• Ideas

This page pertains to the current round of accepting HHS Ignite proposals and is updated regularly. Please continue to check-in for the most updated information.

Last Updated: 03/12/2014 @ 11:30am ET

Does my boss have to approve submissions?

Ignite proposals require the approval of the Project Lead’s supervisor. In the application, we ask for that person’s information (name, title, phone, number, and email).


You say you want 25% of my time. What does that mean?

We wanted to signal that Ignite projects are not simply side projects taken on by a team. The Ignite experience is an intense one that involves real time commitments. You should anticipate spending about 25% of your time working on your Ignite project. For project leads, it might be a little more than this. For others it might be a little less at times and then more at times and then perhaps much less again depending on the ebbs and flows of the project plan.

We do not ask for time cards or for you to report your hours or anything like that. We trust that you’ll do what’s needed to get the job done. We simply put the “25% of your time” language out there as a gauge for you, so that you have a sense as to what you’re getting into.


What can I use the $5,000 on?

You can use the Ignite funds through any legal means by which your office is currently able to spend money. For example, you are able to leverage any contract vehicles and/or credit cards at your disposal. Ignite funds *cannot* go towards the salaries of non-contracted HHS employees. In addition Ignite funds *cannot* be used for travel.

Please see our page on How the Funding Work for more details.


3 months isn’t very much time, and my project is a big one…

Ignite emphasizes the small-scale testing of big ideas. It’s important to separate ‘scaling up’ from ‘testing’ when you are talking about your Ignite project. It’s very unlikely you’ll implement your concept full-scale during Ignite. Instead what you want to do is use Ignite as a means of testing in order to make a case for your idea, to gather feedback and insights so that you can scale up later.

For example, perhaps you want to take a paper-based process and turn it into an electronic-based process; you anticipate great savings coming from this. Instead of trying to transform the entire paper-based system during ignite, perhaps you only take 3 or 4 of these paper files and use that to design a “prototype” of the desired electronic-based process.




You say that selected teams get “a suite of tools (technologies) typically not available to staff”. What kind of tools are we talking about?

Our goal is to provide an environment that supports the rapid testing of ideas. We work with each selected team to identify their needs and bring in tools as available.

Most of these are tools that enable team collaborations: Adobe Connect accounts, conference lines, github,  project planning / reporting tools, etc. We also provide access to online tools that are generally frowned upon or difficult to gain access to: Amazon Web Service, MailChimp, WordPress, Google Drive, YouTube, Asana, Tableau Public, Survey Monkey, others. The use of these tools is acceptable only for the testing of ideas during Ignite.


What does your “Network of Innovators” mean?

We have a wide network of folks with varying skillsets from both inside and outside HHS. Skills such as: Lean Startup Methodology, Lean Process Mapping, Design Thinking, Behavioral Insights, Digital Strategy, Health Communications Theories, Web Development, IT Systems Architecture, and others. The specific people involved will not be determined until after the Ignite teams have been selected. But even then, these individuals are simply advisors / mentors for ad hoc consults. They do not become a member of the team and should not be counted on to fully fill a skills gap on your team.


Is it acceptable to propose a project idea that includes the use of other funds? Or does the entire project plan need to be restricted to a $5,000 budget?

Supplemental funds and/or other types of resources are certainly allowed and even encouraged. They can only strengthen an application! Please mention them in your proposal.


Is it acceptable to propose a project idea that includes the use of other funds? Or does the entire project plan need to be restricted to a $5,000 budget?

Supplemental funds and/or other types of resources are certainly allowed and even encouraged. They can only strengthen an application! Please mention them in your proposal.


Can we have more than one Project Lead?

Unfortunately no. While operationally you can manage your project as you see best, Ignite teams require a single Project Lead to be designated.


Can applications come from a cross-agency team?

Yes most certainly.


If there are multiple offices on the proposal, which one receives the funds?

The office of the Project Lead.


Last year, the proposal asked to identify which category the proposal fell within (Process efficiencies, technologies, relationship/partnership, workforce development, sustainability). Are these categories relevant this year or are there new ones to consider?

We are not asking this year for you to designate the type of innovation your project may fall into. This is largely because we found that the definitions for the categories was vague and in many ways confusing or otherwise. We are interested in ensuring a certain diversity in projects, but this will really only be considered on a case-by-base basis in, for example tie-break types of scenarios.


I missed the webinars. Are they archived anywhere?

We looked into archiving the webinars; however, doing so is rather labor intensive (expensive) process. For example, we would need to get a transcript of everything said so that the video posted can be captioned to ensure compliance with 508 policies. All the information mentioned in the webinars, including the slides, are found on the HHS Ignite webpages.


I have an idea but not a full team. Can Ignite help me find a team for my project idea?

Ignite only accepts applications from full teams. However, before you submit your application, we may be able to help make connections to others in your area who could join your team. It’s also worth noting that sometimes – though it’s hard – projects can be carried out by just a single person.


What is due by March 28? Anything beyond the proposal application?

Only the online proposal is due by March 28th.


How does Ignite relate to HHS Innovates?

HHS Innovates is here to recognize innovative projects that have already had success. HHS Ignite on the other hand provides support to teams that have an idea they’d like to act on. Ignite and Innovates are two of the six Pathways offered by the IDEA Lab.


How many times a year is this opportunity offered? And if unable to make the March deadline when is the next submission deadline?

Ignite is currently offered only once a year. We have not yet determined the dates of the next round.


Can you give a few examples of previous projects?

All previous projects can be found at the bottom of the main HHS Ignite page. (Once you’re there, click on the beaker icons to see the projects’ details.)


How many Ignite teams will be selected?

For this round, we are planning on supporting up to 10 teams.


What’s the secret to getting in? What does a great proposal look like?

The best proposals are those that – in very plain language (no jargon) – paint the picture of the problem at hand, describe specific customer (beneficiary, end-user, etc) whom being served, and then present simply the idea you’re proposing that will address the problem for that customer  (beneficiary, end-user, etc).

And while the grand solution may be very big, the best proposals will be able to present a project plan that is feasible within 3-months and  have quantifiable outcomes (measures of success).


Can I ask for less than $5,000?

To keep things simple on the financial side of things, by default all selected teams get $5,000 (and no less) to go towards implementing their project.


Can I put in a zero-dollar proposal?

Yes. While you may not ask for an amount between $1 and $4,999, you may ask for zero dollars.

However, we didn’t really build this option into the application process, there isn’t a formal place to mark, no box to check to denote that are not requesting any funds. (We’re sort of adopting here to the question as it has come up). Therefore, if you’d like to put in for a zero-dollar project, please clearly note it within the text of your Essay / Proposal.


Does the 5,000 character limit on the Essay / Proposal include spaces?




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