What types of projects are good candidates for Ignite?

For Ignite, we care more about the problem you want to solve than the solution being proposed. A core principle of Ignite is to fall in love with your problem, not your solution. Do you have a big, wicked problem that you're passionate about solving? Are you frustrated with a process that, if solved, could lead to time and cost savings for your office and more efficient services for people? Is there a question about your work that keeps you up at night? It is those types of real-world problems that we welcome to the program!

Can a project already be in development?

Yes, a project could already be underway or ongoing. Though if already underway, think about how open the project is to changing course. When in Ignite, you will test your assumptions, dive deep into your problem, and will hopefully come away with new insights that will lead to a solution that better meets end-user needs. If the project that is in development will not be able to accommodate changes in approach, scope, and direction, then it may not be the best project to bring to Ignite.

Does my project have to have a technology solution?

Not at all! We believe that most problems are not technology oriented but are rather people and process oriented. Technology can be useful for sure, but it's rarely the "solution". Projects that want to test the use of certainly technologies are certainly encouraged to apply however your idea does not have to be technology driven.

Can I submit more than one proposal?

Sure! Staff are welcome to submit more than one proposal to Ignite. However, an employee can only be the Project Lead on one selected project.

Do I need supervisor approval to participate in Ignite?

Yes, supervisor approval is required for all members of the team to participate in the program. Supervisor approval of your participation is critical not only for them to understand the time commitment involved but also to support your idea after you complete the program.

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. Once selected for the program, team projects are publicly announced through a press release.

What is the commitment for participating in Ignite?

We request that staff selected to participate in Ignite commit 25-40% (10-16 hours per week) of their time while in the three-month program. The more time you put into the program, the more you will get out of it and the farther along your idea will be!

What do you mean when you say that the Accelerator is for the "exploration" and "testing" of new ideas?

Let's reflect on how government normally operates: People think they have a good idea and then they go get a multi-million dollar contract to implement that idea. That idea is not tested on the end-users or iterated on as it is built. This leads to many of these "good ideas" failing – for example low adoption of the solution or new complaints and problems because of the solution.

Does this scenario sound familiar? This is certainly an over-simplification, but it's meant to prove a point: We think that ideas should be tested, validated, and iterated upon quickly and in a low-cost way to make sure that idea will lead to the results we want. We believe that having the right problem to solve is more important than a solution. So Ignite is about validating your problem, testing ideas, and also testing the implementation of that idea to ensure success.

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 Ignite 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 program?

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 and secure the funding and support they need for the next phases of their project.

Does Ignite award funding for my idea?

No, Ignite does not award teams funding for their ideas. However, through the process of Ignite, teams leave the program with a deeper understanding of their problem and a tested solution that enables them to have a clearer, more powerful articulation of asks that can inspire their leadership to move the idea to the next level.

Does Ignite provide funds to support team travel?

No, Ignite does not provide funds to support travel for teams outside of the DC metro area. Teams outside the DC area will need to secure funds from their offices to support their travel to the Boot Camp and Innovation Day.

Content created by Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Content last reviewed on December 4, 2019