Once a brief has been developed, submissions for tender can be invited. The aim of the tender process is to select the applicant who will give the best quality of work at the best cost. As a result, tenders have to balance the proposed cost, quality, delivery, and risk. If a tender process is being used to select an artist/ organization (rather than an existing partner being invited to join a project), then it should be carried out fairly, without advantage given to other applicants. For example, the level of additional information given should not become disproportionate for one applicant over another. And if one applicant wishes to see the site or meet a member of the team, this should be offered as an opportunity to the other potential applicants too. The way that the brief is advertised also should be fair, especially for open submissions, ensuring that it is circulated on a variety of mailing lists or websites and there is ample time for organizations or individuals to find out about it and submit an application.
Tender processes may be split into two stages of application: an expression of interest or pre-qualification stage, followed by a full application stage. This is often only necessary for projects in which a large number of applicants are anticipated. The pre-qualification stage can be used to see whether applicants meet specific criteria (such as whether they are based in the appropriate country, have any relevant experience, and work with the art form being sought). If specific criteria are being used, these should be listed in the brief so that applicants have the opportunity to demonstrate how they meet these criteria. Sometimes this stage is also used to get a flavour of the type of activity the applicant is proposing. For example, if applications are being sought for a mixed arts workshop for older adults, there are a wide range of options that could be pursued. An expression of interest form could be used to get a short description of what the individual/organization would deliver to assess whether it is along the right lines and therefore of interest for a full submission.
In the application form, the actual questions will vary depending on the type of project. Often, it is helpful to ask applicants to summarize their knowledge of the area. For example, if the project involves working with adult mental health service users, the application form might ask them to outline some of the current key challenges in mental health and why there could be a need for a new project. Although some of this information will have been included in the brief as an overview, this can be a way of assessing how well acquainted an artist/ organization is with the field, or how much work they are willing to put in to learn about it. Application forms often also ask for a summary of a participant’s experience or a CV to see whether they have carried out similar work before. To ensure that people who are new to the field or who are transferring their skills are not disadvantaged (as many artists may not have worked in health before but may have an inherent sensitivity to the type of work and a wealth of fresh ideas), it may help to ask what applicants feel they can bring to the project or what other experiences have prepared them to undertake this project. If the project involves a vulnerable population or particular sensitivities, it may also be revealing to ask the applicants to consider these sensitivities and discuss how they would approach them. This can be a way of assessing whether the applicant has an appropriate understanding of the project environment.
A central part of the full application is usually a description of how the applicant would approach the brief. For example, if the brief asks for workshops for young children, what would they propose doing in those workshops? Or if the brief is for a resource website to connect people who have been bereaved in an online book discussion group, applicants could outline the structure of the website, what sort of design they envisage, the tone of the language, and any special features. In many instances, the arts committee may already have a relatively advanced idea of what an intervention will involve. This may have been carefully developed as part of the consultation process (see Chapter 5). However, asking for a proposal is still sensible for several reasons: (i) it is a way of assessing the creativity of applicants and their ability to work to a plan. It can be helpful for separating out applicants who are willing to develop something new from applicants who may merely be looking for avenues to set up their own pre-conceived project with limited flexibility to adapt it; (ii) the proposals may bring to light new ideas that have not yet been considered for the intervention that could strengthen the project; (iii) if the project has so far been developed with limited involvement from artists, it is important to make sure that artists have had a chance to input their expertise to ensure that the project is feasible and makes the most of artistic opportunities. Finally, the application may ask for a breakdown of how the artist/organization would spend the money. This is discussed further in ‘Evaluating tenders’. To ensure that applications do not become too long, word counts for individual questions or a set page limit for the entire application are advisable.