating other attributes of a project such as project design and chances for success.