Call for proposals: Managing organizations for regional research networks to foster an inclusive and sustainable future of work

Call for proposals: Managing organizations for regional research networks to foster an inclusive and sustainable future of work

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is pleased to announce a call for full proposals as part of the FutureWORKs initiative, for the selection of regional research hubs intended to develop and lead a regional research network to advance skills and policies for an inclusive and sustainable future of work.

This call is a joint initiative of the Education and Science and the Sustainable Inclusive Economies programs. It seeks to leverage past IDRC investments on challenges in the Future of Work, Women’s Economic Empowerment and skills development to create a multi-regional initiative supporting innovation research to advance skills for the future of work and promote decent work.

Indicative research questions 

The following are indicative of the types of research questions and activities that are in scope. Proponents should identify context-relevant priorities in their proposal: 

On understanding the drivers and impacts of changing labour markets for those most vulnerable amid climate and digitalization/technological transformation: 

  • In what sectors/occupations are job tasks changing rapidly, why and to what effect?  
  • How does platformization impact structural barriers for gender equality such as the care economy, and how it can be leveraged to accelerate change towards the 5Rs? 
  • What role does AI have in reshaping the future of work in highly informal economies, and in environments where the majority of SMEs operate in analog? 
  • What are the skills needs of women, youth and marginalized groups in a low carbon development trajectory in different local jurisdictions? 

On examining the role of education and training to inclusively and adequately prepare for/anticipate labour market needs: 

  • What is the role and potential for informal and formal education programs and policies, including but not limited to, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in large-scale institutional strategies for skilling and reskilling? 

On supporting policy frameworks informed by regionally contextually evidence: 

  • What new skill sets, policy frameworks, and regulations are needed to promote quality and secure jobs and enhance economic mobility in the face of climate and technological transformations. How are they gendered in their acquisition? 
  • For example, how can social protection systems be adapted and leveraged to respond to changing forms of work and ensure effective protections for the most vulnerable workers, including those in transition and seizing new opportunities? 
  • What are the critical knowledge gaps around impacts of low carbon policy options on inclusion, in terms of the impacts on women, youth and marginalized groups?

Indicative scope of work for regional research hubs 

We are seeking two hubs in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) - one to cover Eastern and Southern Africa and one to cover West and Central Africa - and one each in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Through a ‘hub and spoke’ model, critical issues in the creation of skills development systems that enhance economic mobility and future readiness/adaptability will be defined by region to ensure contextual grounding.  

Hub leads will be selected as sole grant recipient by IDRC. The lead will take responsibility for sub granting to other organizations in a timely manner. Hubs will design and launch calls for proposals that respond to thematic and regional realities, building on the body of IDRC-supported evidence and the proposed research questions above. Competitive projects selected will be funded and managed by the hubs in each region. In preparation for the development of calls for proposals, IDRC will host a workshop with all selected regional research hubs to create alignment in the process and support hubs to finalize their methods for soliciting proposals.

Hubs are expected to select sub-grantees, on a competitive basis, that propose innovative and gender responsive research initiatives to advance skills and quality of future of work. Intersectional gender approaches are expected to be central to the design of regional research networks and the research questions, with the objective of centering the analysis on excluded or underserved groups. 

Primary hub responsibilities include: 

  • Help shape an initiative-wide theory of change, including objectives, expected outcomes and outputs, and monitor against indicators. Hubs will be invited to generate a proposed workplan and a theory of change.  
  • Develop and manage an open call for proposals to select and fund applied research projects that address the initiative’s objectives and respond to regional priorities.   
  • Manage selected projects of up to 4 years, providing technical and administrative support, and ensuring project monitoring.  Support all initiative-related activities during its 5 years.  
  • Ensure quality control of the research generated by network members, providing support and guidance to enhance quality and positioning for use. 
  • Ensure that gender analysis is incorporated in all aspects of the applied research projects and throughout the project cycle, including securing multidisciplinary expertise and gender diversity in teams.  
  • Foster a network among selected teams within and across regional hubs, ensuring knowledge exchange and cross-collaboration.  
  • Support strategic positioning of results with key decisionmakers, including synthesis efforts, participating in and organizing key engagement opportunities throughout the lifecycle of the initiative, not just at the end.  
  • Ensure proper monitoring of projects, both technical and financial, report progress to IDRC, and contribute to an initiative-level monitoring and learning framework. If external evaluations are commissioned, hubs are expected to actively contribute to this process.   

The above are essential elements of the role of each regional research hub, but each hub will develop a comprehensive scope of work that reflects the initiative priorities, as well as the hubs expertise, interests and regional and thematic needs. As stated, an initiative-level theory of change will be developed collaboratively by all members. The desire of hubs is to build cohesion across projects and ensure that they establish cross-links building to more than the sum of individual project results.

The hubs will be expected to work with each other, facilitating and participating in knowledge sharing and peer learning opportunities, and participating in strategic engagement opportunities as they arise.  As part of the initiative, a knowledge translation, monitoring and learning organization(s) will be selected to support this function across hubs and help advance uptake and learning efforts for the whole initiative. Hubs will also be expected to facilitate the production, communication and marketing of research outputs stemming from the network and ensure research publication in appropriate venues in accordance with IDRC’s Open Access Policy.  

Funding and duration 

Regional research hubs can submit budget requests of up to a maximum of CAD1,700,000. 

IDRC is expecting to fund 5 regional research hubs, depending on quality, in the following regions: Asia, sub-Saharan Africa (2), MENA and LAC. The initiative’s duration is a maximum of 5 years, including all research activities and final reporting. 

IDRC reserves the right to fund additional proposals from this call if/when more funding becomes available.

IDRC is under no obligation to issue any funds prior to the applicant returning a fully executed Grant Agreement to IDRC. 

All grants are subject to sufficient funds being made available to IDRC by the Parliament of Canada. 

IDRC reserves the right to cancel this call for proposals at any time without prior notice and/or to not issue any grants under this process. 

Eligibility criteria 

Only full proposals that meet the eligibility criteria will be considered. The following eligibility criteria apply: 

  • This call invites proposals from individual organizations or consortiums headquartered in LMICs in the respective region (MENA, LAC, Asia, SSA). If taking a consortium approach, it must be composed of organizations working in the regions of focus.   
  • This call for proposals is open to non-profit research organizations and higher education institutions. Consortia may involve government and UN agencies, but these partners are not eligible to be the lead institution or to have salary costs included. This call is not open to individuals. 
  • International organizations with offices in LMICs playing a leadership role in this proposal are eligible. 
  • A demonstrated track record leading and supporting high quality research in the FOW field, through a strong publication record. 
  • Demonstrated knowledge of regional priorities in the FOW field is a must. 
  • Proven high capacity to support networks or partners, including demonstrated experience fostering knowledge exchange and learning opportunities, both virtually and in person.  
  • Demonstrated experience through a record of publication in conducting gender analysis and ensuring the integration of gender, equity, and inclusion considerations in all project activities.  
  • Proven administrative capacities, including demonstrated expertise in managing research projects, ability to disburse funding to other organizations and in different countries.  
  • Ability to work in English and the working languages of the region (e.g., Spanish for LAC, French for West and Central Africa) at a minimum. Other languages are considered an asset. 
  • Applicants must have independent legal status (or “legal personality”) and be capable of contracting in their own right and name, receiving and administering funds, and have authority to direct proposed project activities. Applicants must be able to demonstrate legal status through written documentation. Legal status will only be reviewed if and when applicants are selected following technical selection.  
  • Only complete applications are eligible.  

For more informeation about the call and the submission process, please visit:

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