Note from the IEDP Blog manager: all IEDP students are required to take Proseminar. This course, which is currently split across two semesters, equips us with a critical lens to the field of development, provides professional development opportunities, and has projects reflective of those that we will need to produce in our future careers. In the following blog post, first-year IEDP student Soumya Mittal reflects on her thought process about the fall semester project: a technical proposal.

On the first day of our IEDP Proseminar, we were introduced to the concept of technical proposal; I was nervous, apprehensive and slightly eager. We were expected to produce a 25-page document in groups of six. The drafting process would include reflection and feedback for us to learn and improve. At the end of the semester, we were to present our proposal to the entire faculty of IEDP. The task ahead seemed difficult and daunting.

A technical proposal is a customary and prevalent document in the field of development work. Donor organizations send out requests for proposals in order to decide where to channel their funding while working towards a particular goal. The technical proposal is to maintain fidelity to the request and fulfill all the requirements set forward by the organizations. The proposal is a crucial document that determines whether a development organization can be successful in securing the funding necessary to undertake its project.

In the beginning, as we were exposed to new jargon and technical demands of a proposal, most people in our cohort were anxious about the project. There were worries ranging from working in large groups to writing a high-quality paper. Most of us had not had prior experience in development work. How do we begin to write a professional-level proposal when we are completely new to the process?

Along with the subliminal dread, there was also a hint of excitement in learning something new that we could actually use in our professional work in the future. As the groups were formed and the initial meetings were conducted, with time most of our anxiety quickly turned into enthusiasm.

The joy of seeing our project coming to life.

The most fun part during the drafting stage was conceptualising our project idea. (No spoiler as the goal of the request for proposals changes every year.) We were asked to create a project where we used innovative technology to improve reading scores of children in early grades. There were so many possibilities! We had to make decisions starting from the region to focus on to the technology we should integrate. The creative process of bouncing our ideas off of each other and coming to a consensus was magical.

The actual process of writing the proposal was continual and iterative. Reading the donor organization’s 99-page request for proposals over and over again to make sure that all the bases were being covered was exacting. One of the most challenging parts was maintaining alignment and agreement between the sections. However, working collaboratively and always communicating with each other were the keys to successful group work.

From the cover page of the final draft of our technical proposal.

As we made constant changes and frequently revisited our proposal, I could see a very clear progression and improvement in the document. The sections involved application of our learnings from our classes. The writing, while definitely a challenge, was also a great learning process. As this process came to a close with a presentation on the last day of Proseminar, I was left with a sense of achievement and pride.

A proud end to a challenging process.