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Tweaks for Better Listening

Author: Don Matteson

Over the past year or so, we’ve been exploring Human-Centered Design (HCD). At a super-high level, HCD is a process of developing products or programs that places the end-user at the center of the process. It involves a deliberate set of stages and activities that helps designers get closer to end-users to get a better understanding of their needs, preferences, and interaction styles.

Rather than setting out to build the next billion-dollar product, we thought we’d stay a little closer to home and build something based on one of our goals. Ultimately, we decided to focus on social and recreational experiences for young people with intellectual disabilities. We did interviews with experts in the field (many of whom are grant partners!), talked to young people with autism and intellectual disabilities, went into the community to spend time with these young people, and used up a lot of flip chart pages and post-it notes as we tried to figure out what everything we learned meant.

We developed quite a few project concepts, but ultimately landed on forming an advisory team consisting of young people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism to help us evaluate Programs & Services applications for our intellectual disabilities grant category. We did some rapid prototyping with a couple of small Advisory Teams comprising young people with autism and/or intellectual disabilities this summer (many thanks to Alison at People Inc. and Kim at Empower!), and we’ve spent some time reviewing what we learned and ironing out some process wrinkles.

We’re taking the concept out for a full-scale trial run this September, and in planning for that we need to make some adjustments to our grant review time line. This adjusted time line is critical if we’re going to do this in a way that (we think) will allow for meaningful feedback from our advisory team and keep the workload manageable for the Foundation’s staff.

So…what does this mean for you?

If you’re applying for a grant through the Community Change or Strengthening Partner Capacity portfolios, you can expect things to proceed on the original time line. The same is true if you’ve submitted a Programs & Services application for learning disabilities, mental health, and/or substance use disorders that has no overlap with the intellectual disabilities category.

You’re only looking at some tweaks to the time line if you’ve submitted a Programs & Services application for the intellectual disabilities category. The revised time line looks like this:

  • Preliminary grant submissions due: September 11, 2019 (this hasn’t changed)
  • Clarification calls (as needed): October 8-15, 2019
  • Full proposal invitations sent: October 16, 2019 (about two weeks later than the original time line)
  • Interactive review process: October 17-November 20, 2019
  • Grant award notifications: December 6, 2019 (two days later than the original time line)

The net impact on the overall proposal review timing is pretty small (two added days), but we think the quality of our proposal reviews can only benefit from the advisory team’s input. If this pilot works well, we’ll look at incorporating this into our other grant categories as well.

We’re very excited at incorporating this element into our grantmaking, and we hope you’ll indulge us as we work to be more inclusive in our work.