Design, Technology, and Innovation Projects

The answers below are meant to help you decide if you should apply for the Social Innovation Grant, and give you guidance in filling out the application. Have a question that’s not answered below? Let us know.

I’m not sure if my social enterprise fits, or potentially has a municipal purpose. How do I know?

The City constantly looks for innovative ways to improve the lives of residents and pursue our Strategic Direction 2023 goals. Can you describe how your solution may help improve economic opportunity and affordability in Austin? Can you connect the dots between the challenges and indicators listed in the Strategic Direction and the positive outcomes your solution creates? Does your solution improve residents’ autonomy, capability to act, or connection to their community? Might it help the government organization understand challenges, measure progress, or operate with more clarity?

If so, your enterprise may have a municipal purpose, and this grant is to help you qualify that hunch. We encourage you to apply.

How do I choose the challenge(s) and indicator?

We ask applicants to identify those challenge(s) from the Strategic Direction 2023 Economic Opportunity and Affordability outcome area that their solution addresses:

  • How might we break the cycle of poverty and inequity so that all residents experience economic mobility?
  • How might we maintain a resilient economy, e.g. supporting small businesses and skilled workforce, that provides equitable opportunities for people and business?
  • How might we ensure Austin’s land use policies, processes and programs help create more complete communities (i.e. communities where people’s basic needs can be met with short trips) in our city?
  • As cost of living rises, how might we increase equitably distributed options for household affordability in all parts of town?
  • How might we leverage both prevention and service delivery to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in Austin?

We also ask applicants to identify the primary Indicator from the Strategic Direction 2023 Economic Opportunity and Affordability outcome area that their solution can influence. Those indicators include:

  • Employment
  • Income inequality
  • Cost of living compared to income
  • Housing
  • Homelessness
  • Skills and capability of our community workforce
  • Economic mobility

This is where your theory of change comes in, and how you outline your alignment with the City’s Strategic Direction. Can you tell the story of how your solution contributes to addressing one or more of the challenge areas listed? Will the outcomes you create move the needle on one of the indicators, if even indirectly?

It’s important to know that your solution does not need to map directly to a challenge and/or indicator. However, you should be able to articulate how it can meaningfully contribute to solving one or more of the challenges (the “what”), and by what pathway, or indicator, it will do so (the “how”). Make sure you can justify the challenge(s) and indicator you select in this way.

What type of evidence will my social enterprise generate, and how will the City use it?

We subscribe to the Nesta levels of evidence when generating insights about pathways to achieve strategic outcomes. We expect most grant recipients to gather evidence at levels two and three, which starts to detail the effects of a solution and establish causation. Methods may include surveys, cohort studies, interviews, and potentially more rigorous methods like nonequivalent group design.

We will use this evidence to expand the City’s understanding of and potential support for new solutions for complex challenges. Promising solutions will be poised for further investigation and testing, and potentially implementation, as a pathway to help achieve the City’s strategic goals.

How will this grant work alongside the Impact Hub Accelerator’s program and requirements? Will it be a lot of extra work?

We do not intend for this grant to create significant additional work, and more importantly, we want all the work you do for this grant to meaningfully contribute to the development of your solution. We are committed to aligning the grant work with the Accelerator programming as closely as possible. Learning is our priority, not creating more paperwork.

What if I haven’t formed a company yet - can I still receive the grant funds?

It’s likely, by working with a fiscal sponsor. If you’re a grant applicant and in this situation, we will contact you directly to discuss options.

What happens if my social enterprise fails?

As long as you generate evidence about your solution and its outcomes, we consider that success. Learning is our goal.

How will you evaluate my application?

A panel of judges from across the City of Austin organization will select up to six awardees based on the following criteria:

To what extent could the solution increase an Austin resident’s:

  • autonomy to affect their situation
  • capability and competence to act on behalf of themselves, or
  • connection to their neighbors and broader community?

To what extent does the solution:

  • Align with the selected SD23 challenges?
  • Affect the selected SD23 indicator in a new or significant way?
  • Be fairly easily launched after successful evaluation?
  • Provide a new OR better option compared to what is currently available in Austin?
  • Better serve an existing customer segment OR open service for a new customer segment?
  • Have a development plan that involves crucial stakeholders, especially those who are often underrepresented, and those who will be affected by the concept?
  • Have a capable team behind it?

What is the grant timeline?