RFP Culture

This post continues in the same vein as the one a few days ago on new capitalism with its love for short-term contracts, intensified workloads and decreased timelines.

When I was in advertising we used to do elaborate pitches for new business. It took hours and hours of preparation and rehearsal and often required overtime, but at least then I was on salary. The agency did not get paid for its time, but the hope was that we would get the business and recover at least some of those hours. We were usually competing with two or three other agencies. The company wasn’t supposed to use your “creative” afterwards but that wasn’t always the case.

Various levels of government now use a similar process called the Request for Proposal (RFP). My current school readings tell me it is prevalent in the field of education. There is no face-to-face presentation here, just a formal submission in a sealed envelope. In this new RFP culture, small businesses and non-profits are being pushed into partnerships with large companies and consortiums. Not only are you not paid to develop your proposal, which in my experience can take almost as long as the contract itself, but sharing the fees means you often end up working for minimum wage or less. The big companies have all the infrastructure (i.e. liability insurance, workers compensation), but not necessarily the expertise. Here’s what one of my education textbooks had to say on the matter:

RFPs build on an “imperative to develop partnerships” (Atkinson, 2012) despite “profound inequities” (p. 15) among the partners. This is to the advantage of private multi-service providers and the disadvantage of traditional community providers who have less experience in proposal writing but may be better positioned to meet the needs of specific groups.

From Elfert,  & Rubenson, K. (2013). Adult education policies in Canada: Skills without humanity. In T. Nesbit, S.M. Brigham,
N. Taber, T. Gibb, Building on Critical Traditions, Adult Education and Learning in Canada (pp. 238-247).
Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational.
Quote within above excerpt from: Atkinson, T (2012). Between social good and market imperative: Adult literacy work
under Employment Ontario. Proceedings of the 31st annual conference of the Canadian Association for the Study 
of Adult Education.

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