Innovation Lab Request for Proposals

Innovation Lab grant application deadline extended to
5pm on Monday, November 5, 2018!

Montgomery County's Safety Net System

Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest and most healthy communities in Pennsylvania.  Still, many of its residents depend upon the county’s health and human service safety net system to assist them when circumstances challenge their health, stability, and well-being.  The safety net system is comprised of the following programs/services:


Food & Nutrition Housing/Homelessness
Child Care Job Training
Adult Education Health
Substance Abuse Utility Assistance
Violence Prevention Transportation

The safety net system is a complex network operating through partnerships between nonprofit organizations, government, philanthropy and others.  Most of the system is financially supported through government contracts.  Changes in public discourse about vulnerable individuals and families as well as shifts in government funding priorities that historically have supported the safety net system programs/services now threaten the financial health and future of these organizations and therefore the system itself.  

Since 2017 HealthSpark Foundation has hosted a series of community discussions with nonprofit providers, government leaders, safety net system consumers, faith and business leaders and others to build a shared understanding about the safety net system and to explore the risks and opportunities for enhancing the systems’ long-term financial resiliency in Montgomery County.  Over the past six months, more than 50 nonprofit and county government leaders met monthly to build relationships and trust.  They explored and defined opportunities to enhance partnerships and collaborative work, to enhance opportunities for improved consumer access to the safety net system, to share consumer and system information and integrate it when feasible and to improve communications and advocacy about the safety net system.  Through two Community of Practice events, other community leaders and stakeholders have offered their input on these emerging ideas.

This community-driven engagement process identified six strategies:

  • Innovation Lab
  • Community of Practice
  • Commissioned Research
  • Communications Campaign
  • Advocacy Coalition
  • Leadership Capacity Building

Read more information on these strategies here.

This Request for Proposals supports the first key strategy – creation of an Innovation Lab – that offers grant funding to pilot-test promising ideas to enhance the long-term financial resiliency of the safety net system.  This Innovation Lab RFP seeks to advance community learning and includes two short-term goals:

  • Safety net system providers increasingly collaborate to achieve impact through strategic, intentional and system realignment; and
  • Providers achieve improved and more holistic understanding of consumers and changing county demographics to improve system’s responsiveness, build momentum and shift public narrative about the system.  

The Innovation Lab is a virtual experience supporting pilot-testing and/or pilot projects that are: 

  • Relatively small scale in terms of time and budget;
  • Support preliminary efforts to evaluate feasibility, time, cost, adverse events; and
  • Designed to inform and improve upon the project design elements prior to seeking capital necessary to support a full-scale implementation, if warranted.  

As such, these grants represent early learning opportunities where system stakeholders receive grant support to work together testing out new ideas and strategies designed to improve the long-term financial resiliency of the safety net system.



HealthSpark Foundation Safety Net Resiliency Initiative 

The foundation’s board of directors has committed the bulk of its resources to a ten-year, systems change initiative promoting a financially resilient safety net system that supports meeting the needs of the community.  The initiative is designed to work in phases informed through a diverse set of community engagement strategies.  The first phase supported the development of a shared understanding of the essential components of the system, a vision statement, and a set of system goals needed to support the advancement of the initiative to achieving its goal and vision.

Safety Net System Vision Statement

We envision a resilient and financially sustainable safety net system that allows anyone in Montgomery County to access high quality, coordinated, equitable and culturally appropriate services no matter who they are, what they need or where they live.    

Systems Change Framework

The architecture of social systems is fundamentally shaped by the characteristics of people, their beliefs and ambitions, their skills and access to resources, and the norm and rules by which they relate to each other and the environment. 

Successful systems change work requires organizations to work in two parallel environments:  maintaining existing programs/services while also envisioning, researching and testing new opportunities.  Systems change work is designed to change how components in the systems operate.

Funding Opportunity

HealthSpark Foundation is offering grant funding to:

  • Support various forms of collaboration across organizations and services;
  • Test new business and staffing models;
  • Assess opportunities to employ technology to enhance consumer access and outcomes;
  • Address systemic access barriers experienced by consumers;
  • Demonstrate opportunities to create a single point of access for consumers needing safety net services;
  • Assess and test the feasibility of data sharing between safety net providers; (e.g. food, housing, health services, job training and employment readiness, etc.); and
  • Demonstrate the value of evidence-based case management practices; strength-based approaches to consumer engagement.

Successful applicants are required to participate in periodic site visits, facilitated group learning discussions, Community of Practice meetings that engage the community in learning and sharing any lessons learned through the pilot work, and will be encouraged to share the nature of their work through interactions with consumers and the community.


Funds Available

The foundation will consider grant requests up to $50,000.  Between 5 and 15 grants will be awarded depending upon the scope of effort and funds required to support a meaningful set of pilot efforts that collectively contribute to advancing the safety net system resiliency initiative goals.  

Use of Grant Funds

Given the emphasis on collaboration requiring time and intentionality, grant funds may be used to support these efforts.  However, the foundation requires that each project have a lead agency that will receive the grant contract and grant funds. 

Grants are intended to support short-term, pilot projects that can be completed within a maximum of 12-15 months and no later than March 2020.  Funds will be available no later than January 4, 2019. 


The foundation recognizes it may receive requests for pilot project support from a variety of applicants including nonprofits, local government, fiscal intermediaries and others.  The foundation is interested in selecting those projects that have the best opportunities to promote early learning and establish a framework to support future work.  The foundation intends to use review criteria including:  

  • Commitment to support the safety net vision
  • Opportunity to advance policy and practice changes advancing the safety net vision
  • Community engagement (General public and consumer input actively solicited)
  • Data Use to inform policy/practice changes, access program and demonstrate shared responsibility and commitment
  • Sustainability
  • Scalability
  • Replicability
  • Diversity of pilot project opportunities (geographic, cultural, populations, large/small, types of services, partners, etc.)
  • Efforts to build/sustain key partnering relationships
  • Clarity of anticipated value to enhance system resiliency
  • Realistic work plan and budget
  • Commitment to advancing the Initiative’s guiding principles: person-centered design, strength-based approaches, adaptability, equity, integration, and trust

Information Sessions

The foundation is hosting two information sessions held at the Community Partners Center, 2506 N. Broad Street, Colmar, PA (Walton Meeting Room) on the following two dates:

  • October 15, 2018 from 3:30 – 5:00 pm
  • October 16, 2018 from 9:00 – 10:30 am

The information sessions are open to anyone interested in learning more about this funding opportunity.  Attendance is required for any organization seeking an Innovation Lab grant that did not receive a stipend to participate on a Design Team from HealthSpark Foundation.  Everyone must pre-register to attend an information session. 

Following the information sessions, frequently asked questions will be posted on the foundation’s website along with corresponding answers.  Applicants are encouraged to visit the website often and to sign-up for e-mail updates

Visit our Innovation Lab Frequently Asked Questions page for additional information.

Application Process and Due Date

Applications must be completed and submitted on-line. A PDF with the application questions can be downloaded, below.



All applications must be submitted by 5pm on Monday, November 5, 2018.  

Organizations that have not applied to the foundation before will need to first create an account. Contact the foundation with any questions.

Files & Links