Steps to Effectively Integrate
an RFI into the Procurement Process
In order to advance a more dynamic, solutions-oriented government procurement process, government and human services providers should follow a more thorough, consistent, outcomes-focused, and collaborative procurement process.4 A Request for Information (RFI) forms the basis for this process by catalyzing a guided discussion between government, human services providers, and the community at the outset.
It is important to note that this RFI process need not be formal or time consuming; in many cases steps one through four below could be accomplished within a matter of weeks. In fact, answers to these Collaborative Procurement Questions may be gathered through stakeholder meetings, rather than written communications, especially in cases where the targeted communities’ preferred mode of communication is not English.
While the Collaborative Procurement Questions are of particular utility for an RFI, they can be used throughout government contracting processes to increase collaboration – with the government soliciting, and human services providers supplying, the information needed to achieve the desired outcomes for the designated target populations.5 Specifically, the Collaborative Procurement Questions can be used in the following phases of human services procurement:
- Contract Scoping: Government procurement processes should begin with governments developing and reviewing a list of important upcoming contracts that can be strengthened through collaborative, outcomes-focused procurement. For the identified procurement opportunities, the government should determine their desired outcomes, budget, funding sources, and timelines.
- Pre-RFI Conference: Using the Collaborative Procurement Framework as a guide, governments, human services providers, and community stakeholders should schedule a pre-RFI meeting(s) to discuss the desired outcomes, budget, funding sources, and timelines of forthcoming government contracts for human services.6
- RFI Development: Using information gathered from the initial pre-RFI discussions with human services providers and the Collaborative Procurement Questions, governments should develop and release RFIs that describe the desired outcomes, budget, funding sources, and timelines of its upcoming human service procurement. (For more details on the content of an RFI see both the RFI Case Studies and Leading Examples section on page 14 and the Model RFI Template in Appendix B.)
- RFI Feedback: Human services providers should use the Collaborative Procurement Questions as a guide to provide written or verbal feedback to the procuring government entity.
- RFP Development: Governments should then use the Collaborative Procurement Questions and feedback received from human services providers and community stakeholders to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) that will achieve the desired outcomes by enhancing collaboration, increasing competition, and prioritizing evidence-based programs.
- RFP Pre-Proposal Conference: Governments should host a pre-RFP proposal meeting(s) with human services providers to discuss the RFP. During the pre-RFP proposal meeting(s), governments should share information about, and providers should ask about, the topics listed in the Collaborative Procurement Questions.
- Grant Applications: Human services providers should use the Collaborative Procurement Questions to inform the content of the proposal they submit to the government in response to the RFP.
- Contract Negotiation: Upon selecting a human services provider(s), government and the chosen provider(s) should use the Collaborative Procurement Questions to agree upon a contract that reflects their shared goals, priorities, and needs.
- Contract Management and Evaluation: After finalizing a contract, governments should ensure that the collaborative approach extends beyond the procurement process by requiring regular performance monitoring meetings. These active contract management sessions should be focused on continuous program improvement and bring together governments and human services providers to monitor implementation, identify progress, provide timely feedback, and make necessary adjustments. As part of these efforts, governments and human services providers should work together to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention, which improves the evidence base for future procurements.7
4 For more details on ways to improve collaboration and outcomes throughout the human services procurement process, please refer to Results for America’s What Works Toolkit: A State and Local Government Policymaker’s Guide to Improving Human Services Contracting and Outcomes.
5 For more details about the specific steps that governments should follow for the entire procurement process, please see the Collaborative Procurement Checklist in Appendix A .
6 To identify potential participants in RFI discussions, governments should use their existing vendors list, community groups recommended by their constituent affairs office, any existing network of community providers, notices in local media, postings on social media, direct outreach to influential community leaders, and other proven means of engaging relevant stakeholders.
7 For more details on the best practices for contract management see Recommendation #5 in Results for America’s What Works Toolkit: A State and Local Government Policymaker’s Guide to Improving Human Services Contracting and Outcomes, which discusses the important role of monitoring outputs as part of an overall feedback loop between governments and human services providers .