HealthSpark Foundation recently awarded over $316,000 in 10 Innovation Lab grants. Grants range from $10,000 to $50,000 for short-term (12-15 months) pilot or proof of concept collaborative projects to test ideas to strengthen Montgomery County's safety net system. The Innovation Lab is a key strategy of HealthSpark's 10-year Safety Net Resiliency Initiative.
The Innovation Lab is a virtual experience to allow organizations to test ideas - much like the research and development departments of for-profit companies. It was an idea that emerged from meetings of the four Design Teams; representatives from more than 50 organizations and the county's health and human services departments came together over six months in 2018 to brainstorm ideas to strengthen the safety net. HealthSpark is implementing several ideas that have come from the safety net provider community in Phase Two of the initiative.
Among the Innovation Lab grants are:
- Your Way Home (YWH) received $10,150 to advance equitable access to housing and homeless services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning/Queer youth, adults and seniors in Montgomery County. The project will recruit Community Advocates who identify as LGBTQ or an alley to conduct outreach and gather data that can be used to review and revise YWH policies, programs, data, communications and leadership structures to make them more culturally relevant and inclusive.
- Tri-County Community Network received $42,400 for a proof of concept project that will demonstrate how the business community, educational institutions and nonprofits can collaborate to develop a seamless, shared system that provides a "no wrong door" approach to supporting living wage employment for vulnerable populations in Pottstown.
- Montgomery County Opportunities Industrialization Center received $50,000 to form the Combining Organizations' Resources to Enhance Stability (CORES) group that will work together to provide a "one-stop" shop for safety net services to individuals who have or are re-entering the community from the penal system.
In 2019, HealthSpark will periodically convene Innovation Lab grantees and their partners in a Learning Collaborative that will be facilitated by Meghan McVety of Capacity for Change. In these meetings, Meghan will work with the organizations to create a forum that will capture and share lessons learned, continue to build the network of safety net system providers and further inform the larger initiative.
Another component of the Safety Net Resiliency Initiative, has been the Community of Practice, a larger gathering of providers, philanthropic and government officials and consumers. The Community of Practice offers a space to periodically update the community about the initiative and seek feedback on emerging ideas.
The next Community of Practice meeting will take place in the morning of Friday, June 28, 2019 at Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell. Details are available on the foundation's website. Registration will open in a few weeks.