- Use the attached example spreadsheet / database for managing the application and selection process. This file is referred to extensively in the instructions below.
- A number of example text messages for emails throughout the application process are linked below.
Managing the application and review process is a full-time job and requires a dedicated resource.
As an example, for Africa Source 2, 400 applications had to be stored, tracked and reviewed and narrowed down to a final list of 100 participants. Given the high quality of many applicants, this can be a very difficult process.
Tools and guidelines
One way to stay on top of such large number of applications is to carefully store and record all information electronically. A few simple tools have proven useful:
- Store information from each application in a simple text file (.txt file) without formatting.
- Use a spreadsheet to record and manage the process. The spreadsheet undergoes a few changes in the process:
- First, record all relevant information from each application in the spreadsheet.
- Extend the spreadsheet to include information from the review process. Reviewers' notes and evaluations should be stored directly in the spreadsheet with the individual details.
- After the selection, the spreadsheet can be used to store travel and other logistics information (e.g. bank details for transfers, and indications as to whether or not participants need a visa).
- Sorting the list by country codes makes navigation easier (among other reasons, funders are often interested in participants from particular regions).
Application and review process
- Keep in mind that selection criteria are different from event to event, but should correspond to the objectives and goals set out in the Concept Paper. Also, the quality of applications varies greatly between different regions and target groups.
- Ensure that all correspondence with applicants is personalised - do not send out mass mailings.
- Do not overload the selection committee with work and emails. Make the process as easy as possible for them - they are, after all, usually volunteering their time to help.
- Ensure that selection is not too biased in favour of organisations or people that are known by members of the advisory group. A way to do this is to have two reviews by people who do not know the organisation or person, and one review by someone who does.
Step by step
- Send out the call for applications (including the application form) to mailing list, post it on your website and make sure that the broadest audience of potential participants hears about your event.
- Application Form Msg (sample text)
- Applications start to arrive. Save each application as a plain text file naming the file as ccTLD_FirstName_LastName. ccTLD stands for country code top level domain, which are unique identifiers for all countries. The list can be found at http://www.iana.org/cctld/cctld-whois.htm
- Add all info from the application forms in the mastersheet.
- Applicants are usually asked to define their "area of expertise". Scan through the applications and fill in area of expertise key words (e.g. localisation, advocacy, tech, NGO background, etc.) in the spreadsheet - this makes it easier to determine how heterogeneous the group is.
- Send confirmation of receipt, and ask participants to make prelimenary flight reservations in order to secure cheap airfares.
- Application Received Msg (sample text)
- Once the application deadline has passed, the application review process begins. Note that there are always late applications, sometimes because he/she was specifically asked to do so by Advisory Board member or specific funder. Check with others before rejecting them. Make sure everybody (facilitators as well) has filled out an application form, so the same kind of information is known about everyone.
- Two weeks before the application deadline, send an email to the review committee (Advisory Board members, organisers, specific people) explaining to them what is expected, when they should free up some time, and how much time it will take. State the deadlines as clearly as possible.
- Review Committee Msg (sample text)
- Every applicant should at least get 2 reviews from different members of the selection group, which usually includes representatives from the organisers and the advisory group members. Difficult cases require more reviews.
- If the selection takes more time than originally intended, send participants a short message to show that the process is not completed:
- In Progress Msg (sample text)
- When the selection process is concluded, create a new spreadsheet copying/pasting the selected participants. Use the same format as the mastersheet, but insert several columns to add information to keep track on additional requests: biography, travel details confirmed, visa completed, bank details, and of course the end result (invited, confirmed, cancelled, on site).
- Send out rejection / acceptance messages:
- Rejection Msg (sample text)
- Invitation Msg (sample text)