A dimly lit light bulb lying on its side

Innovation Lab

During Phase One of our Safety Net Resiliency Initiative, we worked with four Design Teams to brainstorm ideas to improve Montgomery County's safety net system. Design Teams presented their ideas to the wider community at three Community or Practice meetings, held in March, June and September 2018. Attendees offered their feedback, which the Design Teams took back to further hone their ideas. Six ideas emerged from this effort and we will implement each of those over the course of the next several months in Phase Two.

The first idea to be implemented is the Innovation Lab, a virtual experience to allow organizations to test ideas. Through the Innovation Lab, we will support pilot projects that are: 

  • Relatively small scale in terms of time and budget;
  • Preliminary efforts to evaluate feasibility, time, cost and adverse events; and
  • Designed to inform and improve upon the project design elements prior to seeking capital necessary to support a full-scale implementation, if warranted.  

Given the emphasis on collaboration requiring time and intentionality, grant funds may be used to support these efforts.  However, the foundation requires that each project have a lead agency that will receive the grant contract and grant funds. 

Grants are intended to support short-term, pilot projects that can be completed within a maximum of 12-15 months and no later than March 2020. 

Eligibility Criteria

We wish to select projects with the best opportunities to promote early learning and establish a framework to support future work, which might include applications from nonprofits, local government, fiscal intermediaries and others.  We will use the following criteria to make decisions about funding:  

  • Commitment to support the safety net vision
  • Opportunity to advance policy and practice changes advancing the safety net vision
  • Community engagement (General public and consumer input actively solicited)
  • Data Use to inform policy/practice changes, access program and demonstrate shared responsibility and commitment
  • Sustainability
  • Scalability
  • Have potential to be replicated
  • Diversity of pilot project opportunities (geographic, cultural, populations, large/small, types of services, partners, etc.)
  • Efforts to build/sustain key partnering relationships
  • Clarity of anticipated value to enhance system resiliency
  • Realistic work plan and budget
  • Commitment to advancing the Initiative’s guiding principles: person-centered design, strength-based approaches, adaptability, equity, integration, and trust

How to Apply

The deadline to apply for an Innovation Lab grant has passed. You can read about our Innovation Lab grantees on our Grants Awarded page.

Innovation Lab grantees will be required to participate in periodic site visits and future Community of Practice meetings. Grantees will also be asked to share what they are learning in facilitated group discussions and other gatherings we might host. Grantees should plan to share what they are learning with consumers and the wider community.

Project Inspiration

Some of the ideas we are likely to invest in include:

  • Various forms of collaboration across organizations and services
  • Test new business and staffing models
  • Assess opportunities to employ technology to enhance consumer access and outcomes
  • Address systemic access barriers experienced by consumers
  • Demonstrate opportunities to create a single point of access for consumers needing safety net services
  • Assess and test the feasibility of data sharing between safety net providers; (e.g. food, housing, health services, job training and employment readiness, etc.)
  • Demonstrate the value of evidence-based case management practices; strength-based approaches to consumer engagement

Learning Collaborative

We have formed a Learning Collaborative for Innovation Lab grantees and their partnering organizations. The Learning Collaborative will meet several times during the grant period to share information and key learnings with each other. Members can join a private LinkedIn Group to facilitate conversations between meetings. Email Senior Program Officer Tamela Luce for more information.