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Accountability Framework initiative Request for Proposals - Framework Web Platform

The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization working to build a future in which nature is protected and biodiversity flourishes, where farmers, workers, and communities prosper, and where sustainable land use and responsible business practices are the norm. We envision a world where people and nature thrive in harmony. In January 2018, the Rainforest Alliance merged with UTZ, a global program and label for sustainable farming.

Position summary:

The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) seeks proposals from qualified consultant firms to develop a CMS-based web platform for its core product, the Accountability Framework. The Framework provides guidance for establishing, implementing, and monitoring companies’ responsible supply chain commitments in the agriculture and forestry sectors based on a common set of norms and principles. The web platform will introduce the value of the AFi to a broad audience and will support company users in identifying and applying Framework guidance relevant to their particular context.

The consultant or consultant firm will work closely with the AFi Communications Manager and other members of the AFi Backbone Team (BBT) to review and refine existing design mockups and then develop the web platform for the Accountability Framework. The Accountability Framework web platform will considerably expand on and ultimately replace the AFi’s existing informational website, supporting an effort to mainstream the Framework as the global reference for achieving supply chain commitments.

Context

In recent years, hundreds of companies have made commitments to eliminate deforestation and human exploitation from their agricultural and forestry supply chains. These pledges are a promising development for forests and people worldwide. However, their fulfillment is hindered by the lack of a credible, consistent, and widely-accepted framework for implementing these commitments and for monitoring, verifying, and reporting progress toward compliance.

In order help companies overcome these barriers and improve accountability in meeting these ethical supply chain commitments, a coalition of international and producing-country environmental and social NGOs initiated the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) in 2017. The Framework represents a consensus position of these organizations. The Framework provides common definitions, norms, and guidance for consistent and effective implementation of supply chain commitments. Launch of version 1.0 of the Accountability Framework is scheduled for March 2019. Use the online HTML editor tools to compose the content for your website easily.

Project summary:

Goals of Platform

The Accountability Framework online platform will:

  • Serve as a tool to build widespread awareness, support, and buy-in for the AFi by effectively presenting its value to target audiences in a variety of contexts.
  • Provide clear pathways for companies to apply the Framework to set, implement, monitor, and demonstrate progress on their supply chain commitments.

  • Support the integration of aspects of the Framework’s norms and guidance into other existing supply chain systems and initiatives.

  • Support the AFi’s overall strategy to promote early adoption and endorsement of the Framework by leading actors and influential stakeholders, including the audiences listed below.

Objectives of Assignment

  • Audience and user needs analysis: The AFi team has embarked on a human-centered design process in an effort to clarify audience segments, develop user personas, and identify key value propositions. To achieve the goals above, the selected consultant firm will work closely with the AFi team to review this existing audience analysis to clarify and refine core user needs.

  • Interactive mockup: Based on this set of user needs, the selected provider will support the AFi team in refining and/or designing individual wireframes and user flow diagrams (using InVision, Sketch, Adobe XD, or other systems recommended by provider) to map out interactions and ensure that user needs can be achieved.

  • UI/UX testing: Throughout the design and development process, provider should support the testing of core components of the web platform to ensure strong usability and user experience.

  • Frontend design: Following the design of the interactive mockup, the provider should apply best practices in frontend design to ensure a visually engaging and highly usable interface.

  • Backend development: Provider should build a robust and extensible backend based in a user-friendly CMS, incorporating the functionality outlined below.

  • Ongoing maintenance and support: To ensure the Framework’s web platform can continue to deliver value over time, the provider should provide ongoing support and maintenance (period to be determined when the details of the contract are established.)

  • Workflow: Ideally, the provider will follow agile or agile-hybrid project management practices to ensure that core functionality and features can be delivered early and tested often. Given the relatively short turnaround time for launch of the platform and complexities of the content, we recognize that flexibility and adaptability are critical on our end and yours. As such, we will be open to suggestions for optimal workflows.

Audience

The AFi has a large, global audience that is highly diverse, both geographically and sectorally. We can consider four main audience categories for the Accountability Framework and the AFi as a whole:

  • Supply chain companies: Company staff are the primary users of the Accountability Framework web platform. Most of the content is geared to support companies in setting, implementing, monitoring, and demonstrating progress on ethical supply chain commitments. Companies will generally fall into one or more of the following categories within supply chains:

    • Producers

    • Processors

    • Traders

    • Manufacturers

    • Retailers

    • Financial institutions

As a functional extension of supply chain companies, we also target companies’ service providers, which include various kinds of consulting firms and NGOs that support companies to design and implement various aspects of their sustainability programs, such as sourcing policies, compliance, monitoring and reporting, supply chain management and data systems, and initiatives to address environmental or social issues.

  • Civil society: While civil society representatives aren’t envisioned as primary users of the online platform, they are targeted as important partners in endorsing and promoting the Framework. This group includes civil society organizations and initiatives that work on reporting, transparency, verification and other relevant aspects of accountability for supply chains, such as:

    • Reporting and tracking initiatives

    • Certification systems and commodity roundtables

    • Advocacy and “watchdog” groups

  • Government: Successful achievement of supply chain commitments requires supportive policy in corresponding regions. As such, government representatives and other stakeholders involved in the development of public policies, commitments, and programs are an important audience for the AFi. These include:

    • National agencies

    • Subnational/jurisdictional initiatives

    • Government-led initiatives or platforms

  • Communities in commodity-producing landscapes: While not direct users of the Framework, those peoples and communities affected by commodity production represent an important audience to consider. Often their interests are represented by civil society organizations.

Content

The Framework web platform will consist of two general sections and corresponding content:

  • Informational content that introduces the AFi and the Framework. Sections will include:

    • About the Initiative (may consist of several pages for particular aspects of the AFi, such as background, partnerships, governance, etc.)

    • Promotional landing pages that present the value of the Framework generally and to targeted audience segments

    • Blog, news, white papers, and other regularly updated informational content

  • The Accountability Framework content that companies will refer to in support of achieving their supply chain commitments. Sections include:

  1. Core Principles
  2. Definitions
  3. Operational Guidance:
    1. How to Apply the Definitions on Deforestation and Conversion
    2. Cutoff Dates
    3. Monitoring and Verification
    4. Applying Voluntary Commitments in Context
    5. Applicable Law Assessment
    6. Supply Chain Management
    7. Smallholders
    8. Remedy, Remediation, and Compensation
    9. Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities
    10. Reporting, Transparency, and Disclosure

Following the initial launch in March 2019, the following sections of Operational Guidance will also be incorporated (other sections could potentially follow as well):

    1. Intact Landscapes
    2. Long-Term Protection
    3. Labor Rights

Each of the sections of Framework content will be on average 10 pages of printed content, so roughly 150 pages of text in total, not including photos and other graphics. Note that all of the Framework content will be translated into Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Bahasa Indonesia (translations are taken care of by the AFi team), in addition to the main English language pages. At some point we may also translate into Mandarin.

Responsibilities:

Desired Functionality

Frontend

  • Information architecture: This is arguably the most important “functionality” of the Framework’s web platform. Given the vastly different needs of the audiences, it will be essential to provide clear and intuitive pathways to content that is relevant to each audience segment. As such, rock-solid UX/UI design is at the heart of this project. We envision providing a number of “curated pathways” through the Framework, such as:

    • High-level or “universal” value: This “pathway” will provide a general overview of the aspects of the Framework that all users should understand. This should then lead users to other more context- or function-specific pathways.

    • Supply chain function: This pathway provides a visual summary of sections of the Framework that are specifically relevant to particular functions within companies, such as sustainability, procurement, or compliance. Users would be presented with an overview of relevant topics, some narrative examples, links to corresponding sections of the Framework, and other supporting resources.

    • Maturity of supply chain commitments: Another potential pathway would look at where a company is in their journey to achieving their supply chain commitments. These stages include setting commitments, taking action, demonstrating progress, and supporting broader impacts. Similar to the pathway above, there would be a visual summary, overview, narratives, and links to sections of the Framework.

    • Other pathways could also be considered as we proceed with further research and planning.

  • Responsive layout: Probably goes without saying, but the site should be mobile-friendly and optimized for the standard set of devices and screen sizes.

The following two features are out of scope for the current proposal solicitation, but the consultant should be prepared to develop the platform to accommodate these potential future needs and functionality:

  • Filtering content: This isn’t essential for the first version of the platform, but we would like to explore options for tagging and filtering components of the Framework content. With version 1.0 of the Framework, we won’t likely have sufficient depth of specificity to make this as useful as it might one day be. However, we would like to be prepared for the potential of modularizing the content a bit more to provide users with a much more customized experience. For example, a soy producer in Brazil or a global supply chain director for a multinational retailer have very different needs; each may want to narrow down a search of the Framework content for topics of particular relevance to their specific geography, commodity, maturity of commitment, role, or some other criteria.

  • User login: The first version does not need to provide functionality for users to log in to the platform to store any form of user data. However, this could be considered for subsequent versions of the site. One of the potential features of interest is tracking and storing progress through the Framework content so that users can pick up where they left off. Another feature might be to generate custom reports or “learning plans” so that, for example, a company might create a custom training program for their staff to learn and apply aspects of the Framework.

Backend

  • Content management system: WordPress is our preferred CMS; however we’re open to other options if there is a strong case for them.

  • User-friendly page layout/builder functionality: We would like to have the flexibility to experiment with and easily create different page layouts after the initial launch. As such, the CMS should use an intuitive system for layout, such as WP Visual Composer (but not limited to this).

  • Incorporation of content translated into multiple languages: Initially the five languages will be English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Bahasa Indonesia. Eventually we will be looking at Mandarin, but this is not likely for the first launch of this site. We will provide the translated content. You will just need to integrate and configure the functionality to add these translated pages (e.g., WPML plugin).

  • Search engine optimization: The site should be built according to best practices for SEO and incorporate whatever functionality is needed or recommended to support optimization.

  • Staging system: Following launch of the site, the AFi team should be able to test new content and other changes in a staging environment that can later push updates to the live site.

  • Robust security: Development of the site and CMS should follow current best practices for security, including protection against brute force attacks, two-factor authentication, spam blockers, and other recommended security measures. (Initially, there will be limited users with admin access to the site, and we will be sure to practice good security on our end as well.)

  • Site backups: The site should have automatic backup functionality installed on a regular schedule, preferably to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox.

  • Caching and compression: Many of our users are located in regions where internet bandwidth can be problematic. As such, caching and image compression should be set up to ensure the fastest possible loading times (while we will work to ensure that images and media that are uploaded are optimized on export, any additional compression will be welcome). Ideally pagespeed tests should be conducted to help optimize loading.

  • Ongoing updates and maintenance: While the AFi team will be capable of managing the content for the site once it’s developed, proposals should indicate options for how the site backend can be maintained. This should include CMS, plugin, and theme updates, as well as fixing other bugs and issues as they arise.

Hosting

We would like to pursue recommended hosting options, whether traditional shared or managed hosting services. While the site is unlikely to generate viral levels of traffic, we obviously want to ensure sufficient bandwidth to reliably deliver content to our global audiences with an optimistic level of usage. Initially, the storage needs are not astronomical; the content to be stored in the site consists primarily text, images, a handful of videos, and a number of downloadable resources.

Timeline

Milestone Date
Review proposals for development of Framework web platform October 2018
Begin development of web platform (with usability/UX testing conducted throughout) November 2018
Batch 2 of Framework Operational Guidance released for public consultation Early-December 2018
Basic structure and backend of web platform completed, with prioritized content incorporated January 2019
Version 0.9 of web platform ready for final testing and integration of all available Framework content February 2019
Launch of version 1.0 of the Accountability Framework March 31, 2019
Ongoing maintenance and support April 2019 onwards
(period of support TBD)

Qualifications:

Consultant firms will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Prior experience and skill sets of firm, including:

    • Visual and front-end design

    • Usability and UX testing

    • Agile or similar methodologies

    • Experience with WordPress and/or other CMS

    • Relevant backend programming languages (PHP, etc)

    • Search engine optimization

  • Portfolio demonstrating diverse body of work, including sites that:

    • Reach diverse target audiences

    • Incorporate significant depth and complexity of technical information while conveying this effectively to less technical audiences through multiple systems of organization (e.g., decision trees), intuitive information architecture, and compelling user experience

  • Proposed cost

  • Knowledge of and demonstrated application of current best practices in web design and development

  • Understanding of the requirements as laid out in this document

  • Solution described in consultant firm’s proposal

  • Experience with or demonstrated knowledge of international conservation and/or development projects and multi-stakeholder initiatives is a plus

  • Availability to meet deadlines as described above

Application:

Proposals should contain:

  • Description of relevant experience, key skills or strengths of firm, methodologies or approaches to web development, and a description of the proposed solution to meet the needs laid out in this document.

  • Portfolio of web development work as relevant to the deliverables for this consultancy

  • Project team, roles, and CVs of all contributing team members

  • Total estimated cost with breakdown of costs for specific components. This should include an estimate of monthly maintenance costs following launch of the Framework platform.

  • Email and phone numbers of three recent references

  • Statement satisfying compliance requirements:

    • Please provide information on legal form and ownership structure.

    • Offers will be rejected if any illegal or corrupt practices have taken place in connection with the award.

    • Applicants must sign and certify the below Certification and Representation to Rainforest Alliance.

    • Accounting of evidence of billing for actual time will be required.

Email proposals to the Communications Manager at contact@accountability-framework.org by Wednesday, October 31st.

Selection will ideally be made by Wednesday, Nov 14th.

Certification and Representation to the Rainforest Alliance

Applicant certifies and represents that none of the situations below apply to them.

  1. they are bankrupt or being wound up, are having their affairs administered by the courts, have entered into an arrangement with creditors, have suspended business activities, are subject of proceedings concerning those matters, or are in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for in national legislation or regulations. However, entities in this situation may be eligible to participate insofar as the RA is able to purchase supplies on particularly advantageous terms from either a supplier which is definitively winding up its business activities, or the receivers or liquidators of a bankruptcy, through an arrangement with creditors, or through a similar procedure under national law;
  2. they or persons having powers of representation, decision-making or control over them have been convicted of an offence concerning their professional conduct by a final judgment;
  3. they have been guilty of grave professional misconduct; proven by any means which the RA can justify;
  4. they have not fulfilled obligations relating to the payment of social security contributions or taxes in accordance with the legal provisions of the country in which they are established, or with those of the country of the RA or those of the country where the contract is to be performed;
  5. they or persons having powers of representation, decision-making or control over them have been convicted for fraud, corruption, involvement in a criminal organisation or money laundering by a final judgment;
  6. they make use of child labour or forced labour and/or practise discrimination, and/or do not respect the right to freedom of association and the right to organise and engage in collective bargaining pursuant to the core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
  7. they are not guilty of any misrepresentation in supplying the information required by RA as a condition of participation in the tender procedure leading to entry into this Agreement, or guilty of any failure to supply such information.