About the Ignite Accelerator
The HHS Ignite Accelerator is an internal innovation startup program for staff within the Department that want to improve the way their program, office, or agency works.
The Ignite Accelerator is for small teams of 3-5 people. Most teams come with an idea for how to improve the way their program, office or agency works. However, individuals that have identified a problem, but have not yet identified a solution are also welcome to apply.
The program provides selected teams methodological coaching and technical guidance within a fast-paced, entrepreneurial framework.
What selected teams get with Ignite
- Structure and permission to experiment
- Experiential learning of modern management and problem-solving principles
- Individualized coaching and mentorship
- Access to a community of innovators at HHS
- Access to HHS leadership
What the Ignite Accelerator requires
- Weekly check-ins with a mentor over the phone.
- A full-time employee of HHS to serve as the Project Lead.
- 25-50% of your time over the duration of the program. This is particularly true for the Project Lead.
- The Project Lead and at least one other person must attend the full 3-Day Boot Camp in-person in Washington, DC. We will cover the travel costs of two individuals for each team not already in the DC area.
Examples of some types of projects that could be supported by Ignite include:
- Simplifying an existing processes
- Modernizing a product or service being delivered
- Testing out new tools and technologies
- Improving internal policies and procedures
- Making something
Core Principles of Ignite
Ignite supports the exploration and testing of ideas that promise to modernize government and improve the Department’s ability to carry out its mission. The goal of each Ignite team, during the course of the program, is to validate (or invalidate) the business value of their idea through a series of small but useful tests. The outcome of each Ignite project is usually no more than a low-res prototype or a minimally viable product (MVP) that has gone through some sort of beta-testing with actual end-users, although some projects may go further.
At the end of Ignite, teams pitch to Leadership for continued funding and support. It’s up to the team to secure this funding and support for the next phases of their project. A handful of teams might find themselves eligible for to pitch for support from the Secretary's Ventures Fund, also run out of the IDEA Lab.
The Magic Behind HHS Ignite Accelerator
Whether launching awareness campaigns, developing internal processes, or implementing technology enhancements, most projects carried out within government are large and complex. Simple problem solving becomes difficult, and project implementation often ends up unnecessarily bigger and more complicated than originally conceived.
New methodologies brought from the private sector, particularly small startup companies, encourage customer-focused explorations of a problem and data-driven iterations to support decision making. These approaches go by various terms that all overlap: agile development, lean startup, co-designing, human-centered design, design thinking, and others. While each has slightly different meanings, they each recognize the importance of engaging the end-user, understanding the root problem, prototyping and testing, building information feedback loops, and never calling a product final.
Stages of Ignite
The application process
If you are interested in participating in Ignite, you must first submit an online application that provides:
- background on the area being explored
- information on the project idea itself
- information on the people that might make up the core team. There must be an HHS employee on the team.
Once Accepted into the Program
Selected teams receive further design and entrepreneurship training during an in-person Boot Camp held in Washington, DC. After Boot Camp, Ignite participants have three months of coaching support to further explore their project and test out their idea with real users (who we call customers). Upon completion of the program, participants will walk away with a clear problem statement and a prototyped solution. At the end of the program, Ignite teams pitch their idea directly to HHS and OpDiv Leadership.