What is OPA?

OPA is a full-featured online proposal appraisal system suitable for the end-to-end administration of any proposal request, submission, appraisal, selection and budgeting process, through to reporting, report review, approval, dissemination, and discussion. It can be used for:

  • Grant & loan programs
  • Screening of applicants
  • Project tendering processes
  • Policy proposal consultation
  • Calls for conference papers or journal articles
  • Any initiative with similar workflow processes

OPA is an free/libre/open source application under the GNU General Public License 3.0. This means it is free for anyone to use, and the source code for the software is also freely available to be adapted and improved for further non-commercial release. Free/libre/open licensing reduces start-up and operating costs; lets your organization customize the tool for your particular needs, and integrate with existing project management systems; and, offers opportunities for developers anywhere to participate directly.

Simplify Proposal Selection and Reporting Online

OPA is a multilingual web-based application used to administer a wide range of activities that incorporate submission, group review and approval stages as part of their workflow:

  • Coordinators use the OPA Administration Website to set up and manage all online aspects of a program on behalf of a Program Committee;
  • Proponents submit proposals to the OPA Public Website, and may participate in online discussions through OPA;
  • Reviewers use the ranking and commenting facilities of OPA to assess proposals against criteria set up by the Coordinators.

Optionally, OPA can offer public access to accepted proposals and reports, as well as facilitate public dialogue around the issues being addressed in the proposals and/or project reports. It also supports a web interface to external email lists for targeted communication involving the Program Committee, Coordinators, Reviewers, and the public.

Five Steps Through an Online Small Grant Program Cycle

Step 1: Set Up a Grant Program Online

A Coordinator logs into the Administration Website to set up a list of Reviewers, and at least one backup Coordinator. S/he will compose information about the small grants program to appear on the Public Website, prepare the appraisal criteria against which all proposals will be assessed and, if desired, set differing relative weights for the criteria. S/he will compose a Call for Proposals (or multiple CfPs), and each CfP may include additional unique appraisal criteria. Finally, s/he will compose default text for notification letters to accept, further discuss or decline proposals (the letters can be individually customized later).

At this point, anyone who goes to the Public Website will be able to see information about the small grants program, read about a Call for Proposals, and find out all they need to know to prepare and submit a proposal. Proposals may be submitted online through the website, via email with an attachment in any format, or via courier, post or fax.

Step 2: Receive and Review Proposals

When a proposal is received electronically or in hard copy, the Coordinator initiates the review process for each new proposal record by selecting Reviewers from the list. This automatically sends the proposal out electronically for review. Each of the selected Reviewers will receive an email that contains an attached copy of the proposal, and a link to its appraisal page. When a Reviewer logs onto the Administration Website, s/he will see only the proposals to which s/he has been assigned.

Selecting one of the proposals, s/he is presented with the list of criteria that apply to the particular CfP, each associated with a ranking scale and a field for comments. S/he completes and submits the form, and this review information is added to the proposal record in the database.

Coordinators can monitor the status of the entire process from the Proposal Tracking and Review page. Reminder emails can be automatically sent to Reviewers who have not yet submitted reviews.

Step 3: Summarize Proposal Reviews for Committee Decision

With all reviews completed for a proposal, the Coordinator will generate a Review Summary. For each criterion, OPA assembles Reviewers’ comments, and calculates the average weighted score (rank)X(weight) given by all the Reviewers. It automatically flags individual criteria for which scores are less than the minimum established by the Coordinator for proposal approval. It also compares the overall average score to the minimum.

As the Coordinator sets a proposal record to “awarded”, OPA compares the program budget to cumulative grant amounts to assess the impact on the budget of the small grants program. The Coordinator could fractionally raise or lower the minimum ranking, and re-generate the summaries to avoid over or under utilizing the budget.

When a viable portfolio of proposals is assembled, the one-page Review Summaries can be printed and/or attached to the original proposals, and presented to Program Committee members (in-person or online) who have responsibility for final selection and decisions on award amounts.

Step 4: Select Proposals, Track Budgeting, and Notify Proponents

When the Program Committee finalizes selections, the Coordinator updates the status of each proposal as “awarded” or “declined”. For each proposal, an addressed letter can be generated from the default texts of the notification letters that were prepared during setup by the Coordinator. Each of these letters can be edited by the Coordinator to suit circumstances. Notification letters can be sent to proponents by email, or formatted for printing to send by post or fax. At this point, grant arrangements would be finalized with the Proponents who have had their proposals accepted. Accepted proposals can be made available on the Public Website, giving the opportunity for public threaded discussions of the issues raised at all stages of the supported work.

Step 5: Accept and Review Reports

The cycle continues with the submission of interim and/or final reports by each recipient of a grant. The Coordinator circulates a report to Reviewers (defaulting to the same Reviewers who appraised the proposal, although this list can be revised). The Reviewers make comments online, and the Coordinator can prepare a message to the report author with details from these comments. Multiple drafts of the report can be submitted and reviewed following the same procedure. When appropriate, the Coordinator marks the report “accepted”, and again, it can be automatically made available on the Public site for public access and discussion.

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