Apply for Catalyst 2019


Before proceeding with the application, please read the program overview and confirm your organization’s eligibility to apply for subsidized enrollment. If you don’t meet those criteria, we may still have space for your team on a fee basis. Please email us if you are interested.

What Makes a Strong Application?

Strong applications to the program will propose (1) a strong and highly engaged team, (2) committed leadership and resources, and (3) a compelling project.

Strong Team

We are looking for organizations to nominate leaders and frontline staff who are passionate “doers” to apply. We’ve found that teams of three are better able to support each other and thus are more likely to succeed than smaller teams.

Applicants should be positioned to drive change within their organizations or provide first-hand perspectives into the challenge at hand. Strong teams include a member(s) whose role and responsibilities will be directly impacted by the project, i.e. the person ultimately responsible for implementing the innovations. For example, if the project is likely to change a referral coordinator’s workflow, include an actual coordinator — not just the manager — on the team.

Ideal candidates will possess these qualities:

  • Desire to not only develop your own design thinking skills, but also to share with colleagues how they can apply human-centered design methods to their work.
  • Experience cultivating relationships and public will building.
  • Curious, resourceful, and unafraid to question the status quo.
  • Positive attitude, with a predisposition toward action.
  • Openness to practicing visual communication methods.
Committed Leadership and Resources

You must also have direct support from your manager to apply human-centered design to an organizational challenge. The team sponsor should be fully on board and excited by the prospect of trying a new approach.  The sponsor must also confirm that the team has 15 percent protected work time over six months to dedicate to the project and program activities.

Compelling Project Challenge

What exactly is a “project challenge”? It may be an emerging, complex issue your organization is facing, or a recurring pain point in the client experience that has yet to be resolved. Your team will be tasked with revisiting and further refining your project focus during the first phase of the program. We ask that you work closely with your sponsor and leadership to ensure that the project you propose is strategically relevant and reasonably scoped for the program.

A compelling project challenge meets the following criteria:

  • Unsolved: Your organization has not decided to pursue a certain solution or approach to address the challenge. You are open to an array of possible solutions.
  • Aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities: Your project challenge is connected to an existing strategic priority that is important to the organization.
  • Small to medium in scope: Given the short timeframe, we do not want you to work on challenges that are too broad or are outside the authority of team members. Instead we encourage teams to consider tackling an element of a larger project. A challenge like reducing food insecurity is too broad and vague; finding fun ways for students to snack healthier after school is better.
  • Not on a tight deadline: The design thinking process has a longer upfront timeline, because we don’t jump to a solution. Do not pick a strategic project that is so pressing you need to have an answer before June 2019. Pick a project area in which you can spend a few months conducting ethnographic research, reflecting, and synthesizing what you are learning to refine and reframe your focus.

You can see examples of past Catalyst projects here. In past cycles, project challenges have included:

How might we…

…create an environment that leaves clients feeling unashamed to seek out counseling services?

…show our colleagues that we appreciate their “unnoticed” work?

…create a welcoming and safe environment for families entering our facility?

…help patients feel prepared to transition back into primary care after intensive outpatient care?

Please do not propose a solution, approach, or plan that you hope to implement during this program. We want Catalysts and their sponsors to come in with open minds so that your team can really think expansively about the project.


Step 1: Attend Informational Webinar (Optional)

Interested organizations are encouraged to review the slides and recording from the informational webinar to hear a program overview and ask questions.

Step 2: Apply

Applicant teams apply via the online form below. Your proposal must be submitted online by Friday, November 16, 2018, at 5 pm Pacific Time. The program cohort will be announced by Friday, January 11, 2019.

Apply for Catalyst 2019

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A joint effort of the Center for Care Innovations and Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Upload and submit all application materials via this form by Friday, November 16, 2018, at 5 pm PST. 

Refer to the Request for Applications (RFA) for program information and application instructions. Eligible organizations may apply with a team of 3 colleagues. 

Required Application Documents:

  • 3 professional resumes
  • 3 team member narratives - each team member completes this template
  • 1 letter of support from the team sponsor
  • 1 document of 501(c)3 Tax Status
Team Member Narrative: Each team member uses this template to respond to the questions below.
  1. Why are you interested in the Catalyst program?
  2. What is your familiarity with and exposure to human-centered design/design thinking, and its methods?
  3. What role will you play on the team? On each team, one member should identify as Project Lead, and at least one member should hold a role and/or responsibilities that will be significantly impacted by the project challenge.
  4. What unique perspective or skills do you offer the team given the project your organization is choosing to work on. Great attributes to mention include: project management experience, meeting facilitation experience, and regular access to the clients, caregivers, colleagues, community members, or other stakeholders with whom the team will need to engage.
  5. Tell us about the specific project challenge your team wants to work on in the Catalyst program. You could share background research on the issue; a personal story from a person affected; photos, video or a sketch that illustrates the current state experience—we welcome creativity. Team members should discuss this question in advance so that the team is aligned on the project challenge. Please speak from your own experience and perspective.
  6. Who are the stakeholders impacted by the challenge (e.g. clients, staff, community members, external partners)? These are the people you’ll engage as “extended team members” on the project.
  7. How does the challenge align with and inform your organization’s strategic priorities?
  8. Confirm that you commit to attend six, full-day workshops on February 20-21, April 24-25, and June 26-27, 2019.
Team Sponsor Submission: An organizational leader with authority to protect work time must submit a letter of support that states:
  1. Why the proposed project challenge is a strategic priority for the organization.
  2. Brief background on any experience the organization has had learning about, or practicing, human-centered design/design thinking.
  3. What role and involvement the sponsor expects to have in the project.
  4. Confirmation that the sponsor will protect at least 15 percent of the Catalyst team’s time for project development and program activities between January and June 2019.
  5. Confirmation that the sponsor will participate in the end-of program workshop on June 27, 2019 in Oakland, CA.
  6. Confirmation that the sponsor will participate in a one-hour program Q&A call with CCI in winter 2019, if requested.

You can find program eligibility information in the Overview tab of the RFA. If your organization is ineligible, but would be interested in participating on a fee basis, please email [email protected]

Organization Information

If Applicable: Fiscal Sponsor Information

CEO Contact 

Grant Manager Contact 

Sponsor Letter of Support
Only one letter from a sponsor (director or supervisor) is required for all Catalyst applicants from the organization. The sponsor commits to the terms and expectations of the Innovation Catalyst Program as outlined in the RFA. Refer to Application section on RFA.

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Catalyst Applicant 1

Catalyst 1 Application Upload

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Word or PDF
Catalyst Applicant 2

Catalyst 2 Application Upload

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Word or PDF
Catalyst Applicant 3

Catalyst 3 Application Upload

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Word or PDF
Additional Team Members

Catalyst Applicant

Catalyst Application Upload

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Word or PDF

Next Steps

Upon reviewing applications, we may ask for follow-up information or a phone call with the applicant team members. We intend to select 15 strong teams for the program. The cohort will be announced via email by Friday, January 11, 2019.

Download RFA as PDF