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Hey HHS Staff! Want To Change The Way Government Works? Here's Your Opportunity.

We provide concentrated opportunity for experimentation. We provide a safe space where new ideas, cultivated by people, can grow. We take project ideas at all stages of development, from the nascent to the tested, and help them demonstrate value and get woven back into the organization so as to generate real impact.

Large organizations (yep, that's us) over time become settled in the status quo. Policies, rules, and cultural norms - once tools to standardize processes and drive efficiencies within the organization - eventually become forces that resist new ideas, that innately de-emphasize organizational innovations. It's not necessarily that anyone out there is pro-actively blocking progress. Rather, it's just that new ideas are disruptive to the social fabric and thus can be uncomfortable. Thus experimenting with new concepts doesn't become a priority. And the implementation of change gets back-burnered. That's where the IDEA Lab comes in. We provide concentrated opportunity for experimentation. We provide a safe space where new ideas, cultivated by people, can grow. We take project ideas at all stages of development, from the nascent to the tested, and help them demonstrate value and get woven back into the organization so as to generate real impact. Among our programs and initiatives, we have a couple that target HHS staff, those on the front lines of change. We want to provide a pipeline of sorts where these people (is this you?) can operate within a framework to flesh out, test out, and ultimately operationalize a new way of doing things. Two of these programs are: The HHS Ignite Accelerator, which supports the early exploration of ideas, and the HHS Ventures Fund, which helps tested concepts get taken to the next level. This blog post is a promo for these two internal innovation programs, which have open application periods until November 6th, and a call to the HHS staff to take advantage of the opportunities provide!

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Open Opportunity #1: Want to try something new? Apply to our Ignite Accelerator.

The HHS Ignite Accelerator is our internal innovation program for Department staff who see problems and want to explore potential ways to address that problem. The 3-month program provides selected teams methodological coaching and technical guidance to explore and test an idea within a fast-paced, entrepreneurial framework. The Ignite Accelerator is for small teams of up to 3 people. (You can have others involved as 'partners.') And while teams must come up with an idea, it only needs to be a nascent idea at first; we can help you incubate that idea to maturity. Ignite - as we call it for short - has a multi-staged selection process. Staff first submit a proposal online. Those get scored, and the top tier are identified as Finalists. These Finalists, supported through online trainings and a community of innovators, begin the exploration of their project idea. They flesh out out the concept, hone in on the problem, and perfect their pitch. This pitch is then their ticket into the Accelerator itself, the 3 month journey where teams are challenged and coached on how to take their concept into the prototyping and testing phases.

Re the Ignite Accelerator, just so you know:

  • This is our 5th Round of Ignite and it looks to be bigger and better than ever.
  • We're expecting around 70 applications to get submitted. That's about what we've gotten in previous rounds.
  • We're anticipating identifying 35 of those as Finalists who for 2 months will get training and a network to help them explore their concept further.
  • We hope to select 20 of these as teams selected into the 3-month Ignite Accelerator.

Learn more about the HHS Ignite Accelerator here.

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Before we jump into what the Ventures Fund is, here's a graphic about how the programs can work together:

Project stages: Discovery, Alpha, Beta, Pilot, Phased implementation; above, in order, are Ignite Finalists, Ignite Accelerator, Ventures Fund: Definitions adapted from 18f.gsa.gov

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Open Opportunity #2: Want to take your innovation idea to scale? Apply to our Ventures Fund.

The HHS Ventures Fund supports HHS staff that have proven concepts - either because literature directly backs it and/or because they've prototyped and tested the idea themselves. Teams want to take these projects to the next level, either operationalizing the idea, taking it through a pilot stage, or in some other way scaling the effort. All staff are eligible to apply to Ignite and for Ventures Funding. So, while the two programs do line up nicely, you don't have to have gone through Ignite in order to apply to for Ventures Funding. The Ventures Fund has a multi-staged selection process. Almost all teams that submit an online project abstract will go straight to pitch. Your pitch is your application. Note that there is quite a bit of information that we're seeking to hear about in that pitch. This is our 3rd Round of Ventures Funding and it's slightly different this time. The main thing to notice is that we're seeking this go-round ideas particular to the following domains of innovation:

  • Re-engineering Core Processes. Think about the processes that drive day-to-day operations.
  • Strengthening the Department's Workforce. This an HR-related category.
  • Increasing Citizen Engagement with Government. These could explore new ways to connect the public with input on government programs, including the uses of technology to support responses for request for public input or federal advisory committees activities.
  • Improving Energy Usage and Waste Operations. Streamlining and modernizing the core of what makes us run and keeps us operational.
  • Promoting Security + Innovation. We're seeking new perspectives on the hot topic of security, both virtual/digital and physical security.
  • Surprise Us! That last category is a catch-all: While we will be showing some preference to the topics above, we are still accepting proposals that don't fall into any of the mentioned categories.

Re the Ventures Fund, just so you know:

  • We're expecting around 15 applications to get submitted for Ventures Funding.
  • We anticipate identifying about 10 of those as worthy of getting to pitch directly to the Ventures Board.
  • We anticipate 2 to 4 of these projects to actually receive Ventures Funding

Learn more or apply to the HHS Ventures Fund here.

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So: Why consider applying to these programs?

We're flipping the model: These are programs that are bottom up. We're seeking YOUR ideas on how HHS and its family of Agencies can carry out our collective mission. We're counting on you. Don't miss out on this opportunity to #HackRedTape! So why consider applying?

  • Because you know that there's got to be a better way to do things.
  • Because that annoying operational problem isn't going to fix itself.
  • Because you're seeking a professional growth opportunity.
  • Because you've been at HHS for under 5 years and you're starting to lose your mind. (hint: the Ignite Accelerator might be for you)
  • Because you've been at HHS for over 5 years wouldn't mind a spark to (ahem) ignite a significant effort. (hint: the Ventures Fund might be for you)
  • Because you're an example of how wrong the stereotype of the government employee is.
  • Because: Well, why heck not?

Applications to Ignite are due at 11:59pm EST on Nov 6. Applications to the Ventures Fund are due at 11:59pm EST on Nov 20.

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HHS Administrative