2019 Application Overview


In partnership with Blue Shield of California Foundation, the Center for Care Innovations (CCI) is growing a community of innovators who lead strategic efforts to transform the systems that support underserved populations. We’re launching our seventh cycle of Catalyst, our award-winning design thinking program.

Table of Contents
Program Structure and Content
Program Offerings
Informational Webinar Recording
Eligibility for Free Training and Stipend
Contact Us
Program Expectations
Apply Now!

During this six-month capability building program, Catalysts learn and practice “design thinking,” also known as “human-centered design,” to explore strategic challenges within their organizations. As a Catalyst, you will become a change agent—discovering and testing new ways to address complex challenges, partnering with colleagues across internal silos, and collaborating across sectors. You will develop expansive mindsets, combine creative, analytic, and design research methods, and push projects beyond conventional thinking to transformative possibilities.

Human-centered design is an approach to problem solving that is rooted in understanding people’s needs and experiences. The methodology is widespread in the commercial sector and, in recent years, has gained popularity in its application to complex social problems. In our Catalyst program, we emphasize the practice of “co-design,” wherein the stakeholders affected by the problem – whether they are clients, caregivers, frontline or ancillary staff, or community partners – play a pivotal role in co-creating service experiences of the future.

Design thinking skills are a powerful complement to training in Lean Six Sigma and process improvement. Hear what it’s like to be a Catalyst in our alumni’s own words.

The Catalyst program was initially developed in 2013 in partnership with gravitytank (now Salesforce Ignite) and the Innovation Consultancy at Kaiser Permanente. Our model is based on a program first developed by Intuit, which recognized that its frontline staff could generate innovative ideas throughout the company if employees were empowered to develop their own innovation projects. As a result, that program trained more than 400 design-thinking coaches – “Innovation Catalysts” – across Intuit to help managers and teams work on innovation initiatives.

Program Offerings

The Catalyst program provides teams in California with the training, tools, and space necessary to cultivate an innovative culture and an approach to problem solving that is human-centered, collaborative, and creative. Catalyst is curriculum-based and employs project-based learning. In addition to in-depth, hands-on workshops, we provide ongoing coaching and virtual support to reinforce your skill development. We also host an on-demand resource library and a peer learning community to support self-directed learning. Project milestones help pace activities and sustain team momentum.

Our program offerings include:

  • Training: Catalysts participate in six days of in-depth, hands-on training. Training is structured as three, two-day workshops spread over a six-month period. At the end of the program, teams present their solution prototypes to organizational leadership and other community innovators.
  • Ongoing Coaching: Catalysts receive support from peer coaches who have experience practicing human-centered design in resource-constrained settings. We embed coaches in the in-person workshops, and Catalyst teams can call their coach for support in between trainings. We also hold “office hours” and “booster” webinars throughout the program to help teams advance their work.
  • Peer-Learning Community: Teams regularly “pitch” their questions and ideas to each other to solicit input, discuss ideas, and learn from others’ experiences. We also facilitate online discussions about innovation and design among current participants and Catalyst alumni.
  • Online Resource Library: We maintain a library of Catalyst how-to videos, templates, method cards, and case studies that you can access online at any time.
  • Stipend: Eligible organizations receive a stipend to offset some program travel costs and project expenses (see eligibility criteria below). Organizations located:
    • Within 80 miles of downtown Oakland receive a $7,000 stipend.
    • Further than 80 miles from downtown Oakland receive a $12,500 stipend.

Along the way, you will learn how to build a stronger team, dismantle disempowering hierarchy, cultivate a more experimental culture, and connect with stakeholders in fulfilling and fun ways.

Eligibility for Free Training and Team Stipend

For the 2019 cycle, we invite 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations in California that meet the following criteria to apply. We may have space for teams that do not meet these criteria to participate on a fee basis. Please email us if you are interested to learn more.

(1) Community-based organizations providing direct services to improve physical, mental, social, environmental or economic wellbeing in underserved populations. Please see examples of eligible services here. Currently, we are unable to accept applications from public schools, advocacy organizations, or academic or research institutions.

(2) Safety net healthcare organizations providing comprehensive primary care services to underserved populations. Qualifying organizations include:

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and FQHC look-alikes
  • Community clinics, rural health clinics, and free clinics
  • Ambulatory care clinics owned and operated by public hospitals
  • Indian Health Services clinics

(3) Regional clinic consortia are also eligible to apply.

*Organizations that have never participated in Catalyst are highly encouraged to apply!

*Innovation work is a team sport, so we ask each organization to apply with three team members. Organizations that wish to send more than three members to the workshops must pay $4,500 per additional participant to cover their program expenses.

*Applicant teams may be comprised of individuals from multiple organizations that have worked together on initiatives in the past.


The Catalyst program runs from January 11, 2019 to June 30, 2019. Participants commit to dedicate 15 percent of a full-time workload to Catalyst programming and project activities.

Key dates:

  • Informational Webinar: Wednesday October 17, 2018, 12-1 pm. Access the slides and recording.
  • Application Deadline: Friday, November 16, 2018, 5 pm
  • Follow-up Calls (if requested): December 3 to 14, 2018
  • Cohort Announced: Friday, January 11, 2019
  • Virtual Program Orientation & Prep Work: Wednesday, January 23, 2019, 12-1:30 pm
  • Workshop 1: Wednesday, February 20 to Thursday, February 21, 2019, in Oakland, CA
  • Workshop 2: Wednesday, April 24 to Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Oakland, CA
  • Workshop 3 & Showcase: Wednesday, June 26 to Thursday, June 27, 2019, in Oakland, CA

The program stipend for eligible teams offsets expenses for team members to attend three workshops and for the sponsor to attend the last day of Workshop 3.

Program Expectations

Catalyst teams are made up of three team members and one team sponsor.

All three team members are expected to:

  1. Commit 15 percent of a full-time workload to Catalyst activities between January and June 2019.
  2. Participate in a virtual program orientation on January 23, 2019, 12-1:30 pm.
  3. Complete assigned prep work in advance of Workshop 1 on February 20, 2019.
  4. Participate in all three, two-day workshops in Oakland. Each team member must attend all six, full days of training (February 20-21, April 24-25, June 26-27, 2019).
  5. Document research activities through photos and videos.
  6. Brainstorm, prototype, and test ideas with project stakeholders from outside of the core Catalyst team.
  7. Update key stakeholders and the team sponsor on project progress monthly.
  8. Pitch your ideas at the end of the program on June 27, 2019.
  9. Submit a final slide deck by June 30, 2019.

Team sponsors are expected to:

  1. Allocate and protect 15 percent of team members’ full-time workload during the six-month program to participate in workshops, advance project activities, and meet program milestones.
  2. Support their Catalysts in trying out their new skills on priority projects.
  3. Attend the final day of Workshop 3 on June 27, 2019 in Oakland.
Program Structure and Content

Different organizations use different language to describe the design “cycle” or process; we structure our curriculum using six principles.

Below is our design thinking framework and the activities you will walk through with your team. It also outlines the key mindsets you will build throughout the program.

Enlarge Framework

Below is a timeline of the program with key milestones. The pacing of the three workshops gives your team time to apply what you are learning to an organizational project, work through challenges, and reflect on what you’re learning.

Enlarge Timeline

Informational Webinar Recording

Review the slides and recording from the Informational Webinar to hear a detailed description of the program and ask questions.



If your team meets the eligibility requirements and you are accepted,  the program is free AND you receive a stipend to offset travel costs and project related expenses. See Program Offerings for more details.


Your project does not need to involve health-related programming. We know many community-based organizations provide valuable social and community services outside of the traditional health domain. Please refer to this visual providing examples of social, economic, and environmental needs that impact people’s health.


Organizations that include a senior leader on the team often get more out of the Catalyst program, because they have the influence to inform and shift organizational culture once the program ends. It’s a great idea to put operational leadership on your Catalyst team or to blend front and back-end staff.


You can apply as a multi-organization team as long as your organizations have previous experience partnering together.


Past participation in the program does not preclude your organization from applying and being accepted into the program. However, we strongly encourage new organizations to participate and plan to prioritize new organizations in our cohort selection.


Given that this is a funded training program, we will not accept teams who have members who cannot attend one or more workshop days. Our workshop dates are set. If you have a conflict, we encourage you to apply again next year. Organizations may also choose to pay for the member who cannot attend all three trainings.


Each of the three workshops runs two, full days. The first day of each workshop starts at 10 am to allow for same day travel.


As both Catalyst and CLI are high intensity programs, we cannot accept teams that include members in an active CLI cohort.

Contact Us

For any other questions, please contact:

Diana Nguyen
Program Coordinator
[email protected]