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BRIEF September 10, 2018

Using Results Based Financing to Improve Literacy and Learning Outcomes


Photo: Khasar Sandag / World Bank

Results in Education for All Children (REACH) Trust Fund Call for Proposals – currently open to World Bank staff only



Approximately 400 million primary school-aged children around the world are unable to read proficiently. Evidence from many contexts shows that effective access and use of textbooks and reading materials is one of the highest impact and most cost-effective ways of improving literacy and raising learning outcomes in developing countries. Yet many children do not have access to the reading materials they need to master basic literacy because of a lack of content in appropriate languages, inflated costs, inefficient supply chains and ineffective use of books for improving early grade learning outcomes. Tackling these issues will be critical to support the Sustainable Development Goal of all youth achieving basic literacy and numeracy skills by 2030.

Call for Proposals

REACH, the World Bank’s trust fund on results-based financing (RBF) in education, in collaboration with the Global Book Alliance (GBA), is inviting proposals that support improvements in early grade literacy through the use of results-based financing to strengthen book delivery systems. The call is targeted to World Bank teams with existing or pipeline activities that focus on early grade learning and include textbook and/or reading material components. It will provide financial support over three years of between $500,000 and $1 million per grant and expects to fund a maximum of four grants.

Objectives of the Call

The initiative aims to encourage innovation to improve early grade literacy, support reforms to improve the functioning of the book supply chain and ultimately provide quality books to children at reasonable cost and in languages they understand. It supports efforts to improve the availability of books to all children and build understanding of how to use results-based financing to strengthen book availability and use.

The book chain includes a) book development; b) book forecasting; c) book access and availability; d) procurement; e) supply chain management and distribution; f) book utilization to improve literacy; and g) monitoring and evaluation (including the collection and use of data).

Ensuring that books are distributed to all children and used effectively requires:

  • Tackling the systemic bottlenecks to strengthen book demand and supply systems to guarantee access to and effective use of books;
  • Developing financing mechanisms, including results-based financing, to ensure system effectiveness and sustainability;
  • Better information systems to monitor and evaluate book delivery and utilization.

The initiative will support activities that aim to tackle constraints along the different stages of the book chain in ways that lead to sustainable system level changes. A summary of the major challenges, including a set of country case studies, and examples of possible RBF approaches to address them can be found here and here. Examples of past REACH grantees can be found here.

Activities Supported Under the Initiative

REACH funding will be made available for programs that strengthen the book chain through results based financing. Results-based financing refers to any program or intervention that provides rewards upon the credible, independent verification of an achieved result. Rewards can be directed to ministries, provinces, districts or service providers such as publishers, printers and supply chain providers (supply side) and program beneficiaries such as students, teachers or their schools (demand side). Incentives and the associated rewards can be applied at a national level (government program level, e.g. to incentivize government to transform its book supply chain) or at a specific intervention level (e.g. to incentivize more effective use of existing books in classrooms).

It is expected that funds will support:

  • Analytical and advisory services to identify bottlenecks and RBF approaches to tackle them (e.g. analysis of weaknesses in book chain and assistance to identify interventions to tackle them).
  • Development and consultation of a comprehensive plan to strengthen associated systems through results-based financing.
  • Support for the implementation of programs and interventions that strengthen aspects of the book chain through results-based financing.
  • Support to strengthen systems to provide information necessary to develop results-based financing mechanisms.
  • Nimble impact evaluations (e.g. evaluations using existing data sources) to monitor and test different approaches to tackling bottlenecks, allowing for greater flexibility for course correction during implementation.
  • ICT and digital interventions that increase efficiencies along the book chain.

Eligibility requirements

REACH will consider proposals from World Bank teams with existing or pipeline activities that include textbook and/or reading material components. Grants will be provided to countries with the following characteristics:

  • Poor early grade reading outcomes, particularly in underserved languages.
  • Focus on textbooks and/or supplemental books for reading instruction and practice in underserved languages.
  • Low-income, lower middle-income, and/or categorized as fragile or conflict affected.
  • Demonstrated government and development partner commitment to strengthening the book chain to increase the availability and use of good quality books in early childhood and early grades of primary school.

Applications must focus on the pre-primary to basic education levels for reading instruction and practice (consider textbooks, decodable books for reading practice, leveled books etc.) although proposals will preferably be applicable to other types of textbooks and supplementary books as well. While the definition of ‘primary grade’ varies across countries, for the purposes of this call primary grade reading books include early childhood through grades/levels 1-3.

Evaluation Criteria

Successful proposals will:

  • demonstrate an ability to work with country governments to support sustainable system-wide reforms.
  • demonstrate the potential of the proposed activities to support   existing or planned country programs.
  • articulate a clear role for results-based financing, at the program and/or intervention level, in tackling identified constraints.
  • demonstrate a clear pathway between proposed activities and system level change. This should include how activities will strengthen the book chain and lead to improved early grade learning outcomes.
  • have a strong country level focus. Regional initiatives will be considered but will need to demonstrate how they will work at the country level.
  • demonstrate the proposals contribution to the evidence base on results-based financing.
  • include expected collaboration with at least one other development agency (e.g. USAID, GPE, NORAD) and/or NGO working in this area.
  • provide a series of knowledge products over the lifetime of the grant.
  • require Practice Manager approval and support.

It is expected that a set of minimum performance indicators/guidelines for linking financing to results along different parts of the book chain would be developed as part of proposals.

Eligible Expenditures

The Trust Fund funds may be used to finance:

  • Associated Overheads
  • Consultants Fees Individuals with Indirect Costs and Firms
  • Contractual Services
  • Equipment and Office Premises Lease Cost
  • Equipment Purchased (including reading materials)
  • Extended Term Consultants - with Indirect Costs
  • Media, Workshops, Conference and Meeting
  • Staff Costs - with Indirect Costs
  • Temporary Support Staff Costs - with Indirect Costs
  • Travel Expenses

Application Process

Approximately, 3-4 applicants will be selected by the REACH Review Committee (and approved by the World Bank Technical Review Committee) with an intent to award if they continue to meet all the selection criteria and fulfill all the required steps.

This call for proposals includes a multi-step process:

Step 1: Complete the Application in Word and Upload it Online

This step is only open to World Bank teams
, who must complete and upload the statement of interest and a description of the proposed activity.

Step 2: Participate in Support Activities and Draft Full Concept Note

If you are selected to proceed to the next round (and receive an intent to award), the review committee, at their discretion, may require an additional technical assistance round to further develop the proposed RBF mechanism(s). This may include an in-person consultation and/or a webinar. At this stage all applicants will begin drafting the full proposal.

Step 3: Plan In-country Pre-award Workshop and Submit Final Concept Note

All grantees will be required to work collaboratively with the REACH team to plan an in-country pre-award workshop. The goal of this workshop is to finalize, with stakeholder contribution, the full concept note.

The proposal will be submitted for approval to the REACH Review Committee and the World Bank Technical Review Committee.


September 10, 2018

Application open

October 1, 2018

Application deadline

November 2018

Notification of intent to award

December 2018

Full concept note draft

January 2019

Finalize planning and design for in-country workshops

January – February 2019

In-country workshops (Final proposals due two weeks after workshop)

February –  March 2019

Approval of final concept notes

February –  March 2019 and onwards

Funds Available/Project Implementation Begins

January 2022

Grants and Activities Completed