Request for Qualifications: Development of a Spatially-Explicit Tool to Estimate the Carbon Benefits of Conservation Projects

OVERVIEW

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) seeks a qualified Contractor to assist it in the development and implementation of a spatially explicit tool for estimating the carbon benefits of our investments in nature-based climate solutions. The purpose of this tool is to improve NFWF’s ability to strategically invest in habitat protection, creation, and restoration activities that either sequester atmospheric carbon or safeguard existing carbon stocks, all while continuing NFWF’s core mission of conserving of fish and wildlife populations in the United States. Tool development does not require a Contractor with carbon expertise per se but rather demonstrated experience in developing web-based tools that quantify changes in any type of natural resource that result from management actions.

BACKGROUND

Since its founding in 1984, NFWF has grown to become the nation's largest private conservation grant maker. It supports conservation efforts in all 50 states and U.S. territories. The Foundation’s projects are selected through a rigorous evaluation process and awarded to some of the nation’s largest environmental organizations, as well as some of the smallest. These projects protect and restore imperiled species, promote healthy oceans and estuaries, improve working landscapes for wildlife, advance sustainable fisheries, and conserve water for wildlife and people. 

In 2020, NFWF hired a contractor to begin exploring the carbon benefits of our investments. The goal of that exercise was to review a portfolio of projects that NFWF typically funds and determine methods to estimate the carbon benefits for those projects using the best available national-scale datasets and protocols. These efforts resulted in the creation of an Excel-based “carbon calculator” to estimate those carbon benefits. The objective of this contract is to build upon this work and replace the current Excel-based tool with a more advanced, web-based tool with the ability to conduct spatial analyses that estimate carbon benefits across a wide range of different-sized geographies. NFWF intends to use the data output from the tool to report the carbon benefits of its investments to funders. 
 
The tool developed for this contract requires the following attributes: 

  • Ability to estimate carbon benefits of grantee and applicant projects over smaller geographies (e.g., 5000-acre worksite) when project location is certain; specific use cases associated with this condition include 1) projects in the proposal or early implementation phases where the actual work sites are known, 2) completed projects for which grantees have provided accurate spatial data on project footprints.
  • Ability to estimate carbon benefits of grantee projects and applicant proposed projects over larger geographies (e.g., entire state) when project location may be uncertain; specific use cases associated with this condition include 1) projects in the proposal or early implementation phases where the actual work sites are not yet known, 2) simulated projects or 3) simulations of work over larger geographies that are used to generate investment scenarios that maximize carbon benefits.
  • Ability to run simulations of various investment scenarios based on project cost, carbon benefit and area (i.e., acreage).
  • Ability to store carbon-benefit data in a database that can be queried for NFWF’s reporting needs; this database will include a dashboard that can provide tabular output or visualizations of summary. statistics for individual projects or various aggregations of multiple projects. 
  • Use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) as needed to link to NFWF’s internal grants management database that provides unique ID and supporting information for each project.
  • A well-designed user interface that is simple to use and aesthetically pleasing to end users.

SCOPE OF WORK

The following tasks constitute the Scope of Work (SOW) for this Request for Quotations. The Contractor should anticipate bi-weekly check-in calls with NFWF and the carbon team throughout the duration of the project and potentially in-person meetings in Washington, DC, where noted below. Please provide time and cost quotes for each Task using the Contractor Budget template provided. The deliverable for each Task will be time and resource-dependent, and one or more tasks may be added or removed from the contract SOW at NFWF’s discretion due to funding limitations, time constraints, the results from earlier tasks or other reasons. 

Task 1: Kick-off meeting 

  • Kick-off meeting via video conference 
  • Review and discuss key documents summarizing the development of NFWF’s current Excel-based calculator 
  • Review and discuss NFWF’s carbon strategy and the vision for this new estimation tool 
  • Become familiar with the available data and algorithms that will be used to estimate carbon benefits 
  • Target Date: Sept. 15, 2021
  • Deliverable: None

Task 2: Propose workplan: system architecture, software and timeline

  • Review existing Excel-based calculator and conduct user-needs analysis of NFWF
  • Propose a system architecture, software and timeline for tool development in coordination with NFWF and other contractors as necessary. The workplan should consider expertise users will need to use the calculator, including the required project-level metrics and spatial data that will be used as input data
  • Target Date: Oct. 15, 2021 
  • Deliverable: Memo summarizing workplan with focus on system structure, software, and interim deliverables; video conference with NFWF to review and discuss recommendations

Task 3: Develop tool feature to estimate carbon benefits over small geographies where project location is known

  • Key input data will include vector-based spatial data, type of nature-based solution being implemented, and associated acres with each practice (e.g., within a ~5000-acre spatial footprint, no-tillage will occur on 2500 acres and planting of off-season cover crops will occur on 2500 acres)
  • The tool will need to be able to estimate carbon benefits for the area defined by the vector-based spatial data 
  • Output data on carbon benefits needs to be stored as a final estimate in a database
  • Target Date: December 15, 2021
  • Deliverable: Written summary that outlines the development process for this feature; access to beta version of tool where feature can be explored; meetings or video conferences as needed to review and test feature

Task 4: Develop tool feature to estimate projected carbon benefits over large geographies where project location is unknown

  • Key input data will include vector-based spatial data, type of nature-based solution being implemented, and project size in acres (e.g., within the state of Virginia, agricultural practices like no-tillage, planting of off-season cover crops or rotational grazing will be implemented over 5000 acres)
  • The tool will need to be able to estimate carbon benefits under scenarios where project location is selected via a random, optimized or user-defined process
  • Carbon benefit summary statistics could include means and variability across large geographies or exact estimates for simulated acreages that users define for specific counties
  • Tool will need to include interactive maps where uses can see visualizations of optimal areas that maximize carbon benefits
  • Output data on carbon benefits should be stored as a preliminary estimate in a database
  • Target Date: Dec. 15,2021
  • Deliverable: Written summary that outlines the development process for this feature; access to beta version of tool where feature can be explored; meetings or video conferences as needed to review and test feature

Task 5: Develop a feature that can run simulations of investment scenarios that maximize carbon benefits

  • Input data will include either vector-based spatial data or selection of specific U.S. counties, type of nature-based solution being implemented and acres on which work is to be implemented 
  • While tasks 3 and 4 are focused on estimating project-level benefits, this task will allow NFWF to simulate work in more generalized locations not necessarily linked to specific projects; the simulation capacities built for task 4 can likely be leveraged for this task with some modification 
  • Carbon benefit summary statistics could include means and variability across large geographies or exact estimates for simulated acreages that users define for specific counties
  • Tool will need to include interactive maps where users can see visualizations of optimal areas that maximize carbon benefits
  • Target Date: Dec. 15, 2021
  • Deliverable: Written summary that outlines the development process for this aspect of tool capacity; access to beta version of tool where these features can be explored; meeting or video conferences as needed to review and use feature

Task 6: Final report debugging, and begin hosting carbon tool

  • Prepare a brief report summarizing the work completed for tool design and development. NFWF will review a draft of the report and provide comments, which should be addressed prior to the deliverable date.
  • Debug underlying code and tool design
  • Work with NFWF to identify a long-term plan for hosting and maintaining the tool. It is expected that the Offeror will host the tool for at least some initial period of time.
  • Finalize and rollout the carbon tool 
  • Target Dates: Dec. 31, 2021  
  • Deliverables: Brief written report, final version of the web-based carbon tool 

MISCELLANEOUS

  • NFWF will provide Contractor with access to the existing NFWF Carbon Calculator and other relevant data, information or in-house analyses as available and needed
  • Contractor shall treat all access to all tools, data, information or in-house analyses as CONFIDENTIAL without express written permission to share, disclose or otherwise utilize that information for purposes beyond this project
  • All data, code, models, system architecture and information developed during this project shall be the property of NFWF at project conclusion unless express written permission to the contrary has been provided
  • NFWF wishes to begin development of this tool immediately, however we may consider adjustment of project timeline if Offeror cannot begin working on project immediately or if Offeror believes a longer timeline is needed 

REQUIRED EXPERTISE AND PROPOSED STAFF 

The successful Offeror will have significant expertise in the following areas: 

  • Development of web-based tools for data analysis and visualization on ESRI’s ArcGIS platform
  • Programming skills with Python and associated libraries (e.g., ArcPy) with demonstrated experience in linking input databases to algorithms that estimate changes in quantity through time, and exporting output data to a results database
  • Spatial-analysis skills and ability to summarize raster attribute data (e.g., land cover, soil characteristics) for raster or vector datasets depicting the spatial footprints of NFWF projects 
  • Skills in database management and linking databases within ESRI’s ArcGIS platform
  • Skills in developing attractive, user-friendly, web-based graphical user interfaces and dashboards
  • Experience using APIs to transfer data to and from a Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) platform
  • Experience with using Amazon Web Services (AWS) or other cloud-based databases within ESRI’s ArcGIS platform
  • Working with project-level metrics (e.g., acres of forest restored) and related information to estimate overall benefits (e.g., MT of CO2) 
  • Working closely and constructively with end-users (e.g., NFWF staff and partner organizations)
  • Adhering to contract timelines and budgets
  • Experience in building dashboards to summarize and visualize data is preferred
  • Experience developing user-friendly tools that calculate the co-benefits of ecosystem service (e.g., carbon) resulting from environmental restoration or conservation projects preferred

CRITERIA FOR COMPETITIVE APPLICATIONS 

Proposals will be evaluated and scored on the following criteria. Offerors should organize their Proposal Narrative based on these sections:

  1. Understanding of the Scope of Work. The Scope of Work must demonstrate an understanding of the goals of the activities involved. This section should include a description of how you will communicate with NFWF and program stakeholders and report on progress, results, and deliverables. Weight: 10%
  2. Technical Approach. The proposed technical approach for conducting the tasks should clearly describe the proposed methods necessary to conduct the project. The section must demonstrate that those methods are robust and appropriate for conducting the project and address any areas of complexity or uncertainty associated with conducting the project. Weight: 20%
  3. Qualifications of Proposed Personnel. This section should clearly describe which tasks each member of the team will conduct and how their training and experience provide the requisite experience to do so successfully. Weight: 20%
  4. Contractor’s Past Performance. The proposal should include information on the primary investigator(s)’s past performance experience in developing web-based tools for data analysis, particularly those on ESRI’s ArcGIS platform. List recent (last 2-5 years) accomplishments and previous services related to the technical expertise offered. If subcontractors are to be used, information should be provided that demonstrates their past performance as well. Describe how that past performance is applicable to this proposal. Weight: 20%
  5. Budget. The proposed budget should itemize work in sufficient detail to enable reviewers to evaluate the appropriateness of the entire funding request. You must use the attached Contractor Budget Template. You may add columns to the template for additional tasks if needed, but you should not make any other changes. If applicable, please include the proposed budget for equipment purchase in the proposal separate from the Contractor Budget Template. Weight: 30%


ELIGIBLE OFFERORS AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST STATEMENT

Eligible applicants include institutions of higher education, other nonprofits, commercial organizations, international organizations, and local, state and Indian tribal governments.

By submitting a proposal in response to this solicitation, the Offeror warrants and represents that it does not currently have any apparent or actual conflict of interest, as described herein. In the event an Offeror currently has, will have during the life of the contemplated contract, or becomes aware of an apparent or actual conflict of interest, in the event an award is made, the Offeror must notify NFWF in writing in the proposal, or in subsequent correspondence (if the issue becomes known after the submission of the proposal) of such apparent or actual conflicts of interest, including organizational conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest include any relationship or matter which might place the Contractor, the Contractor’s employees, or the Contractor’s subcontractors in a position of conflict, real or apparent, between their responsibilities under the award and any other outside interests, or otherwise. Conflicts of interest may also include, but are not limited to, direct or indirect financial interests, close personal relationships, positions of trust in outside organizations, consideration of future employment arrangements with a different organization, or decision-making affecting the award that would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question the impartiality of the Offeror, the Offeror’s employees, or the Offeror’s future subcontractors in the matter. Upon receipt of such a notice, the NFWF Contracting Officer will determine if a conflict of interest exists and, if so, if there are any possible actions to be taken by the Offeror to reduce or resolve the conflict. Failure to resolve conflicts of interest in a manner that satisfies NFWF may result in the proposal not being selected for award.  

By submitting a proposal in response to this solicitation, the Offeror warrants and represents that it is eligible for award of a contract resulting from this solicitation and that it is not subject to any of the below circumstances:

  • Has any unpaid Federal tax liability that has been assessed, for which all judicial and administrative remedies have been exhausted or have lapsed, and that is not being paid in a timely manner pursuant to a contract with the authority responsible for collecting the tax liability, where the awarding agency is aware of the unpaid tax liability, unless the agency has considered suspension or debarment of the corporation and made a determination that this further action is not necessary to protect the interests of the Government; or 
  • Was convicted (or had an officer or agent of such corporation acting on behalf of the corporation convicted) of a felony criminal violation under any Federal or State law within the preceding 24 months, where the awarding agency is aware of the conviction, unless the agency has considered suspension or debarment of the corporation and made a determination that this further action is not necessary to protect the interests of the Government; or
  • Is listed on the General Services Administration’s, government-wide System for Award Management Exclusions (SAM Exclusions), in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 C.F.R Part 180 that implement E.O.s 12549 (3 C.F.R., 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 C.F.R., 1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension,” or intends to enter into any subaward, contract or other contract using funds provided by NFWF with any party listed on the SAM Exclusions in accordance with Executive Orders 12549 and 12689. The SAM Exclusions instructions can be found here: https://www.sam.gov/SAM/.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS       

Proposals must be submitted under the same cover at the same time, in three distinctly labeled and separate documents: 1) Technical Proposal, 2) Budget and 3) Evidence of Financial Stability. Interested parties should submit proposals electronically to NFWF’s Director, Data Science Chris Burdett (Christopher.Burdett@nfwf.org) using the requirements below:

  1. Technical Proposal
    • Format: Proposals must be provided in Word format or searchable PDF with a font size no smaller than 11 pt.
    • Contact information: Primary contact person, company/organization name, address, phone, email, website, DUNS number, and EIN/Taxpayer ID#.
    • Narrative: Concise (10-page limit) description of the work plan and a summary of the applicant’s expertise and experience, organized by the Criteria for Competitive Applications.
    • Biographies: Resumes and/or curriculum vitae of key staff and their role in the proposed work area.
    • References: List two clients who have received services from the applicant that is similar in nature to the proposed work; include names, phone numbers, and email address.
  2. Budget: The budget proposal must be submitted using the provided Contractor Budget Template.
  3. Evidence of Financial Stability: The applicant shall provide proof of financial stability in the form of financial statements, credit ratings, a line of credit, or other financial arrangements sufficient to demonstrate the applicant’s capability to meet the requirements of this solicitation.

SELECTION PROCEDURE  

A panel of NFWF staff will review the proposals. Offerors may be asked to modify objectives, work plans or budgets prior to final approval of the award. Only one award will be made for this project. If multiple institutions are involved, they should be handled through subcontracts.

SUBMISSION DEADLINES

August 15, 2021 Deadline for questions about the solicitation to NFWF. 
Offerors should submit questions regarding this solicitation via email to Chris Burdett (Christopher.Burdett@nfwf.org). NFWF will post all the questions and responses to all questions so that all Offerors have access to them at the same time. In order to provide equitable responses, all questions must be sent to NFWF no later than 5:00 PM EST on Aug. 15, 2021 
 
Aug. 20, 2021 NFWF will post the questions submitted regarding the solicitation and responses on the NFWF website at nfwf.org/results/evaluationreports.
Sept. 1, 2021

Deadline for receipt by NFWF of proposals. 
Proposals must be sent electronically as an email attachment to Chris Burdett (Christopher.Burdett@nfwf.org) by 5:00 PM EST on Sept. 1, 2021. 

Proposals must be provided in Word format or searchable PDF.

Sept. 15, 2021 Contract award to selected Offeror.
Dec. 31, 2021

Final Deliverables Due.

Interim deliverables are due at the times specified in the Statement of Work.