Tuesday, 7 May 2024

International Development Bidding: Strategies for Success

by Berkeley Lovelace

International development projects — and the crucial international development bidding process associated with them — offer organisations substantial opportunities to effect global change. Yet, these opportunities come with their own distinct set of challenges. Success in securing international development bids frequently hinges on initiating the bidding process at an early stage — a strategic approach known as ‘shifting left’. By starting bid preparations early in the business development cycle, organisations can not only enhance their chances of winning but may also contribute significantly to societal progress.

Understanding the procurement landscape in international development bids

International Competitive Bidding (ICB) is the preferred approach by major aid agencies, such as the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank. The pillars of this methodology are transparency and equitable competition, guaranteeing all organisations a fair chance. Mastery of each agency’s specific procurement regulations is crucial for delivering both value and impactful development results.

Capture management is an essential step in the bid process for international development.  It’s a strategic method to pinpoint potential opportunities and readiness to bid long before formal procurement begins. By initiating the capture process early, organisations can develop closer relationships, align their resources precisely, and tailor comprehensive solutions to meet the unique needs of a project.

Local partnerships and strategic collaborations

Forging alliances with local partners is a strategy that can substantially impact the success of a development endeavour. By forming consortia that include local players, organisations can drive economic development and align with the aims of the donor’s country, making the most of local knowledge and fostering community-centric methods.

Comprehensive research and bid readiness

An in-depth knowledge of procurement policies, eligibility criteria, funding limitations, and the socio-political context of the target country is vital. Pre-emptive preparation clarifies extensive bidding documents and positions organisations to tackle the broad spectrum of international development, covering cultural, environmental, ethical and sustainability aspects.

Navigating the bidding process

The bidding process is intricate, requiring in-depth knowledge of field requirements and the strategic aims of funding agencies. Constructing an influential proposal depends on collaborative global partnerships, proficiency in both technical and fiscal management, and nuanced understanding of tendering regulations.

Shifting left: Proactively engaging in bid preparation

‘Shifting left’ sees organisations commencing their bid preparations much sooner, profoundly affecting the alignment between a proposal and the organisation’s core skill set. Early engagement through market investigation and dialogue with stakeholders nurtures strong bonds and encourages solutions that resonate with the project’s aims and the donors’ preferences.  This is more than just a buzzword; it’s a strategy for delivering effective, innovative solutions that are tightly aligned. For example:

  • Complex development challenges – Development projects address compound issues across social, economic and infrastructural domains. An early start gives businesses the time to understand such complexities and construct all-encompassing, cutting-edge solutions.
  • Stakeholder trust – Trust and mutual understanding with a diverse mix of stakeholders, including governments, local communities, and international donors, are pivotal. Early actions pave the way to building that indispensable trust, marking the organisation as a reliable and proactive partner.
  • Regulatory understanding – Working on international development projects involves navigating a complex array of local and global regulations. Starting early offers substantial time to comprehend and abide by these frameworks, guaranteeing compliance and strategic coherence.
  • Alignment with donor priorities – As donor funding underpins most development projects, grasping and aligning with their priorities is imperative. Organisations that ‘shift left’ can sync their strategies more readily with these fundraising objectives, enhancing their success rates.
  • Community engagement – Lasting development hinges on community involvement and creating culturally sensitive solutions. Shifting left enables prompt and significant engagement with community stakeholders, ensuring that the proposed solutions get the necessary local endorsement for enduring success.
  • Risk management – Quick identification and scrutiny of potential risks afford organisations a strategic upper hand. By crafting solid risk mitigation strategies from the beginning, organisations underscore their dedication to the success and solidity of a project, thereby gaining a competitive edge.

Embracing early engagement in pursuit of success

By recognising opportunities and grasping the intricate challenges of development projects from the outset, organisations can build trust with crucial stakeholders, skilfully navigate regulatory landscapes, closely align with donor expectations, and effectively engage with communities. This proactive stance reduces risks and reaffirms an organisation’s commitment to significant development outcomes.


Excelling in the international development bidding arena is a strategic process that demands careful planning, a wealth of knowledge, and a mindset fixated on ‘shifting left’. Organisations that aim to contribute to sustainable and socially significant projects must adopt strategic early planning to amplify their ability to deliver innovative, culturally attuned solutions that resonate with both funding bodies and local participants. Winning bids involves much more than just exceptional offerings; it requires a deep understanding of and commitment to the overarching development objectives.

International Development Bidding: Strategies for Success


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