by Ugo Trivellato
“Among the wealth of applications received, two are eligible but there is funding only for one. Which one do we select and how do we decide, since the projects are so different?”
This is the scenario grant-making institutions, like foundations, may be called to face if their scope of activity is not clearly defined: applications may cover such a vast range of sectors that no reasonable criteria could help compare them and reach a decision.
Significantly, it is also a scenario that is rather infrequent for grant-making entities and foundations. In order to prevent such occurrences and to ensure effective selection procedures, areas of interest are identified in advance, along with relevant objectives and action programs. The programs are then implemented by awarding grants to subjects that meet specific eligibility criteria through calls for proposals.
The process follows a well-defined pattern in terms of scope, objectives and implementation instruments that include the call itself. It is the notice that sets out the field and the aims of the program, that indicates eligible applicants, that lists project requirements and documents that need to be submitted: these are all part of a call’s selection criteria.
The selection process is based on a number of factors that will be evaluated in order to award funding to the most suitable applicant. The relevant program and the call serve to identify eligible proposals, placing all candidates on the same footing. Awarding a grant through a call is a matter of meeting certain criteria, in which no personal bias comes into play.
Clearly, selection criteria vary depending on the program the call refers to and on specific requirements of the institution that launched the call. Generally, they refer to the project itself - particularly its expected outcome - and to the applicant - its reliability and relevant past experiences.
What is more, no call is an end in itself. It is always followed by another call, in the same field, under the same program or a similar one. Therefore every selection becomes a learning opportunity to improve future selections and to assess the criteria adopted in each instance. It is this learning exercise, rather than any norms or rules, that can truly contribute to improving the quality and the transparency of selection procedures.
Ugo Trivellato is Professor Emeritus of Economic Statistics at the University of Padua, where he worked as Full Professor from 1980 to 2010. His main areas of research concern the impact of public policy, measuring and analysing work and unemployment, structural models and measurement systems in social science.
He is senior research fellow at IRVAPP, research fellow AT CESifo and IZA, and a member of Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti.
His most recent publications include Sono soldi ben spesi? Perché e come valutare l’efficacia delle politiche pubbliche (with A. Martini, Marsilio, 2011) on public policy effectiveness and Generazioni disuguali. Le condizioni di vita dei giovani di ieri e di oggi: un confronto (with A. Schizzerotto and N. Sartor, a cura di, il Mulino, 2011) on youth employment. In 2005 he won the Ezio Tarantelli award for his research in labour economics.