Request for Proposal: Enablement of an Innovation Challenge – Kenya

The ILO is seeking to recruit an individuals/organizations (private-sector actors, NGOs, CSOs, IOs, and youth-led to support the implementation of activities of the ILO PROPSECTS project in Kenya with the goal to:

Identify, assess and select digital entrepreneurs with innovative ideas/ business models that have the potential for scaling and creating a robust digital economy for the refugees and host community in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps while proposing interventions to support enterprises, skills development and promote digital literacy.

1. Context

1.1 Technical context

Kenya’s young population continues to face socio-economic pressures as economic growth has not led to the creation of a sufficient number of (decent) jobs. Consequently, a major challenge currently facing young people in Kenya is youth unemployment, which stood at 38 per cent in 2019 according to the most recent Kenya Population and Housing Census report. Almost one in seven (13.7 per cent) young people in Kenya were Neither in Employment, Education or Training (NEET, SDG Indicator 8.6.1) as of 2016, with young women finding themselves twice as often (18.2 per cent) in this group than young men (9.2 per cent).

At the same time, the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. In recent years, forced displacement has increased in scale and complexity. While forcibly displaced persons face specific vulnerabilities, including psychological trauma, lack of opportunity and protection risks, host communities struggle to pursue their own development efforts in an environment that has been transformed by a large influx of newcomers. The responses to these challenges are becoming more focused on durable solutions to support more dignified, inclusive and comprehensive programmes for refugees and the communities that host them.

The digital economy has emerged as a key driver for the creation of decent jobs especially for Kenya’s youth. The country has adopted the Digital Economy Blue Print of 2019 providing a framework to leverage digital government, digital business, infrastructure, innovation-driven entrepreneurship and digital skills and values. This also presents opportunities for refugees and host community members to access jobs in the digital labour market. Fully harnessing these opportunities requires to improve access to quality education and skills development as well as stimulating labour demand and access to digital labour markets within and beyond refugee camps. For young refugees to benefit from the transformative power of information and communication technologies (ICTs), they must be equipped with a range of digital skills and have affordable access to connectivity. In short, there is a need to change towards the digitization of lifelong learning systems through supporting strategy definition, definition of specific needs for each context and recommendation of solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.

In response to the challenges facing both host communities and refugees, a new partnership initiative titled: PROSPECTS Partnership for improving Prospects for host communities and forcibly displaced persons’, has been launched by the Government of the Netherlands that brings together the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank.

The overall outcome of the PROSPECTS project in Kenya is “improved sustainable living conditions for women, men, girls, and boys in refugees and host communities in Kenya”. This is to be achieved through “increased number of refugees and host community people with enhanced livelihoods and/or employment in safe/decent work”. The employment pillar will trigger the availability of employment services to support transition to work, as well as the labour market demand that is needed to let refugees and host communities’ transition to various forms of employment, and finally, mechanisms to promote enhanced quality of work. Barriers to business start-ups and scale-ups will be identified and addressed to unlock the entrepreneurial potential that exists in the targeted areas. Young refugees and host communities will be supported in accessing employment opportunities in the digital economy through enhancing and digitising local employment services, provision of vocational and career guidance in schools, capacity development of employment service providers as well as offering youth to youth coaching services.

1.2 Operational context of the assignment

Digitalization is rapidly changing the character of work around the world. Technological advances are creating new jobs and opportunities while making others obsolete. New skills are required as old ones expire.

As digital inequalities are becoming more ingrained and insidious, they leave those without resources ever further behind. Digital work can contribute to strong disparities related to geographic location, whereby workers in emerging nations are most affected by uneven Internet connectivity, time zones, language, security, and pay mechanisms. To harness the positive potential of this digital transformation for the future of work and reduce its harmful impact, global action and planning must give more attention to populations that are economically and politically marginalized, such as refugees.

According to UNHCR most refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya originate from Somalia (53%) with other major nationalities being South Sudanese (25%), Congolese (10%), and Ethiopians (5.6%). Persons of concern from other nationalities, including Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi, Uganda and others, make up 6.9 % of the total population (550,817 as of April 2022). Almost half of the refugees in Kenya (43%) reside in Dadaab, 41% in Kakuma and 16% in urban areas (mainly Nairobi), alongside 18,500 stateless persons.

The current digital transformation has far-reaching implications for forcibly displaced persons and many other migrants who are in search of employment and come under pressure to secure a livelihood for themselves and their families. Without coordinated action, a digitized and increasingly cashless future of work poses existential threats to the displaced and uprooted, whose livelihood often depends on informal jobs, who are frequently excluded from access to bank accounts or electronic payment mechanisms, and who must often accept exploitative working conditions in exchange for any kind of income.

In efforts to create an inclusive digital economy for youth in displaced and refugee context in Kenya , the International Labor Organization(ILO) is partnering with different stakeholders to support local digital entrepreneurs in scaling up their startups ideas to actualization and sustainability through incubation, skills development and funding. The youth in Dadaab and Kakuma over time have faced the risk of being excluded from developmental opportunities due to lack of skills and resources that puts them in a competitive edge within the digital economy. Digital innovation solutions within the refugee ecosystem have the potential for scaling while providing new skills and opportunities in the digital economy through engagement in the supply and demands of the global trade.

2. Objective

Technology has always been a driver of productivity and efficiency in enterprises. In the current context, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even more essential for businesses to invest in digital solutions in order to remain competitive.

Digital solutions have the potential to help businesses in a number of ways, from automating processes, marketing and improving communication and collaboration, to delivering skills and training. Digital Solutions also have the potential to help businesses reach new markets and customers, and to grow their productivity. With increased access to digital tools within the context from different players, there has been a gap in skills development and innovation making most refugee led digital businesses not to thrive.

The objective of the innovation challenge (IC) is to identify, assess and select digital solutions providers/digital entrepreneurs with innovative ideas/ business models that have the potential for scaling and creating a robust digital economy for the refugees and host community in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. The innovation challenge will also seek to identify proposed interventions to support enterprises, skills development, promote digital literacy and alleviate child labor.

3. Scope of the Assignment

  • Co-design the concept for an Innovation challenge (IC) with the ILO: The implementing partner will work closely with the ILO and a steering committee to consolidate a concept and work plan for the IC and ensure that it is context-specific. The ILO has initial drafts of a concept and work plan, and the implementing partner will review this draft, propose changes if needed, and use the work plan as a joint working document throughout the implementation of the IC. In the design of the IC, the implementing partner should ensure that the focus remains on both refugees and host communities.
  • Establish partnerships with key actors: The implementing partner will work with the ILO to establish partnerships with key actors, including development partners, financial and business development service providers, key sectoral associations, and government representatives. The role of partners will be to support with logistics for the IC, provide trainings to Innovators, promote the IC, contribute prizes, and act as judges across the different categories. While the ILO has a list of potential partners, it is expected that the implementing partner is also able to mobilize partner networks effectively.
  • Co-develop selection criteria and judging criteria: The implementing partner will support in establishing selection and judging criteria, together with the ILO and the steering committee. The selection criteria should prioritize job creation and job quality improvements, productivity gains, and innovative solutions. At this stage, award sizes and prizes should also be confirmed.
  • Promote the IC, establish application process and shortlist participants: The implementing partner will launch communications and sensitization around the IC to allow ample time for participants to apply. The Implementing partner will coordinate application processes from innovators, and then short-list participants based on the agreed-upon criteria. The application process should be simple and accessible to refugees and members of host communities. Applicants should be able to enter their submissions through a variety of channels that may include applying in-person, by phone, through an email account set up by the project, or through a partner organization providing digital services, financial and non-financial services.
  • Collaborate with ILO to support Innovators: The implementing partner will coordinate the provision of support to Innovators as they get ready to pitch their business ideas. This will include facilitating access to financial education and entrepreneurship and cooperative management trainings using the ILO’s trainer networks and tools, either through the Implementing Partner directly, or by establishing collaborations and contracts with service providers and trainers.
  • Organize IC: The Implementing Partner will lead the logistics for organising the IC, including in terms of venue bookings, agenda, coordination of the day(s) and award-giving, in close collaboration with the ILO.
  • Conduct due diligence: The Implementing Partner will conduct due diligence to ensure viability of businesses that are short-listed and winners of the IC, in collaboration with the steering committee.
  • Disburse funds: The Implementing Partner will coordinate and oversee the disbursement of funds to winners of the IC, as agreed upon with the steering committee and the ILO.
  • Provide ongoing technical support and conduct M&E: The Implementing Partner will continue to facilitate access to needed business development and financial services, including through the provision of coaching, mentorships and other forms of post-training support. The Implementing Partner will also conduct monitoring and evaluation, collecting information on business growth and impact in terms of jobs created and/or improved as a result of the interventions and collect lessons learned and success stories, in close collaboration with the ILO

4. Outputs, Deliverables, duration and fees

4.1 Expected outputs

  • A validated innovation challenge concept-note to be actualized in identifying innovative digital solutions within Dadaab and Kakuma.
  • Plan and execute the innovation challenge as per the agreed methodology.
  • Identifying digital solutions that can be scaled to sustainability and greater impact through funding, incubation and skills development.

4.2 Key Deliverables

The main deliverables of this engagement are as below:

1. A reviewed and validated innovation challenge concept and a call to application with selection guidelines.

2. Innovation challenge approved budget and activity plan.

3. Mapped out innovation challenge guest/judges list and executional cadence. Call for application and communications done for both the guest/judges and participants.

4. A comprehensive shortlisting of innovators who have showed interest to be part of the innovation challenge

5. Hosted innovation challenge event based on the approved concept note and winners identified.

6. Post innovation challenge support – Awarding, Incubation and skills development.

Deviations from these deliverables can occur according to the evolution of the assignment; however, any changes observed or anticipated should be consulted with the focal person at the ILO.

A comprehensive report will be documented showcasing the key activities done and areas of improvement for future events.

5. Payment Terms

The ILO will only pay for services that have been performed and for deliverables that are successfully completed to the satisfaction of the ILO. The payments will be made according to the following schedule:

  • The first payment of 30 per cent of the contract volume will be made upon signing of the contract and receipt of deliverables 1 and 2 to the satisfaction of the ILO and presentation of the invoice.
  • The second payment of 50 per cent of the contract volume will be made upon receipt of deliverables 3 and 4 to the satisfaction of the ILO and presentation of the invoice.
  • The third and final payment of 20 per cent of the contract volume will be made upon receipt of deliverables 5 and 6 to the satisfaction of the ILO and presentation of the invoice.

6. Staffing, Roles, and Reporting

ILO will require from time to time based on agreed timelines comprehensive reports to highlighting work done. Reports will be reviewed to ensure conformance with ILO operations before acceptance.

The implementing partner will operate under the overall supervision of The ILO Chief Technical Advisor and will report directly to the Digital Skills Specialist at ILO HQ in Geneva. The ILO Kenya PROSPECTS team will offer technical support and will coordinate closely with the Regional Skills and Employment Specialist of PROSPECTS program, Skills Digitalization specialist at HQ, the Youth Employment Officer at the Regional Office for Africa and the Decent Work Skills specialist at Pretoria to facilitate mainstreaming and standardization of the approach across the project.

7. Specific Clauses

Throughout the course of this assignment, the implementing partner will report on a weekly basis to the ILO for coordination and follow–up. All communication to other relevant stakeholders should be coordinated with the ILO. If it appears necessary to modify the tasks of work or exceed the time allocated, the implementing partner must discuss the circumstances with the ILO and obtain prior written approval. ILO may disclose the draft or final documents and/or any related information to any person and for any purpose the ILO may deem appropriate.

8. Required experience and qualifications

  • The Implementing Partner should have at least 6 years of experience running innovation challenges with a strong record of accomplishment in creating and executing digital and innovative solutions that have proved to be sustainable in youth employment and decent earning within and without the displaced ecosystems such as Garissa and Turkana.
  • Should be legally registered to operate in Kenya (for businesses) with a good standing with all statutory laws and regulations.
  • Sound knowledge of the current trends in the digital innovation space with a key interest in initiation, skills development management and scaling.
  • Previous experience in planning and facilitating innovation challenges and skills development with young innovators with a special focus on girls and the underprivileged population.
  • Should have a robust technical execution team/s who can comfortably engage in a rapid assessment and offer solutions based on dynamics in a short time within the digital economy space.
  • Should have a wide network of digital entrepreneurs, companies, individuals and NGOs within the digital innovation space.
  • Experience working in Garissa and Turkana ecosystems will be an added advantage
  • Knowledge of the local context, culture and language is an added advantage however official language within the area is English & Swahili – Knowledge in any other local dialect is a plus
  • Experience handling insecure environments with sound negotiation skills

For more information on the application/bidding process follow the link below

wcms_867007.pdf (

How to apply

Interested individuals/organizations (private-sector actors, NGOs, CSOs, IOs, and youth-led organizations) should submit their expression of interest to, E- mail: to reach no later than midnight 4th November 2022 EAT Quoting “Consultancy for the enablement of the innovation challenge” Consortiums of two or more organizations are encouraged. The application should include:

  • Technical proposal (5-7 pages) outlining key considerations for organizing an Innovation Challenge and proposing a timeline.
  • Proof of having conducted similar activities (recommendations from previous client, sample documents, reports).
  • Financial proposal, clearly delineating proposed award sizes and number of awards. Financial proposals that can demonstrate additional resource mobilization and cost-sharing will have an advantage.
  • CVs of key personnel who would be working on this assignment
  • Cover letter (max. 2page) outlining relevant experience with similar assignments

The application deadline is 15th February 2023 (East African Time; GMT+3).

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