2017 Research & Engagement | Request for Proposals

2017 Research & Engagement

Thank you for your interest in the 2017 Rural Futures Institute Research & Engagement Awards Program. As it is after 4:00 pm CST on Wednesday, March 15, we are no longer accepting proposal submissions.

  • Up to four awards will be made with $75,000 maximum per award.
  • The project time period will not exceed 24 months.

If you have questions about the submission process, please contact Kim Peterson at kpeterson@nebraska.edu or call 402-472-9287.

The University of Nebraska is committed to establishing a transformative Rural Futures Institute (RFI). RFI's vision, mission and core values are the fundamental underpinnings for this request for proposals.


RFI will be a locally, nationally and internationally recognized leader focused on increasing community capacity as well as the hope and confidence of rural people to address their challenges and opportunities, resulting in resilient and sustainable futures.


Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, the RFI mobilizes the diverse resources of the University of Nebraska and its partners to support rural communities and regions in building upon their unique strengths and assets to achieve their desired futures.

Core Values

The work commissioned and supported by RFI must be guided by the Institute’s core values:
  • Bold
  • Transdisciplinary
  • Innovative
  • Agile
  • Collaborative
  • Reflective
The purpose of RFI Competitive Awards is to foster the development of research and engagement work that addresses critical challenges and opportunities facing rural areas. These awards are to function as “seed grants” that are designed to lay the foundation for grant requests to funding sources external to the University of Nebraska or sustainable funding through other mechanisms such as fees and contracts. Although all of the core values underpin the RFI Competitive Awards program, successful proposals must explicitly address transdisciplinary and collaborative considerations both internal and external to the University. Transdisciplinary research uses a strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. Additionally, if RFI is to be successful, it must create an environment in which deep and meaningful collaborative partnerships are the norm: across campuses; across departments and disciplines; and with external stakeholders such as other non-University campuses, communities, state and local government, trade associations, civic groups and the philanthropic community. Proposals that demonstrate meaningful multi-campus and appropriate disciplinary collaborations will score more favorably. These collaborative partnerships are the essence of engaged research or “engagement.” Engaged research establishes reciprocal relationships of mutual respect and understanding. The mindset and attitude must be one of doing research “with the community,” rather than doing research “for the community” or “to the community.” Finally, proposals are expected to be innovative and bold in their proposed action, partnerships and outcomes. It is important to note that the issues facing rural areas include economic considerations but not to the exclusion of other equally important considerations. Basic human services such as health care and education present both challenges and opportunities to rural people and places. Even broader considerations are the natural environment and the civic, cultural, design and artistic aspect of human and community development that cannot easily be counted and measured, nor justified only in terms of economic returns. RFI Competitive Awards encourages proposals in which progress and viability are defined by the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental considerations.
  • University faculty and staff as well as Nebraska community members and non-NU higher education faculty/staff are welcome to apply; however, either the Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) must be affiliated with NU and take responsibility for administering the award funds.
  • Collaboration with partners external to the University of Nebraska is strongly encouraged.
  • An individual may serve as the PI for only one proposal but may serve as a (co-PI) on one or more proposals.
Proposals will be reviewed by a panel that will include both academic and non-academic representation. This panel will prioritize applications for funding based upon the criteria provided in Sections V and IX of this RFP. Final approval of proposals to be funded will be made by the Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute.
  1. Potential to result in contributions to and measurable outcomes consistent with RFI's vision and mission.
  2. Compatibility with RFI's core values, especially transdisciplinary, collaborative, innovative and bold considerations.
  3. Potential to increase competitiveness for future external funding that is consistent with the vision and mission of RFI.
  4. Matching funds are not required but may increase the likelihood a proposal will be selected for funding.
Proposals ultimately funded will have certain expectations of the PI and the key personnel including the following:
  • Recipients are expected to participate in a working group composed of the RFI Research & Engagement award recipients. It is anticipated this group will meet at least once per academic year to share ‘best practices’ and lessons learned around innovative and creative processes and strategies unique to the research and engagement work undertaken.
  • Recipients are expected to share their insights and findings at a variety of appropriate venues including conferences, such as the Rural Futures Conference, and in refereed publications. In addition, the PI is expected to work with both the RFI Director of Competitive Awards and the RFI Director of Communications on external communications opportunities (white papers, interviews, recorded presentation, lecture, webinar, etc.) to share project results/findings with the broader RFI audience.
  • Recipients are expected to actively pursue external funding sources and submit a proposal for external funding within 24 months following the initial RFI award. Failure to do so may disqualify the applicant from future RFI funding competitions.
  • A final report is required and due to the RFI no later than one month following the conclusion of the project.
  • The project should be completed within 24 months. Extensions are discouraged and will only be considered for extreme circumstances (6 months maximum).
Funds may be used for wages and salaries of faculty and staff (provided the award is not used to generate salary savings*), graduate and undergraduate students and other key personnel; as well as operating expenses such as databases, supplies and travel that are directly related to the project.

Funds may not be used for any of the following purposes:

  • Indirect costs
  • To replace current funding*;
  • Remodeling, renovation or construction;
  • Recruitment or start-up packages for new hires; and
  • Items for purposes not exclusive to the project, such as desktop or laptop computers, printers, software and related accessories and general office supplies.
* In general, RFI funding cannot be used to replace current salary funding. Exceptions can be made if the salary savings are needed to backfill positions that allow the PI or other team members to meet current program commitments. Summer salary or positions funded with “soft” dollars are allowed. Exceptions should be explained in the Budget Justification section.
Click here to:
  • Enter title page information using the online form
  • Upload proposal information as a single PDF document

1. Title Page Information

(Entered online and required for submission.)
  • Project Title
  • Total Request Amount ($)
  • Principal Investigator (Name, Affiliation, Telephone & Email)
  • Co-Principal Investigator(s) (Name, Affiliation, Telephone & Email)
  • Other Partners (if applicable)

2. Resesarch & Engagement Proposal: Administrative Approval Form

The person who wigns this form should be the PI or co-PI from the University of Nebraska who will administer the award funds.  Include his/her campus address as well as the PI or co-PI signature. It also requires signature of the appropriate campus administrator, verifying submission approval.

3. Abstract

(1/2 page – abstract on separate page from project narrative) Summarize the purpose, importance, expected outcomes and key activities/milestones of the proposal.

4. Project Narrative

The project narrative is limited to six single-spaced pages, using Times New Roman (or similar), 11-point font and one-inch margins. The project narrative should include the following:
  • Context/Justification: Provide the background/rationale for the project, including why the topic/scope is critical to the future of rural areas, and its linkage to the RFI’s vision and mission. What is the underlying need, problem or opportunity that the proposal addresses? How does the project consider the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental considerations?
  • Ultimate Long-Term Impact (one sentence): If the objectives of this proposal are successfully completed, what could potentially be different ten years from now in rural areas of Nebraska and beyond?
  • Project Objective(s): What specific objective(s) will be reached at the end of the grant period?
  • Methodology and Time Line: Explain the methodology and associated time line of the methodological steps that will be undertaken to insure that the project objectives are met in a timely and successful fashion. Explicitly address how the tools, results, applications, findings, innovations or processes will be shared with both the academic and non-academic communities, including rural people and places.
  • Partnerships: What new University partnerships will be established through this project with: (a) organizations, institutions and agencies external to NU, and (b) specific communities? What are the roles and responsibilities of each partner? What groundwork has already been laid and what else will be needed to insure that these partnerships function effectively? Will these partnerships be sustained beyond the award’s lifetime?
  • Project Success: What does success look like and how will it be measured?
  • Beyond the Project: If this project proposal is successful, what might be the next logical steps and subsequent opportunities, including other funding opportunities?
  • Identifying and Managing Adversity: Obstacles and barriers are often encountered in the implementation and execution of new projects. What do you anticipate will be the most challenging aspect of executing your proposal and what are some steps that can be taken to minimize this challenge or are there alternative ways of moving the project forward if the obstacle is insurmountable?
Note: References cited in the Context/Justification section are included in the 6-page limit.

5. Budget Table(s) and Budget Justification

Budget detail must be provided in the attached budget table(s) for Year One and, if applicable, Year Two. The budget tables (A2a and A2b) must be accompanied by a budget justification (no more than one page) which explains expenditures in each budget category. Budget lines for Year 1 and Year 2 may be combined in the budget justification narrative.

6. Biographical Materials

Provide up to a two-page biographical sketch/vitae for each PI/co-PIs. Do not exceed two pages per person.

7. Letters of Commitment

If the success of the proposal is linked to agencies, organizations or institutions external to the University of Nebraska, include letters of commitment from the relevant agencies, organizations or institutions. The letters should specify clearly what the role and nature of the commitment is. NOTE: these are NOT letters of support in which external stakeholders indicate their support for the proposal. The latter type of letter is not to be included.
Following is the list of criteria by which the research proposals will be evaluated:
  • Transdisciplinary, collaborative, innovative and bold (20 points)
  • The context/justification (15 points)
  • Short-term considerations/meeting project objectives (20 points)
  • Long-term considerations (10 points)
  • Project administration (20 points)
  • Budget considerations (15 points)
Principal investigators will be required to submit project reports on behalf of their teams to the Rural Futures Institute. Reports will be required every six months and final reports will be required 30 days after the end of the project.

Proposal Deadline:
March 15, 2017, 4:00 PM CST

Award Notification:
May 15, 2017

Start Date:
July 1, 2017