As the Amazon burned in 2019, the UK government urgently committed more funding to conserving the rainforest. Partnerships for Forests (P4F) was already running a program to accelerate sustainable business and policy solutions that keep the rainforest standing.
Nearing the end of a five-year plan and about to shut down in Latin America, our Client jumped on this opportunity to extend and expand their program. P4F had only two weeks to propose a robust extension strategy and budget to secure additional funding.
In two weeks, we wrote a winning proposal that secured £20M. With this funding, P4F extended their accelerator by two years, expanded into Peru, and mobilized further impact investment into Latin America's most promising social enterprises.
The enormity of the task in the given timeline made for an exhilarating experience. Dividing and conquering tasks, the team kept a tight communications circle and worked closely with one another throughout the two weeks.
Rapid Iteration. The intense writing process called for effective teamwork. Team members frequently cross-reviewed each other's parts, producing quick draft turnovers. Rapid iteration allowed us to write quickly while implementing constant feedback that improved the writing.
Learning Quickly. With no time to interview or speak directly with social enterprises about what additional support they needed most, we began by collecting existing insights from our client team. The team had already learned and noticed a lot from running the program—perhaps informally—and now was the time for us to document it. We searched reports, case studies, and knowledge products for what social enterprises in Latin America had already shown us about impact investment in the region.
Imagining Big. £20M is a big budget. P4F used the opportunity to ‘imagine big’: What could we do with £20M and an extra two years? What have existing timelines and budgets prevented us from doing? We articulated our ambitions and allowed the team to be creative without constraining their imagination.
Developing an Operations Strategy. Next, we needed to develop an operations strategy that matched our impact ambitions with P4F's operational capacity. What resources would we need to realize these big ambitions? That's where the budget came in.
Budget innovation. We needed a budget that was both lean AND flexible. P4F did not have enough time to research, plan or procure (buy) goods and services in advance, meaning we could only provide an estimated budget using many placeholders. Normally, an estimated budget like this is a clear sign of a bad budget; funders prefer a budget with names attached to every $. How do we provide assurance to the funder that the budget will be spent responsibly, while allowing P4F enough flexibility to buy what they need when the time comes?
We proposed a milestone-based payment system and padded the budget with contingencies (buffers) that were acceptable to the funder. We solved worries of both the implementers (P4F) and the funder (UK government) with an innovative solution that considered both their risks.
Extending, Not Restarting. We knew from the start that the extension should act as a continuation and acceleration of the existing program, rather than as an abrupt cut-off. By integrating leftovers from the existing budget and timeline to the future budget and timeline, we developed a plan that would enable a fluid extension. We proposed the existing team as much as possible and used the extra budget to hire new experts to fill the gaps in existing team knowledge.
Latin America & Carribeans