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Call for Research Proposals: Evidence-based Financial Solutions for Women Entrepreneurs (Applications Closed)

Deadline to submit applications: 31 August 2020, 23:59 ICT

Application Calendar

  • Posting date: 24/7/2020
  • Deadline to submit questions: 21/08/2020
  • Final deadline for applications: 31/08/2020 23:59 ICT

For any questions regarding the application process, please send inquiries to: [email protected]

Applicants are encouraged to first read the Call for Research Proposals Guidelines. Applications must follow the submission format as outlined in the Proposal Application Form and Budget Proposal.

Applications must be returned to ESCAP by email to [email protected] no later than 31 August 2020, 23:59 ICT. Please do not send files larger than 10 MB.


United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is issuing a Call for Research Proposals to undertake human centered design inspired research. The research should explore the nuanced challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in accessing financing at different stages of their enterprise journey and offer solutions to those challenges. The end objective of this applied research is to identify innovative financial solutions that can be developed or tailored to best address the needs and demands of women entrepreneurs.

The research outcome should address gaps in knowledge and improve the understanding of the business environment and financial constraints facing women entrepreneurs’ access and usage of financial services, in at least one of the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa and/or Viet Nam.

The research findings will be used to inform the design of private sector solutions that enhance different groups of women entrepreneurs’ access and use of financial services, as well as inspire replication of proposed solutions in the market. Additionally, the research will be made publicly available to contribute to the body of literature on barriers women enterprises face in accessing finance.

Research Approach

ESCAP encourages human centered design inspired research and welcomes applicants to devise innovative partnerships, strategies and alternative data collection approaches to gain granular demand-side insights from women entrepreneurs and validate these findings. For example innovative partnerships could consist of universities or non-profits, partnered with telecommunication service providers, financial service providers or other relevant institutions.

It is important for applicants to consider cost effective, timely, yet robust methodologies for data collection. These can include but are not limited to big data analysis, lean data methodologies with enabling technologies such as SME or computer-assisted telephone interviewing, etc.

Applicant Benefits

Successful applications will receive:

  • Up to US$ 25,000 in funding to undertake the research;
  • Support from ESCAP’s Research Technical Advisory Group, which will provide technical advice in research design and peer reviews of the research outputs;
  • Publication of the research, subject to United Nations standards and publication guidelines;
  • The chance for the research to inform the design of private sector financial solutions for women entrepreneurs.


Applicants are encouraged to create coalitions and partnerships to undertake the research. The lead applicant, must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Not-for-profit organization
  • Government entity
  • United Nations entity or multi-lateral organization
  • Individual researcher

Private sector institutions are also encouraged to apply, however must partner with one of the 4 categories of eligible “lead partners” listed above. The private sector applicant must therefore be a partner to the lead applicant.

Geographic Scope of Research

Applicants can be based anywhere globally, however the research must focus on women entrepreneurs in one or several of the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa and/or Viet Nam. No other geographic coverage will be considered for funding.

While applicants can be based anywhere globally. It is encouraged that applicants who apply from countries other than 6 target countries, partner with a local institution.

Application Guidelines

Before applying please download the Call for Research Proposals Guidelines, which provides full details on the application process and requirements.

It is also suggested to review the Background Note which provides information on the key challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the respective countries and highlights research gaps and sample research questions.


Please download and complete the following documents as part of the application process:

  1. Proposal Application Template
  2. Budget Proposal
  3. Annex 1: Submission Confirmation Letter

Applications must follow the submission format as outlined in the Proposal Application Template and Budget Proposal template.

Please also ensure that the following annexes are submitted with the application (no template has been provided for these documents and the applicant is welcome to use any format):

Annex 2 – Resume/CV’s of all project team members involved in the project

Annex 3 – Proof of the organization’s not-for-profit status (if applicable)

Annex 4 – Partner institution letter of intent (if applicable)

Additional Information

The winning applicant is expected to sign a Letter of Agreement (Grant Agreement) with ESCAP or in the case of individual applicants, the individual will enter into a consulting agreement. A sample of the ESCAP Agreement Terms and Conditions for Letters of Agreement has been made available and a sample of the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants or Individual Contractors has also been made available.


This research call is part of the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on STI Policy (ARTNET on STI Policy). ARTNET on STI Policy is the knowledge platform on science, technology and innovation policies for sustainable development. By means of research, information dissemination and capacity building, ARTNET on STI provides guidance on STI policies to researchers and policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship

The Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship project is a five-year initiative, aimed at addressing three key overarching barriers faced by women entrepreneurs: (1) enabling policy environment and regulatory challenges, (2) access to finance, and (3) use of information and communication technologies (ICT) by women entrepreneurs. Overall, the project aims to crowd-in investment capital, competition and innovation, and increase the range and reach of services supporting women entrepreneurs.

The project is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.