Design, Technology, and Innovation Projects

The Project

In Austin, there are over 2,000 individuals without a safe place to sleep. There are many reasons a person can become homeless. It can range from the lack of affordable housing to the loss of family and community.

In 2017, the Design, Technology and Innovation Fellows secured a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Austin was selected from a pool of municipalities with a demonstrated commitment to designing and delivering bold solutions to solve homelessness. Other cities selected for the global program include Be’er Sheva, Israel; Toronto, Canada, and Anchorage, AK; Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Detroit, MI; and Durham; NC in the United States.

Currently in the third round of funding, the Bloomberg program allowed Mayor Steve Adler and the City Council to fund an in-house innovation team, or “i-team”, to pioneer new approaches on homelessness.

“This grant will help us tackle problems in new ways that reflect who we are in Austin, and I’m excited to see what can come from this,” said Mayor Adler. “When we effectively ended veteran homelessness, we learned how effective new partnerships between the business community, philanthropists and non-profits could be. Bloomberg’s grant will allow our Innovation Office to experiment with new ways to house the homeless.”

iTeam Grant Requirements

The purpose of the grant is to add an innovation capacity to a city. Grant funds may only be used for salaries and benefits, and for expenses related to the iTeam’s work. Teams are expected to go through a rigorous process of framing problems before engaging in solutioning or connecting to ideas.

iTeam Grant Requirements Timeline

The Plan

Phase 1 - Discovery - conduct research in 3 parallel streams:

  1. Ethnographic Study: Interviews with those with lived experience of homelessness, service providers, and community members to learn more about their experience and perspectives.
  2. Quantitative Research: Inventory data to identify areas of opportunity for better integration, knowledge sharing, and potential investments.
  3. ARCH Service Mapping: Understanding the experience of people with lived experience in Austin, the role that the ARCH plays in their experience, and a service blueprint for the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).

After the initial research, we’ll pull together insights based on what we’ve learned and our recommendations for moving forward.

Phase 2 - Concepting & Prototyping

During this stage, we’ll begin designing and prototyping options for how to achieve the project’s desired outcomes. We’ll develop options based on the information gathered during the Discovery stage and test them with different types of users to understand how they work well and how they can be improved. This might include designing and testing different user interfaces, ways of providing geographic information about organizations, and internal administration of the system.


Expected deliverables include: