Why go?










Hiring helpers







Travel documents






Appendix: MFBP Announcement

version 1.4


1. Biases of Rural Development Tourism

2. Models, Pilots and Mirages

3.Learning Styles

4. Results-Based Management for Study Tours

5. A Micro-Enterprise Example

6. Checklist

Enhancing Exchange Visits as a Learning and Networking Tool: Practical Notes

Bryan Bruns


Why go?

Exchange visits offer a bundle of benefits, well beyond just acquiring information. An intellectual and physical journey creates common understanding, relationships forged in the fun and hardships of shared experience, commitments to new approaches, and friendships as foundation for future networking. Visits allow travelers and hosts to focus time and attention on a topic, learning deeply, sharing ideas, and assessing the relevance of new approaches. Information comes alive, in dialog, detailed in response to specific queries, conversations enriched by the perspective of distance and difference. The chance to look behind the scenes, to get acquainted with real people, understanding their problems and achievements, can create inspiration to keep working and launch new initiatives.

However, visits do not always work out so well. Travel may deteriorate into a tedious blur of tiresome briefings, boring bus rides and rushed village tours. Model projects may appear too perfect to be true. Hosts or visitors may be poorly prepared or unable to communicate. Travelers may seem uninterested in anything more than a holiday. Logistical snarls fray tempers, exhaust patience and wreck schedules.

This note offers some suggestions for enhancing exchange visits as tools for learning and networking. The ideas are compiled from experience (including many of the problems and mistakes mentioned later), discussion and a review of relevant literature. The first sections look at basic questions for planning a visit, followed by discussion of process and logistics. Further suggestions for revising this draft are welcome.

Consider the alternatives

Project reports, manuals, newsletters and websites offer more information than anyone can digest. If the goal is to acquire information already available in published form, then there may be no need to travel. If the objective is to reward people, to recognize their hard work or persuade them to go along with a program, then sponsoring their attendance at a big seminar in some pleasant resort is better than burdening hosts with visitors who only wanted a junket. When team building is the main goal, a joint retreat, outdoor adventure or other exercise can work on communication, group dynamics and cooperative problem-solving. If the goal is to gain a specific body of knowledge and skills, then a short training course is a good choice. Conferences expose participants to a broad range of ideas and alternatives. Workshops can be structured to craft plans, proposals and other specific outputs. With suitable planning, an exchange visit may achieve many of the same goals as a short course or workshop, but the first question is to decide on objectives and whether an exchange visit is the best way to achieve them.

Reporting back

Visits should benefit not just those who travel, but also those who stay home. Working through how learning will be shared is a good way to design visits, "planning backwards." The expectation of having to tell colleagues back home what has been learned creates a strong incentive for visitors to pay attention and analyze what they are experiencing. Photographs, slides and video will enliven reporting sessions, as will samples, tools, posters and other artifacts, supplementing more standard fare such as project reports and maps. If hosts and visitors will later switch roles on a return trip to the visitors' home area, then even more opportunities are created for exchange. Planning for reporting back builds a good foundation for productive visits.


Exchange visits can strengthen relationships and teamwork. One of the major opportunities created by an exchange visit is to bring together people who don't have frequent opportunities to interact back home. Instead of scheduling a brief appointment in an official's busy schedule there is the opportunity to talk casually, and at length. Rather than meetings pressured by crowded agendas and organizational hierarchies, new ideas can be explored informally, within a diverse group.

Policymakers can learn from those dealing with day-to-day implementation in the field, and vice versa. Farmers and community leaders look at things differently than agency staff. A group with both women and men will likely have more opportunities for access and rapport than a single-gender group. Exchange visits and other travel can play an important role in career development, broadening perspectives of those likely to take on greater responsibilities in the future. Ultimately, the goal should be to put together a group which will share common concerns and learn effectively together.


Ideas about where to go may come from previous contacts, literature, or suggestions from an agency dealing with similar issues in other places. Networks, international associations and professional societies may provide contacts. Program officers from financing agencies can play a crucial role: encouraging and legitimizing use of funds for an exchange visit, identifying potential locations to visit, and overcoming obstacles that arise in the course of preparation.

The objectives of the visit are clearly a primary consideration in deciding where to go, but logistical constraints such as travel time also play a major role. In the end, the hosts will probably make the final decisions about specific sites, based on input from the future visitors, donor officials and others. Locations which help reveal problems and challenges are likely to be much more credible than simple successes.

Box 1.
Biases of rural development tourism

Robert Chambers, in Rural Development: Putting the Last First, analyzed some of the biases which distort learning during visits:

  • Spatial biases: urban, tarmac and roadside
  • Project bias: showpieces; famous cases; atypical; public relations
  • Person bias: elite; male; user and adopter; active, present and living
  • Dry season bias: wet season inaccessibility; hungry season before harvest unseen
  • Diplomatic biases: politeness and timidity; poverty avoided; awkward questions inhibited
  • Professional biases: Disciplinary focus; specialization; single-mindedness

Reversals in learning can counter biases:

  • Sitting, asking and listening
  • Learning from the poorest
  • Learning indigenous technical knowledge
  • Joint research and development
  • Learning by working
  • Simulation games
  • RRA and PRA methods


Although it may be possible to visit a nearby village and return the same day, more commonly a week or two is an appropriate length of time for a visit to another region or country. Busy people will find it hard to be away more than a week or two at most, as may those with young children or other family obligations. Timing for a visit might be linked to attendance at a seminar or other activity, economizing on travel costs. However this may confuse preparation and lose focus on the visit.

Calendars showing holidays for both visitors and hosts may be a useful aid in planning, to avoid losing days to office closures and poor preparation. Monsoon floods, summer heat, or winter snow may pose major obstacles, or minor inconvenience, depending on who is involved and what they will be doing. Ideally, a visit might be fitted into a period when there are no strong pressures from seasonal activities. However the realities of when budgets become available, and when they must be disbursed often require significant compromises in scheduling.

Box 2. Models, pilots and mirages

(No, this is not about airplanes)

A too common pattern is the promotion of "models," typically through visits to pilot projects that have received lots of special attention and extra resources. Bold projections are made about what will be accomplished if the pilot approach is "replicated." It often becomes hard to distinguish reality from plans and wishful thinking, especially if questions keep getting answered in terms of what is supposed to happen, not what is actually going on. Assertions that "we have no problems, no conflicts" frequently undermine credibility.

It is crucial to consider what cannot be seen during a visit.

  • Attractive technologies often have hidden flaws: pumps without spare parts, windmills with too little wind, and biogas digesters with just enough flame to show visitors for a few minutes are only a few examples of technical problems that may be missed by visitors or too easily explained away.
  • Success too often depends on the subsidies of free inputs or energetic community organizers. Attention is often distracted towards physical facilities, such as tree nurseries, rather than the social institutions and incentives which will determine whether transplanted seedlings grow into trees.
  • The enthusiasm apparent in a PRA session or a day of community labor may soon fade in the face of delays and broken promises.

Skepticism is needed toward innovations which have not yet survived the end of project assistance.

For hosting agencies it is tempting to keep going back to the same sites, where conditions are known, and a predictable experience can be created for visitors. A continuing flow of visitors may "sustain" an apparent success, by promoting special attention, public relations skills and a continuing desire to look good to visitors. Far better to take people to someplace which has rarely been visited, with surprises, serendipity, and a more credible mix of progress and problems. Keeping expectations lower, emphasizing dialogue and interaction, can promote trust and practical learning from experience.


Attending real events can have much more impact than staged presentations. A visit composed of monotonous briefings, endless bumpy bus rides, dull ceremonies and hasty marches through villages is unlikely to generate much useful learning. As with many things, getting people involved in talking and doing, not just listening, is one key to success. The techniques applied in participatory rural appraisal can be applied to help shift from one-way presentations towards letting everyone take part in more spontaneous interaction, exploring similarities and differences.

Participation helps. If potential travelers are involved in defining the objectives and activities for the visit, they are likely to have much more ownership. They may also be much more willing to take an active and structured approach to gathering information and analyzing their experience. Discussions in advance of the visit should explore options and clarify what activities visitors and hosts think may be most worthwhile and feasible.

Activities should support different learning styles. It is too easy to focus on formal presentations, turning visitors into pupils or spectators. Even if only done briefly, helping to harvest a crop, cook a meal, or join a dance may be more memorable than the most profound lecture. Walking through a local market often offers more education than the best video documentary. Getting out into the field together brings alive the tacit knowledge of daily practice, how people, relate, learn and cooperate.

The choice of how many sites to visit may well be a case where "less is more." Seeing at most one or two sites a day, explored in some depth, may allow far more learning than rushing through a half-dozen different locations which will too soon blur together in memory.

Box 3.
Learning styles

Activities and materials should be arranged to address different learning styles, such as verbal, textual, visual and experiential. This goes both for activities during the visit, and materials, presentations and other things prepared before traveling.

  • Briefings and discussions are likely to work better if verbal presentations are combined with text and graphics, whether simple hand-drawn diagrams or Power Point displays.
  • Photos blown up to A4 size are easy to present and pass around without special equipment.
  • Brochures, reports, manuals and other texts allow deeper exploration of specific points, and cater to those who prefer to chart their own course for gathering information.
  • Walking through offices, experiencing protocols and formalities, gives a feel for how an organization works.
  • Those who like to learn by doing benefit greatly from a hands-on approach, walking through an irrigation scheme, trekking into a watershed, or trying their hand at new tools.



An important part of making a visit a two-way process is for the visitors to prepare and take along materials they can use to present their own activities. This could include not only brochures and reports, but also diagrams, maps, charts, photographs, slides, videos, and "props," objects such as tools or miniature models.


Taking care of visitors is hard work. It takes time away from other activities. One goal for visits should be to offer a balance for both hosts and visitors, shifting the focus from emulation to exchange. Someone on the host side should have clear responsibility for planning and conducting the visit. This may be a good learning experience for someone who shows potential for taking on future managerial responsibilities. Interns, students or other "outsiders" working in the locality can play a useful role in bridging between hosts and visitors.


Unless both hosts and visitors happen to share a native tongue or are fluent in a common language, translation is likely to need attention. Naively assuming some members of the visiting group will translate for the others may generate resentment, bias communication, or result in those with weaker language skills missing much. If everything will have to be relayed through an interpreter, then communication will take at least twice as long and schedules need to be adjusted accordingly.

However, travelers should not rely only on interpreters. Pocket phrasebooks are easily carried around, and allow pointing at the relevant query even if pronunciation is a problem. A good technical dictionary for the relevant languages helps clarify specialized terms. At a minimum, learning a few simple words in a local language, such as thank you, hello and good-bye, goes a long way towards building and maintaining rapport.


If a group has several people with strong facilitation skills, they might take turns promoting a good process in the field and during other activities such as evening review discussions. However it may be worth recruiting a specialized facilitator with an understanding of both visitors and hosts. Such a person can help prepare a visit, identifying topics and locations of common interest. Having someone else take on some of the responsibility for logistics and promoting a good process can help visitors and hosts to concentrate on the substance on their concerns.

Facilitation can draw on the broad range of techniques which have been developed for group processes, participatory rural appraisal and other activities. Basic techniques for enabling all participants to take part are useful, as well as more complex methods. Participants can go around in a circle giving a few words, or a few sentences that express their ideas or feelings on a topics. During a general discussion, buzzgroups of two or three persons can talk about something for a few minutes, and either report back to the larger group, or just use it as a legitimized opportunity to think through their personal reactions. Writing down ideas and issues on card and then posting them for discussion, clustering, etc. are among the other tried and true techniques available. Keeping a written journal is of course a classic method for promoting reflecting about observations and learning, whether done informally or more systematically.

Hiring helpers

One important decision is choosing when to hire others to help with a visit. This may be fairly simple, as in the case of asking a travel agency to arrange plane tickets. It becomes more crucial if most of planning and carrying out the visit is assigned to someone else. Graduate students, consultants, retirees and others may have flexible schedules and the attitudes, knowledge, skills and interests that would enable them to take on a specialized role in facilitating an exchange visit. Depending on circumstances, they may want to be paid for their time or interested to join for the experience as long as their expenses are covered. Previous experience, reputation and trust by those in the organization and its colleagues constitute key criteria in recruiting someone. Most crucial is the attitude of someone who will act to facilitate, not as an instructor but as a resource person supporting mutual learning by participants.

Professional tour guides can make travel far smoother. However, payment arrangements need to recognize that exchange visitors may not generate the opportunities for commissions or other side income to which guides are often accustomed. Simultaneous interpreters are highly skilled and usually charge accordingly. The realities of limited budgets mean it will often be necessary to settle for slower translation, by those also playing other roles in the visit or by more affordable interpreters.

Many institutes are used to arranging training courses, conferences and workshops, dealing with many logistical issues similar to exchange visits. However these organizational capabilities are far less crucial than the characteristics of the specific people who might facilitate a visit. Routinization is often the enemy of the enthusiasm, spontaneity and attitudes crucial to successful exchanges. Hiring others is fairly easy and advisable for ordinary tasks such as arranging transport and accomodation, but recruitment of facilitators needs careful attention.

Box 4. Results-Based Management for Study Tours

The Handbook on Study Tours: Managing for Results prepared for the Canadian International Development Agency's China Program offers useful management and operational tools. The first section focuses on defining expected results, indicators, risks, and reporting, including a concise one-page framework for preparing and following up on study tours. The second section offers practical suggestions and lessons from experience for improving operational efficiency in planning, implementation and evaluation.


Ideally, evaluation should be just another phase in a process of discussion and reflection continuing throughout the visit. At a minimum, participants (and hosts) should be asked a few simple questions:

  • What did you like best?
  • What did you like least?
  • What do you suggest to make future visits better?

For a more systematic approach, the different activities can be listed and rated on a simple point scale for one or more criteria: interesting? educational? useful? Etc. A thank you letter written back to the hosts offers a good opportunity to identify highlights of a visit.


Even with enthusiastic visitors and welcoming hosts, visits can be undermined by logistical shortcomings: delays, missing documents, uncomfortable accommodations, bad food or cross-cultural misunderstandings. Substantial time needs to be devoted to working out the nuts and bolts of such things as vehicles, tickets, health insurance, vaccinations, reservations and schedules.


A well-conducted exchange visit provides a valuable learning experience, and so may constitute a good use of training budget. Visits offer a specific package of activities that might be used to seek special funding, from a donor organization with a particular interest in a topic or location to be visited. The main budget items include travel, including local transport, daily expenses for food and accommodation, travel documents, and materials, both those taken along for briefing, and those photocopied or purchased along the way. The website described in Box 4 provides an example of guidelines for developing a proposal for an exchange visit.

Having cash stolen out of luggage or a hotel room can ruin a trip. While credit cards and automatic teller machines simplify payment and access to cash, travelers checks still provide a good combination of safety and flexibility.

Box 5.
A Micro-enterprise Example

The Microenterprise Best Practices Program of USAID offered grants of $5,000 to $10,000 for onsite learning from peer microenterprise service organizations. Exchange visits were required to address priority issues, such as solving a specific problem, learning a new technology or managing a transition. Participants could include board members, senior management and supervisors. Proposals were accepted and evaluated every three months. For proposal guidelines and other information about this example of a (now completed) exchange visit program see the appendix to this paper.


Eating together brings people together. However, food is surrounded by sensitivities, including dietary restrictions (vegetarian, halal, allergies, etc.), assumptions about inclusion and and exclusion (Do drivers eat at the same table? Do people order separate meals or share from a common pot?) and worries about disease and pollution. Any dietary restrictions need to be identified in advance, and vigilantly monitored during the trip, especially if they are unknown or at risk of being disregarded in the host area. For example, a raw meat dish might be a favorite local delicacy, but not what visitors can cope with. Frying in animal fat may be taken for granted, or shrimp paste added as a matter of habit, unless carefully monitored.

If a site receives many visitors, then compensation is needed for the time and materials to prepare meals. There should be food for all those involved in hosting the visitors, or else meals should be arranged somewhere else, such as a roadside restaurant. Eating a fancy boxed lunch surrounded by an audience of villagers who may be hungry is awkward, and not consistent with the kind of relationship that exchange visits are intended to promote.


Books introducing local customs can be obtained in advance, such as the Culture Shock series. Ideally these should be read beforehand, and hopefully the group will include at least one or two diligent types who will actually do so. Such books are still useful even if hastily skimmed during a plane flight, and consulted as a resource during the visit. It helps to have at least an orientation on basics such as body language (Do people stand close together while talking, or keep well apart?), conversational styles (Are argument and direct confrontation routine or avoided?) and other cultural matters (Is deference to hierarchy the norm, or aggressive assertion of equality?). At least a minimal introduction to local history and current politics should be provided during the early stages of a visit.


Inevitably much time is spent in buses, vans or other vehicles. This can be a great opportunity for learning. However if visitors travel in one vehicle and hosts in another, then there is little chance for exchange. Since people tend to cluster with those they know, and to return to the same seat, it is worth taking a pro-active approach to deliberately mixing people up, changing seating arrangements for different portions of a trip.

Spending ten hours traveling by train or bus, and then being told you can only visit for an hour before going on to the next location is a sure recipe to exhaust and disappoint visitors. A suitable balance needs to be maintained between time traveling and time in other activities.

Invading with a caravan of five or ten vehicles overwhelms hosts. It is often better to split into smaller groups to visit separate locations, after which people can exchange experiences.

Travel documents

Compiling the paperwork needed for a new passport may take months. Some countries deny entry if current passports are not valid for at least six months longer. Spending the preceding week beforehand in suspense as to whether visas will be approved in time is not the ideal way to prepare for a stressful trip. So, careful attention is needed to preparing travel documents. This may well occupy a surprisingly large amount of time in trip preparation.


Where to stay depends a lot on what visitors expect, and can tolerate. Some may be severely disappointed unless they stay overnight in villages, while others want five star hotels. The budget and standards of a sponsoring agency may determine per diems and acceptable standards and costs for hotels. Participants with modest incomes often prefer to economize on hotels and meals, saving money to take back home or spend on more important purchases, rather than indulging in unnecessary luxury. Government or university guesthouses may offer modest but acceptable accommodation at economical prices. If village stays are on the agenda, then items such as mosquito nets, bathing and toilet arrangements need to be checked in advance.


Searching periodical indexes and the web for information on exchange visits and study tours reveals plenty of accounts by visitors, but relatively little about how to design such activities. A better source lies in writings on rapid rural appraisal and participatory rural appraisal which address philosophy, approaches and practical techniques to avoid the biases of rural development tourism. Relevant principles and techniques can be employed to make exchange visits richer and more mutually fulfilling for those involved. The journal PLA Notes provides a good source of ideas, and is published by the International Institute for Environment and Development, whose website ( catalogues a rich collection of materials on PRA methods.


Much of designing exchange visits comes down to common sense, working out objectives, participants and activities, to craft an experience that will be worthwhile to all those involved. Building relationships, focusing attention on a topic and spending lots of time on discussion are likely to be as or even more important than the new information acquired from the visit site. Detailed attention to logistics is crucial to making things go smoothly. One way or another, the team needs to include people willing and able to deal with logistics, facilitation and translation. Two-way exchange can be promoted if the visitors prepare briefing materials to take along, plan how they will report back results at their home site, and especially if hosts may later come to visit, exchanging roles.


This note was written as part of consulting work for the Ford Foundation, in support of activities by the Environment and Development Affinity Group. Views expressed are the responsibility of the author, and do not represent the views of the Ford Foundation or any other organization with which the author is or has been associated.


Learning styles have been a focus of research in education. The formulation here draws on the presentation in Mary Pride's Big Book of Home Learning.

Comments on this paper should be directed to Ujjwal Pradhan ( or Bryan Bruns (

Box 6. Checklist


Why? Define objectives; decide if exchange visit is the best choice.

Who? Team composition. How are they expected to benefit? Consider mix of backgrounds, seniority, gender, community members and agency staff, language skills, facilitation skills.

Where? International or domestic? What recommendations? How many sites to visit?

When? Check travelers' and host's schedules, budget availability, major holidays, climate, lead time for permissions and travel documents.

What? Discuss plans with hosts. Mix activities to fit interests and learning styles. Allow enough time for informal discussions, reflection and rest.


Documents: Itinerary, tickets, passports, visas, permission from employers, travelers checks, health insurance forms, dictionaries and other books, materials for presentations

Accommodation: What type? Shared or individual rooms? Special equipment (e.g. mosquito nets). Reservations.

Vehicles: size, mix hosts and visitors, avoid cavalcades and exhaustion

Food: Identify dietary restrictions. Monitor.


Reporting session

Send out any materials promised to hosts

Send thank you letters

Written report

Appendix 1








Exchange Visit Grants support exchanges of experience, development of specific technical skills, and cooperation among microenterprise service organizations. These grants allow organizations striving to improve their operations to examine on site the programs of other organizations. Visits must be to organizations outside the applicant's network of affiliates or partners. Applicants must clearly articulate a link between their issues, problems, or future plans; what they could learn at the host organization; and how the information and knowledge gained as a result of the visit would be directly applied to their program.



The 1999 application and funding cycle for exchange visit grants is as follows:

Proposal Deadline


Notice of Award by

March 31, 1999

April 30, 1999

June 30, 1999

July 30, 1999

September 30, 1999

October 30, 1999

January 31, 2000

February 29, 2000



MBP's exchange visit grant program helps microenterprise practitioner organizations link with their peers to find solutions to their "front-burner" issues, share know-how, and develop specific technical skills to improve programs. Grants range from $5,000 to $10,000. The visits generally last one to two weeks and emphasize peer learning and sharing across institutional boundaries. Each exchange visit serves as an intensive field practicum for the participating staff--typically board members, senior management, and supervisors.

MBP asks applicants to define their own exchange topics and identify a mentor or host organization from which to learn and share experiences. Applicants must also explain why that mentor or host organization is a suitable match and how the information and knowledge gained from the visit would be directly applied to their program.

Since 1997, more than 70 individuals (board members, senior managers, and other staff) have taken part in 15 different MBP-funded exchange visits. Exchange topics are diverse. In the area of microfinance, grantees have examined such issues as institutional transformation, ownership and governance, and lending methodologies. In the area of business development services, grantees have linked with other organizations to share information and learning on such topics as subsector technology transfer and microenterprise recycling services.

Grants to TSPI Development Corporation in the Philippines and VITA's Guinea Rural Enterprise Development Project (GREDP) exemplify the uses and benefits of these learning exchanges. The grant to TSPI Development Corporation, a Filipino MFI, allowed three TSPI staff members to visit the AsociaciÛn para el Desarrollo de Microempresas, Inc. (ADEMI) in the Dominican Republic to examine ADEMI's individual lending program. In its proposal, TSPI stated that its shift to individual lending was not moving in the direction and at the pace expected. Because ADEMI had made the same shift and had become an industry leader in this type of lending, TSPI wanted to see ADEMI's individual lending program in action, share experiences, and apply elements of the methodology to its own operations.

The grant to VITA allowed four staff from GREDP to visit Agence de CrÈdit pour l'Entreprise PrivÈe (ACEP), a Senegalese MFI. GREDP is in the process of becoming an independent organization as USAID support winds down. Since ACEP had successfully made the transition in the early 1990s, the exchange visit enabled GREDP to see how ACEP had defined its ownership and governance structure, its internal control system, and its staff remuneration and incentive system. After the visit, GREDP had many concrete examples to use to fine-tune its institutional transformation plan and process.



Microenterprise organizations in countries where USAID has a presence are eligible to receive grants, as are U.S. organizations and organizations of OECD-member countries working in conjunction with local organizations in those countries. Legally registered private voluntary organizations, nongovernmental organizations, credit unions, banks or other specialized financial institutions, business associations including chambers of commerce, microenterprise networks, and training institutes all are eligible for grants. Organizations need not be registered with USAID to apply for and receive MBP grants.



Applicants for exchange visit grants must submit proposals developed according to the instructions contained in this announcement. A proposal review committee will review the grant proposals and recommend for USAID's final approval those proposals that meet and exceed the criteria contained in this announcement. Proposals will be reviewed and notices of award sent to successful applicants within 30 days of the application deadline. Successful applicants should anticipate receipt of funds no sooner than 45 days following notification of awards, to allow time for the grant negotiation and administration process.



An organization may be awarded only one exchange visit grant per year. Grant recipients must have the capacity to manage grant funds and will be subject to USAID regulations on grant administration. MBP will require all grant recipients to submit financial and technical reports on their grant-funded activities.


MBP's mandate is to widen the circle of best practices organizations providing services to microenterprises and to move forward through innovation and experimentation. All grant recipients will be required to track their progress toward the goals and objectives of their activity and provide this information to MBP in periodic technical reports. MBP will work with grant recipients to strengthen grant-funded activities and share the results and products of grant funding with the microenterprise field as a whole. MBP monitoring activities will include, but not be limited to, telephone and site visits and attendance at activity events. MBP learning activities will include, but not be limited to, documenting selected activities and synthesizing lessons from multiple grant activities into larger products to enhance the sustainability of individual grant efforts.


Information and Eligibility Requirements

  • MBP will award one to three grants per application deadline to eligible organizations whose proposals meet application requirements and are judged to best fulfill MBP's funding criteria.
  • Proposals may be for exchange visits to organizations providing either financial or business development services.
  • Proposals must be for exchange visits to organizations outside the applicant's network of affiliates or partners. The proposed visit may be multidirectional, with two or more organizations visiting each other. Proposals may also be for visits to several programs within the same country or in different countries.
  • Grant size is expected to range from US$5,000 to US$10,000.
  • Only those proposals that demonstrate and document the support and commitment of the organization to be visited will be considered for funding.
  • Participants (one or more) may be from the organization's board of directors, senior management, or supervisory staff.
  • Counterpart funding is required. MBP will cover transportation and lodging. Applicant organizations are required to cover the costs of salaries for all participants, as well as their meals and incidental expenses. MBP will consider covering other expenses, such as technical assistance fees, if they are adequately justified in the proposal.
  • Grants are for the short-term, on-site examination of a specific microenterprise program and may extend to technical assistance in a specific aspect of that program. Grants may not fund participation at professional or academic conferences, seminars, or training courses.


Proposal Instructions

All proposals must be in English and follow the format provided below. An optional French or Spanish version may be submitted with the required English version. Proposals should be as concise as possible and are limited to three typewritten pages comprising the following information, excluding attachments:

I. Organization Information (no more than one page)

  • Statement of the organization's history, affiliation, structure, and mission;
  • Statement of the organization's strategic goals;
  • Description of current programs, activities, and capabilities; and
  • List of major donors contributing to the organization during the past three years.


II. Activity Summary and Follow-up (no more than two pages)

Activity Summary

  • Description of goals and objectives of the exchange visit, including the need or problem to be addressed and how the applicant plans to use the proposed visit to address the need or problem;
  • Explanation of why the cooperating institution was selected to be visited;
  • Proposed dates of the exchange visit; and
  • List of individuals who will participate in the exchange visit and reasons for selecting them.



  • Plan for how the organization will use or disseminate what is learned as a result of the exchange visit. Successful applicants will be required to submit a revised plan after the exchange visit has taken place.


III. Attachments (the following attachments are required)

  1. Detailed agenda or itinerary for the proposed exchange visit;
  2. Letter of support from the cooperating organization indicating its staff's commitment to participate in this activity; and
  3. Budget for the activity in the format shown in the box below. All budgets must be in US$ and provide a breakdown per unit cost. PLEASE NOTE: Line items used in this sample budget are only illustrative.

Sample Budget (US$)

Line Item

Amount Requested from MBP

Amount Contributed by Applicant Organization

Airfare (no. of round trips X airfare)

Lodging* (no. of travelers X no. of days X rate)

Meals and Incidental Expenses (no. of travelers X no. of days X rate)

Ground Transportation (no. of travelers X no. of days X rate)

Other (please specify)

Indirect Costs (if applicable)


*Funded up to the maximum lodging amount established by the U.S. State Department for that location.

Selection Criteria

These criteria serve as the standard against which all exchange visit proposals will be evaluated. Proposals should discuss the following:
  • Issue to be addressed and how the proposed visit will help the applicant address the issue;
  • Rationale for selecting the organization to be visited and documentation from that organization indicating its cooperation; and
  • Specific outcomes the applicant expects to achieve from the exchange visit and how these outcomes relate to the organization's strategic goals.

Exchange visit grants are intended to help organizations solve a specific problem, learn about a new technology or methodology, manage a transition, or address other significant issues. Priority will be given to proposals that clearly identify the issue to be addressed and explain how specifically the proposed visit is expected to help the applicant address the issue.


All proposals must be received by MBP no later than 5:00 P.M. Washington, D.C., time on the applicable deadline date. Only one copy of the proposal is required.

Deliver all proposals to:


Microenterprise Best Practices (MBP)
Development Alternatives, Inc.
7250 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20814 USA
ATTENTION: Grant Facility
Phone: 301-718-8699
Fax: 301-718-6567
Web site:

Fax and electronic submissions of proposals will be accepted. Late or incomplete proposals will not be considered.

For further information, contact:


Jimmy M. Harris Jr.
MBP Grants Administrator
Phone: 301-718-8204



The Microenterprise Best Practices (MBP) Project is a component of the Microenterprise Innovation Project (MIP), a project managed by the Office of Microenterprise Development of USAID. MIP is designed to implement the U.S. Congressional Microenterprise Initiative launched in June 1994. The purpose of MIP is to promote the expansion and ensure the effectiveness of microenterprise services in facilitating the entrepreneurial activities of the poor, especially women.