What do you mean when you say that the Accelerator is for the “exploration” and “testing” of new ideas?
The standard way that government operates: People think they have a good idea and then they go get a multi-million dollar contract to implement that idea. This is certainly an over-simplification, but it’s meant to prove a point: We think that ideas should be tested and validated. We believe that implementation of an idea is just as important — if not more important — than the idea itself.
So Ignite is about testing the idea and also testing the implementation of an idea. Selected teams go through phases of prototyping and may build towards what is called a Minimally Viable Product (MVP).
What types of projects are good candidates?
Here are 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
Experimenting with a new management style or organizational structure
Trying something completely new
We’ve had a number of people mention that they think Ignite is about technology. It’s not! In fact, we believe that most problems are not technology oriented and thus most Ignite projects are not technology oriented. Tech becomes a red herring where really the processes and larger systems are the issue. Technology can be useful for sure, but it’s rarely the “solution”.
With that said, parts of the government are behind in adopting modern technologies. So, as the third bullet above would suggest, projects that want to test the use of certainly technologies are certainly encouraged.
Can a project already be in development?
Yes, a project could already be underway or ongoing.
Does Ignite provide team members and developers to my project?
Unfortunately no. The IDEA Lab provides guidance and advising, but we don’t contribute staff resources to the project team. Teams are expected to have the skillsets needed to accomplish what they say they want to accomplish.
How many proposals tend to get submitted each Round?
Here are the numbers for the first 5 Rounds:
65 proposals submitted. 13 teams selected.
74 proposals submitted. 11 teams selected.
72 proposals submitted. 13 teams selected.
48 proposals submitted. 11 teams selected.
103 proposal submitted. 23 teams selected.
How many people can be on a team?
Teams can be as small as 1 person and as big as 3 individuals (including the Project Lead). We recognize this is a small number and that you may want to have others involved. However, our desire is to force teams to think small in order to force teams to be more agile. Time and time again, our experience and others’ experiences have validated this approach.
Max of only 3? What if I want a 4th person?
There’s a place on the application for you to indicate “Contributing Partners”. Put their info there to ensure they get credit for being involved.
Can I submit more than one proposal?
Sure! Though of course, an employee can’t be — or at least is highly unlikely to be allowed to be — the Project Lead on more than one selected project.
Who needs to sign off on my proposal before I submit it?
We only require the approval of the supervisor of the Project Lead.
Do you notify Agency heads or others of my project idea?
All Staff/OpDiv heads are notified if — and only if — a proposal involving their staff are being strongly considered for the Ignite Accelerator. This is the last step in our selection process. This gives the leadership an opportunity to ask questions, seek clarifications, and provide any additional information they think we might need in order to make the best selection of teams.
My idea might make people angry. Any advice?
Some ideas submitted are fairly disruptive in nature. And by definition, disruptive innovations go against the status quo, they run against existing processes behind which are staff and contractors that get paid to do their jobs.
But this is exactly why the IDEA Lab exists: To provide a safe place for experimentation outside of the normal operating environment. The American tax-payers are looking for a more modern and effective government so we encourage disruptive ideas. If it’s a good idea, and during Ignite you demonstrate viability of that idea, then it will sell itself.
What happens to projects after the Ignite?
During Ignite, we work with all the teams to help them run a meaningful test of their idea. This is to flesh out the idea itself and to help build evidence supporting it.
At the end of Ignite, we play the role of convener and help teams — at least the ones that are ready — to get in front of the right people to present their project idea. We’ll put the team there, but it’s up to the team to make the sell.
In aggregate, about a third of all teams have received the funding they wanted to take their effort to the next level; about a third received the ok from their leadership to continue working on their idea though without funds; and about a third ended up not really moving forward.