Free Procurement Toolkit For Cities

Access the procurement toolkit for free

This free toolkit can help your city attract new ideas, partners and resources to address its biggest challenges. 7 U.S. cities have already piloted the toolkit with great success.

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You may want several colleagues in the same department or across departments go through the toolkit individually, then bring everyone together to compare notes and reconcile responses. This approach can help bring to light data or resources one individual might be aware of, but others might not.

Craft an airtight problem statement that enables innovation

It’s easy for experts to get caught up in the details of a problem and assume that more specificity is better in any procurement. Not so. Being too prescriptive can limit innovation and discourage solutions that generate wider benefits.

The procurement toolkit takes a different approach to problem framing, and focuses on zooming out (using the Ansari X-Prize for commercial space flight as an example) to identify target outcomes and then to work backward to define what elements of the problem are most critical to solve.

Identify the tool that’s most relevant for your city

Often the easiest path through conventional procurement processes is to use Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Requests for Quotations (RFQs). The benefit of these traditional approaches is that the language and legal framework are tried and tested. This is not a trivial thing in difficult-to-navigate bureaucracies. However, the downside is that many opportunities to improve outcomes are lost right at the beginning of the process.

The toolkit matches cities and utilities to one of three specific “big city” procurement tools—Requests for Ideas (RFIs), design competitions, or performance contracts—and assigning a degree of difficulty that is the best fit for the problem at hand and the resources available.

Set response terms to encourage participation

This is where many conventional procurement processes start: setting specifications. The toolkit offers clear guidance on what kinds of choices and specification decisions are likely to enable the most effective outcomes, and which ones are likely to discourage high-quality responses and innovative ideas or generate difficult-to-assess and hard-to- implement solutions.

This work is the result of a collaborative initiative of re:focus partners and The Atlas Marketplace, funded with the generous support of the Kresge Foundation.

Want to print the toolkit? Download a PDF version here.
« Overview
Tool None Selected
Difficulty None Selected
1. Craft Problem Statement
2. Select Procurement Tool
3. Determine Difficulty
4. Apply Tool

Getting the problem statement right is an essential first step toward procuring innovative, resilient, and cost-effective solutions. Framing a problem too broadly (e.g. address climate change) can be just as ineffective as framing one too narrowly (e.g. install solar panels on City Hall).

Instructions:

  1. Read this article for context. This is very important!
  2. Fill out the madlibs below
For example:
The Local Water and Sewer Authority is seeking comprehensive, cost-effective, and equitable solutions to reduce the impacts of stormwater and riverine flooding in our community for vulnerable residents and small businesses by next spring (the rainy season).

The Your city/utility name is seeking Adjective , Adjective , Adjective solutions to Verb(s) Noun/Phrase (Problem) in our community for Noun/Beneficiaries by Date/Timeframe .

Next, identify the procurement tool that best matches both your problem and your available capacity/resources to address it by answering the questions below. You can always skip questions or change your answers later.

Instructions:

  1. Focus on the specific problem being addressed (the same problem you described in part 1!)
  2. Do not default to the lowest capacity or resource answer. Where possible, stretch for the response you think is achievable.
  3. Think beyond your own budget. (Are there are interdepartmental sources of support that you could recruit? Philanthropic funds?) Thinking this way requires more work up front, but can open up significantly higher value ideas, partners, and resources at the end.
How much baseline data and/or technical information do you have available about the problem you are trying to solve?
Do you have a budget or funding available to address the problem?
How much flexibility do you have to offer non-monetary incentives in your current procurement processes? Consider options like access to demonstration sites, asset and data ownership, etc.

You matched with

It’s important to determine your local government’s capacity for addressing the problem you’ve described so that any eventual procurement process matches your city and/or utility’s time and resources to follow-through.

Instructions

  1. Read this article (same one from the first section!) if you haven’t already. Seriously, read it. Pretty please.
  2. Take the short quiz below. You can always skip questions or change your answers later.
What level of staff capacity is available to address this problem?
How much internal technical capacity or external technical consultant support do you have access to for resolving this problem?
What level of legal/finance/procurement expertise is available to your city/utility?

You matched with

You need to select a tool and determine a level of difficulty before you can apply a procurement tool!

Section Focus: What we are trying to achieve.

Instructions: Expand on your one sentence problem statement from the first section. Is it ambitious enough to spark interest from innovators in the field? If not, zoom out, be bolder.

Section Focus: What winners will receive.

Instructions:
Start with a basic outline of the scale and type of prize. Don’t get stuck on your existing resources: consider local partners, philanthropies, or companies who could provide a match. Make sure your prize options match both your available resources and the scale of the problem you are trying to solve. The prize has to pass the laugh test to attract serious submissions from qualified teams.

Monetary or non-monetary? What would make someone want to win?

Section Focus: What the key parameters or markers are for success.

Instructions:
Refine your problem statement by adding specific metrics of what a successful solution must achieve or demonstrate. Start with the basic who, what, when, where and why of your prize. Set a high bar for success, but use plain, easy to understand language to attract the widest range of qualified applicants. Make sure you don’t frame your solution set so broadly that there are already tried and tested options available. Similarly, avoid framing so tightly that no possible solution exists, for example, “replace all failing pipes for free.”

Keep the competition timeframe short. Submissions should be “paper solutions” with potential for near-term implementation, replication, and scale up.

Consider a longer competition that results in multiple small-scale demonstrations or pilots of proposed solutions. Significant up front work will be required to identify and designate demonstration site(s), timeframe for operation, terms of installation and de-installation, and other relevant legal protections.

Invest in the design of a multi-phase competition with awards at interim points to reach full, working, installed solution(s). Consider what is required in terms of consultant support and/or coordination with relevant agencies/ departments to build, install, and validate solutions over the full timeframe of the competition.

Ansari X-Prize Example: Teams from around the world

Things to consider:

Who are your ideal applicants? Are there any major eligibility criteria that you want to set (e.g. engineers licensed in the state)?

Ansari X-Prize Example: A reliable, reusable, privately financed, manned spacecraft

Things to consider:

What would you want applicants to submit (on paper), demonstrate/pilot, or install/build? Set terms of submissions. Think about who bears up-front cost of delivering solutions especially for non-winners, and consider if the cost/risk is in line with the prize/incentive you are offering.

Ansari X-Prize Example: Carry a minimum of three people

Things to consider:

Set clear and high bars for both performance (min) and cost (max)

Ansari X-Prize Example: 100km above the Earth’s surface

Things to consider:

What locations would want this solution to be applied (e.g. a neighborhood, all schools)?

Ansari X-Prize Example: Twice in two weeks

Things to consider:

Is there a deadline? How long must a solution work for in order to demonstrate success?

Ansari X-Prize Example: To jumpstart the private/commercial spaceflight industry

Things to consider:

Consider your goals. Why is this problem (statement) important to your community?

Section Focus: How entries will be evaluated, including the process for assessing and reviewing submissions and any interim steps preceding final awards.

Instructions:
Provide simple and clear criteria for how a winner or multiple winners will be evaluated in the sections below, which outline basic criteria to evaluate submissions.

Comparative best solution from among all submissions for specific metrics.

Set tiers or multiple thresholds for success. If no solutions qualify, no awards made.

Single parameter / minimum threshold. Awards only made if/when solution meets threshold.

Least-cost solution.

Weighted cost-benefit evaluation.

Highest value solution based on public value created (monetary and non-monetary).

Meet pre-defined coverage/service area requirements.

Rank proposals based on how much of a prefined area is served by solution.

Add success metrics tied to specific populations (e.g. low-income households).

Open-ended qualitative responses.

Ask for simple metrics that can be easily compared across submissions.

Request quantitative benefits estimates for comparative evaluation.

Section Focus: How winner(s) are determined and awards made.

Instructions: Set clear expectations of the evaluation and award process. Describe who does the evaluation and how. Don’t leave any room for confusion. Think carefully about how you will work with your procurement and legal teams to execute your challenge effectively.

Single, one-time award for the first team that meets all evaluation criteria.

Multiple winners, option for tiered prizes (1st, 2nd, 3rd place) with terms for smaller awards for meeting partial success thresholds.

Multiple phases of sequenced awards corresponding to pre-defined deliverables and/or tiers of awards based on partial successes, meeting key milestones, or addressing needs in part of a larger service or coverage area.

Define the terms of submission and state all interim and final deadlines.

Define the terms of submission and state all interim and final deadlines.

Single process where all submissions are compared or rolling submissions are considered as they meet all established thresholds?

Who will review submissions? What are their qualifications to evaluate/select? How will communities/residents be engaged?

Consider how public you want the review and award process to be and what would offer the highest value to both submitters and eventual winners. Ceremony? Publicity/Media? Ribbon-cuttings? Other events?

Section Focus: How to get the word out.

Think hard about how you will disseminate your competition/challenge. Posting a competition announcement on your city website is not enough. You need to develop a thoughtful multi-pronged plan in order to reach a wide range of high-quality submitters and build enthusiasm for your problem and community.

How will you get your competition out there to a regional/national/global audience? Media, social media, community meetings, email, events, direct outreach, other options? Be specific about how you will engage each of these channels.

Who can help you reach a broader audience and engage more high-quality applicants and submissions? Local partners, regional and national influencers, philanthropies or other supporters?

Who will manage this process? How will you engage with questions and make sure everyone gets and updates?

Think about who you might be missing and what other options are available to reach them to draw the best possible solutions forward for your city/utility.

Section Focus: Provide clear information about any legal or technical requirements.

Provide clear information about any legal or technical requirements, especially for installed solutions. For example, do applicants/submitters need to carry insurance to demonstrate solutions? Make sure you are especially clear about liability and intellectual property. This content should not distract reviewers from focusing on the problem/idea. It should also be easily removed/excerpted to spare reviewers and evaluators from having to slog through repeated content in text submissions. Can include boilerplate language!

Section Focus: How winner(s) are determined and awards made.

Use all of the decisions and choices you’ve made in the prior sections to fill out the snapshot below. This will serve as the basis for discussion with your colleagues so you can get feedback on what elements of your competition are likely to encourage (or discourage) great ideas and attract high-quality submitters.

The City/Utility and/or Competition Sponsor's name is offering Prize/Incentive to any Who / Eligible Applicants that can What by When . The deadline for all submissions is Closing Date . The winner(s) of the Name of Competition will be selected by Evaluators for the solution(s) that best delivers Performance, Cost, and Other Markers of Success . Winners will be announced on Competition End Date and recognized at Type of Event . Questions? Contact us at General Contact Email

Instructions:
Before you get started, read through these materials (link: https://www.enviroaccounting.com/payforperformance/Program/Display/overview)

Then, expand on your one sentence problem statement from the first section. Is it ambitious enough to spark interest from innovators in the field? If not, zoom out, be bolder. Where possible, add specific quantitative markers of success to your statement, e.g. reduce X by date Y.

Section Focus: Scope of the problem to be addressed.

Instructions:
Describe why you’re trying to solve the problem, by when, and what success looks like. Provide essential baseline data (population, current system performance, geography, etc.) as an anchor for considering how to create performance improvements. Describe key stakeholders who need to be involved, including city departments, permitting agencies, community organizations, and others.

Summarize your problem and desired outcomes clearly in 1-2 sentences, provide more context in a supporting narrative. Create a single page table of summary statistics with baseline data on relevant metrics.

Provide a short executive summary, offer more context in well-organized sections, attach or link to major relevant data sets/bases and technical documents.

Things to consider:

Expand on your problem statement. Think hard about your success metrics. Consider any data gaps that might limit your ability to set or measure performance over time and options for filling those gaps. Be up-front about potential obstacles early in the process.

Section Focus: Who are the key players required to create/deliver a successful outcome.

Performance and outcome-based procurements typically involve multiple collaborating organizations with defined roles and responsibilities corresponding to specific contract terms.

Instructions:
Consider who the relevant players are in your city/region and what incentives they have to engage in a performance-based agreement with you. Focus on the core team—the essential organizations, funds, and services that you need to get started. Once you have a core team in place, other partners can be recruited directly or solicited competitively.

Core Team

Provides the impetus and support for the project & can put up some or all of the up-front capital for implementation.

Things to consider:

Why are you interested in pursuing this project? What benefits do you expect to create for your city/utility and the communities you serve?

Core Team

Support for up-front costs. Ideal sources are philanthropic grants, government funds, or in-kind contributions of technical assistance.

Things to consider:

Who else is invested in finding solutions alongside you? Are there partners (foundations, banks, businesses) you could engage to provide up-front financial support?

Core Team

Supports a buyer with technical and process assistance in aligning stakeholders, analyzing data, setting terms & structuring the complete process through the final transaction & evaluation.

Things to consider:

Who has the data analysis, technical, and financial expertise you need to address the problem you are trying to solve? Are there local experts who could support the effort? Consider national firms, NGOs, academic institutions, or other orgs whose mission aligns with your objectives and think about how you would engage them early in the process.

Optional

An Outcome Funder is generally not required for performance contracts where a government buyer commits to covering costs; however, this type of funder can be engaged to support “riskier” pay-for-success projects. Funders can include philanthropies, donors, or corporations.

Things to consider:

Who else is invested in finding solutions alongside you and has clear incentives to commit to making final payments for successful outcomes alongside any government funders / buyer(s)?

Additional Partners

On-the-ground implementation partner responsible for delivering service specified by buyer.

Things to consider:

Who is currently delivering the best-available service associated with your performance goals (e.g. green infrastructure firms, technology firms, others)? How do you want to engage them? Consider what conventional and alternative procurement paths are available (e.g. RFQ/RFP)?

Additional Partners

Third-party evaluator with technical expertise to assess outcomes.

Things to consider:

Who are the most respected and qualified experts to validate that key performance metrics have been met/sustained?

Additional Partners

Additional source(s) of up-front project capital.

Things to consider:

Do you want to use private capital? Consider your legal and finance options.

Section Focus: What are the measureable benchmarks that correspond with the quantity and quality of desired outcomes and long-term goals.

Identifying relevant metrics and setting simple and clear benchmarks for success is hard.

Think about where you already have data and what metrics/measures you have used to successfully assess similar existing or ongoing projects.

Regardless what metrics you identify in this process, significant additional work and analysis will likely be required to refine your metrics and set the appropriate thresholds for performance in collaboration with relevant partners.

Define your service/coverage area and the environmental benefits you are aiming to create (e.g. volume of reduced CSOs, pollution, or flooding at point X). Prioritize metrics based on existing data sources.

Define your service/coverage area and the environmental benefits you are aiming to create (e.g. volume of reduced CSOs, pollution, or flooding at point X). Prioritize metrics based on existing data sources.

Consider where you can expand the types of benefits considered and created with strategic data gathering and analysis, e.g. connecting reduced basement flooding to lower mold- related health incidents/costs.

Identify one or more target populations within your service area (e.g. minority, low-income, unemployed, kids, elderly, etc.) and what improvements you would like to see for that population. Then consider what quantitative metrics are available to characterize those improvements over time.

Identify one or more target populations within your service area (e.g. minority, low-income, unemployed, kids, elderly, etc.) and what improvements you would like to see for that population. Then consider what quantitative metrics are available to characterize those improvements over time.

Look for opportunities to align and achieve multiple outcome metrics, such as children’s health improvements and higher school attendance rates, for example, from lead exposure reduction programs.

Identify target areas for cost-savings, resource efficiencies (e.g. reduced leakage/water loss, pumping/electricity costs, downtime/service interruptions).

Identify target areas for cost-savings, resource efficiencies (e.g. reduced leakage/water loss, pumping/electricity costs, downtime/service interruptions).

Conduct analyses on historic budgets and system operations data to identify opportunities for capturing additional savings/efficiencies

Define what other benefits you would like to create (e.g. workforce development, health improvements). Decide if/how these should fit into broader contract terms (e.g. performance bonuses).

Section Focus: How performance will be assessed, by whom, and when.

Ensure there is a consistent, replicable and trusted method for verifying project outcomes at all appropriate points in the process. Consider who does evaluations/measurements, how the results are communicated or made public, and the cost and level of difficulty to complete the verification process effectively.

Integrate verification into the service delivery process and budget (see Prince George’s County Performance Partnership example in description).

Engage independent, third-party verifiers who can review, spot-check and validate internal monitoring and evaluation activities and results by partners.

Consider which metrics should be evaluated, when, and how often over the life of a project.

Prince George’s County example: Reduce TMDLs to Chesapeake Bay

Prince George’s County example: Reduce TMDLs to Chesapeake Bay

Describe process for assessing if thresholds (or specific performance tiers) were met. What kinds of monitoring tools/equipment will be used and how?

Prince George’s County example: Amount required to meet MS4 permit requirements

Prince George’s County example: Amount required to meet MS4 permit requirements

Who has the relevant technical expertise to conduct evaluations? What kinds of verifiers are most likely to build trust with investors and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. internal experts versus independent evaluators)?

Prince George’s County example: Program Manager (Corvias) responsible for day-to-day operations and monitoring + periodic review by state & federal permitting agencies

Prince George’s County example: Program Manager (Corvias) responsible for day-to-day operations and monitoring + periodic review by state & federal permitting agencies

At what points (geographic locations)
in the service or coverage area will
measurements be taken and/or evaluations
conducted.

Prince George’s County example: 2,000 impervious acres within the County’s MS4 permit area

Prince George’s County example: 2,000 impervious acres within the County’s MS4 permit area

How frequently do your key metrics need to be measured over time? Is there an end date or deadline for meeting all performance outcomes?

Prince George’s County example: Ongoing monitoring over life

Prince George’s County example: Ongoing monitoring over life

Revisit your long-term goals. How will the verification process reinforce if/how you are making progress toward these goals and enable you to communicate the results?

Prince George’s County example: Protect the Chesapeake Bay, meet EPA Clean Water Act requirements, and make better use of taxpayer dollars for environmental protection and workforce development

Section Focus: How payments will be made, based on performance metrics.

Instructions:
Describe how funders, investors, and service providers will be paid once outcomes are verified. Consider the total amount (proportion of your anticipated budget) required for each partner or service, consider the timing of payments, including which ones are up-front and which are contingent on outcomes, and the mechanics of how payments will be made consistent with you city/utility’s legal and procurement requirements. The degree of difficulty is likely to be driven by legal and procurement requirements more than by internal capacity.

Minimize the number of contracts required with your city/utility. Consider options for integrating all administrative functions including managing payments to all parties into an administrative specialist’s or consultant’s scope of work and service fee.

Contract all partners directly through government champion/buyer and establish individual contracts and payment terms.

Fee for service

Pre-negotiated

Regular payment(s) for up-front and ongoing work, plus any transaction related fees

Fee for service

Pre-negotiated

Up-front and/or ongoing payments to deliver service(s) or implement project for a pre-specified timeframe

One-time payment

Pre-negotiated

Payment upon completion of review

One-time payment

Based on performance contract terms

Contingent payment based on outcomes

One-time payment

Based on performance contract terms

Contingent payment based on outcomes

Instructions:
Establish a robust legal framework for partnership and contracting that clearly sets out all legal/technical requirements in plain language, including issues of liability, non-performance, and intellectual property. Because these are most likely going to be internal documents negotiated among all the partners and parties in a transaction, rather than public information released with an RFI or Competition, the format is less important than content and clarity.

Instructions:
Use all of the decisions and choices you’ve made in the prior sections to fill out the snapshot below. This will serve as the basis for discussion with your colleagues and potential partners so you can get feedback on what elements of your performance contract are likely to work well and support your desired outcomes and where you can improve.

The City/Utility or Champion is pleased to announce a new partnership with Partner , Partner , and Partner to Verb(s): create, generate, improve, reduce, etc Primary Intended Outcome(s) for Population Served in Service Area by Target Date . This innovative partnership is designed to deliver Performance, cost, Other Markers of Success and Buyer 's payments will be on verification of Performance Metrics . This Project will begin on Start Date and run for Timeframe . Results will be made available regularly via Distribution Channel Questions? We'd love to hear from you. Contact us at Contact .
Section Focus: What we are trying to solve.

Instructions: Expand on your one sentence problem statement from the first section, shown below.

Section Focus: Why we are trying to solve this problem and by when.

Instructions:
What is the specific challenge/problem that you are soliciting ideas/info to help solve? Why (main drivers/priorities)? By when (e.g. how much urgency is there? Is this a long-term effort or do you need immediate solutions)?

Section Focus: Why you should send us your ideas.

Instructions:
Provide a brief description/bullets on why a submitter would want to work with your city and/or utility. State clearly what you are bringing to the table and why you are doing an RFI now. Make it exciting! Describe any non-monetary incentives.

Keep descriptions short and exciting. Set an example for what you want back. Refer to King County RFI

Short narrative, bullets on key incentives. See Boston Smart City RFI

Do the up-front work to decide what you are offering (funds/incentives) and clearly state if there is a path to procurement. See Philadelphia Green Acres RFI

Section Focus: What we want to hear from you.

Instructions:
Provide simple and clear instructions to submitters. The more specific the questions, the better. Focus on what information will best help you understand, assess, and compare ideas. The key is to only ask for what you can use well.

Match the level of detail you ask for to your capacity to evaluate proposals. If you have an intern or a fraction of time of a busy senior executive, you do not want to receive multiple 200-page submissions. However, if you have an eager technical team looking for deep technical innovation, then by all means, ask for tons of supporting documents!

Ask for the elevator pitch. Set a strict word limit.

Encourage creativity, but keep responses comparable and contained 1-3 pages.

The sky is the limit. Encourage wild ideas. No tight word or page limits.

Briefly describe your ideal applicant or submitters (e.g. teams, firms, individuals, non-profits, etc.)

Briefly describe your ideal applicant or submitters (e.g. teams, firms, individuals, non-profits, etc.)

Bullets on any specific characteristics or qualities you value, e.g. any requirements for specific types or levels of expertise?

Briefly describe your ideal applicant or submitters (e.g. teams, firms, individuals, non-profits, etc.)

Bullets on any specific characteristics or qualities you value, e.g. any requirements for specific types or levels of expertise?

Any legal or other requirement that would emerge in transitioning to an RFP (e.g. credentials, registrations, vendor approvals).

Multiple choice questions, e.g. How many years has your firm been in business? Have you ever operated in this region/market? Names/links to similar recent projects.

Multiple choice questions, e.g. How many years has your firm been in business? Have you ever operated in this region/market? Names/links to similar recent projects.

Optional attachments on firm history, signature projects, and key personnel.

Multiple choice questions, e.g. How many years has your firm been in business? Have you ever operated in this region/market? Names/links to similar recent projects.

Optional attachments on firm history, signature projects, and key personnel.

Full Qualifications document with CVs of key personnel and examples of signature projects and awards. Consider up front how you will compare diverse submissions.

Word limited short description, encourage bulleted responses.

Word limited short description, encourage bulleted responses.

Limited narrative response. Ask for relevant details to assess viability.

Word limited short description, encourage bulleted responses.

Limited narrative response. Ask for relevant details to assess viability.

Consider breaking down into phases (see Philidelphia Green Acres RFI)

Multiple Choice, e.g. What stage of development is your proposed idea? (R&D, Pilot, Deployed in 1+ locations, Commercially available)

Multiple Choice e.g. What stage of development is your proposed idea? (R&D, Pilot, Deployed in 1+ locations, Commercially available)

Option for short written response (word limit) on deployment history/potential.

Multiple Choice e.g. What stage of development is your proposed idea? (R&D, Pilot, Deployed in 1+ locations, Commercially available)

Option for short written response (word limit) on deployment history/potential.

Open-ended written response and attachments on examples of where implemented/in progress.

Short fill-in the blank question, e.g. what are your top three metrics of success?

Short fill-in the blank question, e.g. what are your top three metrics of success?

Short fill-in the blank question, e.g. what are your top three metrics of success?

Detailed project design specs and relevant supporting documentation

Short fill-in the blank or multiple choice question to get a sense of scale and viability.

Short fill-in the blank or multiple choice question to get a sense of scale and viability.

Word-limited short answer space to describe who pays, under what conditions, how much.

Short fill-in the blank or multiple choice question to get a sense of scale and viability.

Word-limited short answer space to describe who pays, under what conditions, how much.

Attach a full business plan with anticipated costs, projected value created, and a description of how revenues/benefits will be captured.

Multiple choice, check-all-that-apply.

Multiple choice, check-all-that-apply.

Short narrative description.

Multiple choice, check-all-that-apply.

Short narrative description.

Detailed benefits projections with justifications.

Write-in response

Short description

Detailed timeline

Multiple choice, check-all-that-apply legal considerations.

Multiple choice, check-all-that-apply legal considerations.

Word-limited short answer space for description of potential barriers.

Multiple choice, check-all-that-apply legal considerations.

Word-limited short answer space for description of potential barriers.

Detailed questions, e.g. credentials to provide services for regulated industries.

Solicit feedback from your submitters to inform your next RFI (what should we ask next time? what can we do better?)

Short answer, open-ended with word limit

Open-ended question: what could we ask/do better?

Things to consider:

Ask your submitters an open ended question like what could we ask/do better to help with the next RFI!

Section Focus: How we will use submissions, inform submitters about what is next, and what expectations submitters should have about the path to procurement.

Instructions:
Set clear expectations for how you will close the RFI and share results. Describe how you will use and evaluate the information received, what submitters can expect, and by when, and what, if any, path to eventual procurement is available. Consider how your choices might change the responses received. For example, companies may not want to submit detailed information about proprietary technologies or methods if submissions are going to be published online.

Remember, responding to an RFI well is a lot of work for a submitter. Lack of clarity about how ideas will be used or shared can discourage submitters and limit the value of participation in future calls for proposals/ideas. You don’t want to give the impression that you are just getting free work without a path to engage submitters more meaningfully.

Focus on what you can do well. Don’t over promise. Set conservative timeframe for evaluation and notification, and manage expectations tightly about next steps.

Match your review, evaluation, and notification processes and timeframe with the incentive(s) that you are offering. Are there key deadlines to consider?

Establish a clear process that matches the path to procurement outlined in the Incentive section. Consider relevant financial/budget timeframes for decisions.

How do you want to notify submitters that their proposals have been received (e.g. auto-response)? How to you want to notify submitters / the public what ideas are being considered for further action (e.g. post all responses publicly / online)?

Decide who reviews responses (e.g. staff, evaluation committee, public jury?) Describe how ideas will be evaluated and compared. Set a clear and pragmatic timeframe for both evaluation and notification that can be communicated up front.

For example, do you want to conduct interviews or do on-site demos?

For submitters, what is the path to procurement (e.g. demonstration opportunities, follow-on RFPs, awards, contracts, etc.)?

Instructions:
Think hard about how you will disseminate your RFI. Posting a procurement on your city’s website is not enough. You need develop a thoughtful multi-pronged plan in order to reach a wide range of high-quality submitters and build enthusiasm for your problem and community.

How will you get your RFI out there to a regional/national/global audience? Media, social media, community meetings, email, events, direct outreach, other options? Be specific about how you will engage each of these channels.

Who can help you reach a broader audience and engage more high-quality applicants and submissions? Local partners, regional and national influencers, philanthropies or other supporters?

Who will manage this process? How will you engage with questions and make sure everyone gets and updates?

Think about who you might be missing and what other options are available to reach them to draw the best possible solutions forward for your city/utility.

Instructions:
Request any other missing information, including administrative details, points of contact, legal requirements, and other content in your standard procurements. Make sure you are especially clear about liability and intellectual property. This content should not distract reviewers from focusing on the problem/idea. It should also be easily removed/excerpted to spare reviewers and evaluators from having to slog through repeated content in text submissions.

Instructions:
Use all of the decisions and choices you’ve made in the earlier sections to fill out the snapshot below. This will serve as the basis for discussing your RFI with colleagues so you can get feedback on what elements of your RFI are likely to encourage (or discourage) great ideas and attract high-quality submitters.

The Your city/utility name is seeking innovative ideas & solutions to inform / address / reduce / manage Goal in Location(s) by Timeframe . We are calling all Ideal applications/submitters to send your ideas by email to Program POC by Due Date . Submitters will receive/be eligible for Non-monetary incentive, if applicable . All submissions will be How results will be used/shared by Notification Timeframe (e.g. X months) . Questions? We want to hear from you at General Contact email .

Questions, comments, concerns? Email contact@the-atlas.com