At the end of the HHSinnovates Awards Ceremony yesterday, a new initiative was launched: HHSignites (beta) is an internal competitive seed-funding opportunity to test new and unconventional ideas at HHS.

This initiative is intended to compliment HHSinnovates - which recognizes the achievement of innovative projects – by providing incentives and support to test ideas that haven’t yet been implemented anywhere in the Department.

HHSignites is about testing of new concepts to gain evidence for solutions to mission-related challenges. Been wanting to try out a new tool that increases the accessibility of your internal documentation? Wanted to attempt to automate a process that has thus far involved a tedious manual process? Overall frustrated with the status quo operation you’re in and think you have an idea on how to improve it?

This pilot of HHSignites hopes to support up to 8 innovative concepts with budgets of $10,000 or less that can be completed within 6 months.

We’re looking for ideas that are new to HHS. While the ideas themselves may be grand – even revolutionary – the proposals we’re looking for must fit into the 6 month window. The challenge then becomes: How do we whittle down the grand ideas into testable bites?

There are no shortage of ideas, but for ideas to have real value there must be evidence that it can work. Supporting this idea-validation step of the larger idea-to-solution process is what this program is about.

We’re looking for early steps of concepts entirely new to HHS that are directly related to supporting the Secretary’s priorities. Proposals could also go towards a process already underway but looking to take an unconventional next step. Either way, we take the definition of “new to HHS” seriously. (Certainly feel free to steal from outside of HHS!) Proposals should be for proofs-of-concept, and are early stage product developed simply for validation.

It’s only fitting that this pilot of HHSignites is itself a test. That’s why we’re calling it beta. We hope to validate the concept of and the processes required for direct internal investments within HHS.

In addition to the actual funds, HHSignites teams will get consultations with Department leaders, introductions to the HHSentreprenuers, and interactions with the top innovators at HHS. This community, anchored by the HHS Innovation Council, is going beyond talking about ideas. These individuals are working across their agencies, across the Department, and across their professions to work together in improving the way we carry out the HHS mission.

Awardees will also get exposure to and – depending on the concept being tested – experience in methodologies such as lean startup and agile development. These flexible approaches to problem solving are essential tools that recognize the dynamic and highly interconnected world of today.

We encourage everyone to look at the work they do and ask themselves what can be done to improve our current processes, technologies and services. In fact, every one of us can think of a status quo operation that could use a little disruption. And by bringing the best ideas of HHS employees to the forefront and testing them, we’ll begin to build the pipeline of solutions to those nagging problems, answers to those persistent questions, and advancements towards revolutionary breakthroughs. We’ll improve the efficiency and efficacy of what we do. And all towards the continual betterment of the Americans we serve.

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