We do not live in a perfect world, nor have we chosen to be professionals in a perfect industry. Collectively, strive as we might to make things fair, balanced, transparent and, dare I say it, logical, there still remain a few unsavory potholes that need to be filled. This category of posts is dedicated to identifying those potholes, and helping to (mostly) come to terms with their existence and navigate around them.
I’ll start with my personal favorite: the bid black hole.
I have yet to meet anyone with a decent amount of experience in development and humanitarian aid who has not experienced a scenario along these lines:
- You find a legitimate opportunity, posted from a legitimate and reputable donor, agency, international NGO or similar body.
- You review the opportunity, take the time to evaluate your chances, and ultimately take the decision to “go for it”.
- You confirm your intention to submit a proposal to your procurement contact, and receive a response.
- You participate in the question and answer session (either personally or virtually).
- You devote considerable staff time and energy to developing your proposal, putting together your consulting team, getting partners in place, fine-tuning a budget that’s realistic, and sweating over the details of a highly specific technical response.
- You triple-check your work and submit your proposal, on time and in the proper format to the correct procurement contact …
… and then … nothing happens. And I mean nothing. At. All.
As you would in any normal procurement process, after a few weeks you follow up with your procurement contact via email. Even though he or she was highly responsive during proposal development, you receive no reply.
Frustrated, a short time later, you call in to the procurement department. Surprisingly, you’re never able to get someone on the phone who has any information about the tender you have submitted for, nor are they able to direct you to anyone who can.
Some of us, who’ve been here before, shrug our shoulders and move on. Others, more tenacious, at this stage attempt to contact bosses of bosses (I’ve seen someone go as high as director of a department in a UN agency) to try to get information about the tender, and more important, the status of the proposal.
But you never hear anything. Your proposal has officially fallen into the bid black hole, never to return.
I don’t have even a poor reason for why this phenomenon exists. Though of course we all want to win new business, at a certain point all we are really looking for is confirmation of a “rejected” bid, so we can close the book on the opportunity within our pipeline and move on. But, exist it does, and I’m sure each of us has fallen victim to it more times than we care to admit.
That don’t make it right.
Do you have something about the business of doing development or aid work that you think “just ain’t right”? Let me know in the comments below!