Billing Code: 8230-01

BUREAU OF EDUCATION AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS

The FREEDOM Support Act/Future Leaders Exchange (FSA/FLEX) Program; Inbound, NIS Secondary School Initiative

NOTICE: Request for Proposals

SUMMARY: The Youth Programs Division/Office of Citizen Exchanges of the United States Information Agency's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces an open competition for the FREEDOM Support Act (FSA) Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX)program. For applicants' information, on October 1, 1999, the Bureau will become part of the U.S. Department of State. The integration will not affect the content of this announcement or nature of the program described. Public and private non-profit organizations meeting the provisions described in IRS regulation 26 CFR 1.501(c) may submit proposals to recruit and select host families for high school students between the ages of 15 and 17 from the New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union. In addition to identifying schools and screening, selecting, and orienting host families, organizations will be responsible for: orienting students at the local level; providing support services for students; arranging enhancement activities that reinforce program goals; monitoring students during their stay in the U.S.; providing re-entry training; and assessing student performance and progress. The award of grants and the number of students who will participate is subject to the availability of funding in fiscal year 2000.

PROGRAM INFORMATION:

OVERVIEW

Background: Academic year 2000/01 will be the eighth year of

the FSA/FLEX program, which now includes over 7,100 alumni. This component of the NIS Secondary School Initiative was originally authorized under the FREEDOM Support Act of 1992 and is funded by annual allocations from the Foreign Operations and the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs appropriations. The goals of the program are to promote mutual understanding and foster a relationship between the people of the NIS and the U.S.; assist the successor generation of the NIS to develop the qualities it will need to lead in the transformation of those countries in the 21st century; and to promote democratic values and civic responsibility by giving NIS youth the opportunity to live in American society and participate in goal-oriented activities for an academic year.

Objectives:

To place approximately 1,000 pre-selected high school students from the NIS in qualified, well-motivated host families and welcoming schools. To expose program participants to American culture and democracy through homestay experiences and enhancement activities that will enable them to attain a broad view of the society and culture of the U.S. To encourage FSA/FLEX program participants to share their culture, lifestyle and traditions with U.S. citizens. Through participation in the FLEX program, students should:

1. Acquire an understanding of important elements of a civil society. This includes concepts such as volunteerism, the idea that American citizens can and do act at the grass roots level to deal with societal problems, and an awareness of and respect for the rule of law.

2. Acquire an understanding of a free market economy and private enterprise. This includes an awareness of privatization and an appreciation of the role of the entrepreneur in economic growth.

3. Develop an appreciation for American culture.

4. Interact with Americans and generate enduring ties.

5. Teach Americans about the cultures of their home countries.

6. Gain leadership capacity that will enable the initiation and support of development and community activities in their role as program alumni.

Other Components:

Two organizations operating as a consortium have been awarded grants to perform the following functions: recruitment and selection of students; targeted recruitment for students with disabilities; assistance in documentation and preparation of IAP-66 forms; preparation of cross-cultural materials; pre-departure orientation; international travel from home to host community and return; facilitation of ongoing communication between the natural parents and placement organizations, as needed; maintenance of a student database and provision of data to the Bureau; and ongoing follow-up with alumni after their return to the NIS. Additionally, a separate grant will be awarded for a one-week mid-year civic education program in Washington, D.C., for a select number of students who successfully compete for the Washington program. Most of the students with disabilities, as well as a select number of additional students who are identified as needing English language enhancement before entering their host communities, will attend an English enrichment and cultural orientation program in July 2000, conducted under a grant awarded exclusively for that purpose. The announcements of the competitions for these grants will be published separately.

GUIDELINES:

Organizations chosen under this competition are responsible for the following: recruitment, screening, selection, and cultural-specific orientation of host families; school enrollment; local orientation for participants; placement of a small number of students with disabilities; ensuring that all students identified for the pre-academic-year English and cultural enrichment program have their permanent year-long placement by the time they arrive at the English program; specialized training of local staff and volunteers to work with NIS students; preparation and dissemination of materials to students pertaining to the respective placement organization; program-related enhancement activities; supervision and monitoring of students; trouble shooting and periodic reporting on students' progress; when appropriate, communication with the organizations conducting other program components; evaluation of the students' performance; quarterly evaluation of the organization's success in achieving program goals; and re-entry training to prepare students for readjustment to their home environments.

Applicants may request a grant for the placement of at least 20 students. There is no ceiling on the number of students who may be placed by one organization. It is anticipated that 10 to 15 grants will be awarded for this component of the FLEX program. Placements will be distributed throughout the U.S. Students may be clustered in one or more regions or dispersed. If dispersed, applicants should demonstrate that training of local staff ensures their competence in providing NIS-specific orientation programs, appropriate enhancement activities, and quality supervision and counseling of students from the NIS. Please refer to the Solicitation Package, available on request from the address listed below, for details on essential program elements, permissible costs, and criteria used to select students.

Grants should begin at the point that the complete applications on selected finalists are delivered to the placement organizations, no later than March 15, 2000. Participants arrive in their host communities during the month of August and remain for 10 or 11 months until their departure during the period mid-May to late June 2001.

Administration of the program must be in compliance with reporting and withholding regulations for federal, state, and local taxes as applicable. Recipient organizations should demonstrate tax regulation adherence in the proposal narrative and budget.

Applicants should submit the health and accident insurance plans they intend to use for students on this program. The Bureau will compare any external plans with the Bureau's plan and make a determination of which will be applicable.

Participants will travel on J-1 visas issued by the Bureau using a government program number. Organizations must comply with J-1 visa regulations in carrying out their responsibilities under the FLEX program. Please refer to Solicitation Package for further information.

BUDGET GUIDELINES:

Grants awarded to eligible organizations with less than four years of experience in conducting international exchange programs will be limited to $60,000.

Applicants must submit a comprehensive budget for the entire program. Per capita costs should not exceed $4,850. There must be a summary budget as well as breakdowns reflecting both administrative and program budgets. Applicants may provide separate sub-budgets for each program component, phase, location, or activity to provide clarification.

Allowable costs for the program include the following:

1) A monthly stipend and incidentals allowance for participants, as established by the Bureau.

2) Costs associated with student enhancements and orientations.

3) Administrative costs associated with host family recruiting, staff training, monitoring, and other functions.

4) Health and accident insurance.

Please refer to the Solicitation Package for complete budget guidelines and formatting instructions.

 ANNOUNCEMENT TITLE AND NUMBER: All correspondence with the Bureau concerning this RFP should reference the above title and number E/P-00-06.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:

The Office of Youth Programs, E/PE/C/PY, Room 568, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, 301 4th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20547, tel. (202) 619-6299, fax (202) 619-5311, e-mail <amussman@usia.gov> to request a Solicitation Package. The Solicitation Package contains detailed award criteria, required application forms, specific budget instructions, and standard guidelines for proposal preparation. Please specify Bureau Program Officer Anna Mussman on all other inquiries and correspondence.

Please read the complete Federal Register announcement before sending inquiries or submitting proposals. Once the RFP deadline has passed, Bureau staff may not discuss this competition with applicants until the proposal review process has been completed.

TO DOWNLOAD A SOLICITATION PACKAGE VIA INTERNET:

The entire Solicitation Package may be downloaded from the Bureau's website at http://e.usia.gov/education/rfps. Please read all information before downloading.

DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS: All proposal copies must be received at the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs by 5 p.m. Washington, D.C. time on Monday, October 25, 1999. Faxed documents will not be accepted at any time. Documents postmarked the due date but received on a later date will not be accepted. Each applicant must ensure that the proposals are received by the above deadline.

Applicants must follow all instructions in the Solicitation Package. The original and 6 copies of the application should be sent to:

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs
Ref.: E/P-00-06
Office of Program Management, ECA/EX/PM, Room 336
301 4th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20547

DIVERSITY, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY GUIDELINES

Pursuant to the Bureau's authorizing legislation, programs must maintain a non-political character and should be balanced and representative of the diversity of American political, social, and cultural life. "Diversity" should be interpreted in the broadest sense and encompass differences including, but not limited to ethnicity, race, gender, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, and physical challenges. Applicants are strongly encouraged to adhere to the advancement of this principle both in program administration and in program content. Please refer to the review criteria under the >Support for Diversity' section for specific suggestions on incorporating diversity into the total proposal. Public Law 104-319 provides that "in carrying out programs of educational and cultural exchange in countries whose people do not fully enjoy freedom and democracy," the Bureau "shall take appropriate steps to provide opportunities for participation in such programs to human rights and democracy leaders of such countries." Proposals should reflect advancement of this goal in their program contents, to the full extent deemed feasible.

Year 2000 Compliance Requirement (Y2K Requirement)

The Year 2000 (Y2K) issue is a broad operational and accounting problem that could potentially prohibit organizations from processing information in accordance with Federal management and program specific requirements including data exchange with the Bureau. The inability to process information in accordance with Federal requirements could result in grantees' being required to return funds that have not been accounted for properly.

The Bureau therefore requires all organizations use Y2K compliant systems including hardware, software, and firmware. Systems must accurately process data and dates (calculating, comparing and sequencing) both before and after the beginning of the year 2000 and correctly adjust for leap years.

Additional information addressing the Y2K issue may be found at the General Services Administration's Office of Information Technology website at http://www.itpolicy.gsa.gov.

REVIEW PROCESS

The Bureau will acknowledge receipt of all proposals and will review them for technical eligibility. Proposals will be deemed ineligible if they do not fully adhere to the guidelines stated herein and in the Solicitation Package. All eligible proposals will be reviewed by the program office, as well as the Department of State regional authorities and embassies overseas, where appropriate. Eligible proposals will be forwarded to panels of Bureau officers for advisory review. Proposals may also be reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel or by other Department of State entitities. Final funding decisions are at the discretion of the Bureau's Associate Director for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Final technical authority for assistance awards (grants or cooperative agreements) resides with the Bureau Grants Officer.
 
 

REVIEW CRITERIA

Technically eligible applications will be competitively reviewed according to the criteria stated below. These criteria are not rank ordered and all carry equal weight in the proposal evaluation:

1. Quality of the program idea: Proposals should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the Bureau's mission.

2. Program planning: Detailed agenda and relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and logistical capacity, including assurance that all students will be placed in a timely fashion. Agenda and plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above.

3. Ability to achieve program objectives: Objectives should be reasonable and feasible and should coincide with those for the FLEX program stated above. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the institution will meet the program's objectives and plan.

4. Multiplier effect/impact: Proposed programs should strengthen long-term mutual understanding, including maximum sharing of information and establishment of long-term linkages.

5. Support of Diversity: Proposals should demonstrate substantive support of the Bureau's policy on diversity both in host community and family placements and in program content (e.g., orientation, enhancement activities, community service).

6. Institutional Capacity: Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to ensure that all functions are carried out efficiently to achieve the program goals.

7. Institution's Record/Ability: Proposals should demonstrate an institutional record of successful exchange programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past Bureau grants as determined by contracting authorities. The Bureau will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.

8. Project Evaluation: Proposals should include a plan to evaluate the activity's success, both as the activities unfold and at the end of the program. A draft survey questionnaire or other technique plus description of a methodology to use to link outcomes to original project objectives is recommended. Successful applicants will be expected to submit quarterly reports, which should be included as an inherent component of the work plan.

9. Cost-effectiveness: The overhead and administrative components of the proposal, including salaries and honoraria, should be kept as low as possible. All other items should be necessary and appropriate.

10. Cost-sharing: Proposals should maximize cost-sharing through other private sector support as well as institutional direct funding contributions.

AUTHORITY:

Overall grant making authority for this program is contained in the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Public Law 87-256, as amended, also known as the Fulbright-Hays Act. The purpose of the Act is "to enable the Government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries...; to strengthen the ties which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations...and thus to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world." The funding authority for the program above is provided through legislation pertaining to the Bureau and Foreign Operations appropriations.

NOTICE

The terms and conditions published in this RFP are binding and may not be modified by any Bureau representative. Explanatory information provided by the Bureau that contradicts published language will not be binding. Issuance of the RFP does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. The Bureau reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program and the availability of funds. Awards made will be subject to periodic reporting and evaluation requirements.

NOTIFICATION

Final awards cannot be made until funds have been appropriated by Congress, allocated and committed through internal Bureau procedures.
 
 

On October 1, 1999, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will become part of the
U.S. Department of State. Bureau webpages are being updated accordingly. Thank you for your patience.