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Introducing the Data & Innovation Fund (DIF)

For the last two years, ODI has worked on critical projects that affect a lot of people, like California’s response to COVID-19 and drought.

And we learned something: If you want to design services for Californians, you need to design with Californians. 

Ask the people what they need, and put those needs first. Focus on listening and defining the problem that needs solving. Get rid of the barriers that make using government services a chore. Eliminate jargon, lack of accessibility, and convoluted processes with too many steps. And help other departments do this, too.

Today we announce a big commitment to doing just that: the Data & Innovation Fund, or DIF.

What is the DIF?

The DIF is a big commitment to put Californians first when we design services they need. The fund is expected to grow to $30 million when the Governor’s budget passes in July.

The DIF is a grant fund and collaboration process that connects ODI designers, researchers, and engineers with state departments on projects with big impact. It grounds these cross-functional teams in people-first principles. 

By using deep discovery, evidence-based problem definition, user research, and iteration, we can get to a solution that is data-driven and useful for Californians.

The result: government that works better for everybody.

Starting strong

For this first round, we will focus on discovery and finding opportunities for business process improvement across the state.

The following are just a few examples of common problems departments face that our team and the DIF are ready to address. 

  • Lack of service uptake among eligible Californians
  • Convoluted or overly complex business processes
  • Difficulty reaching your target audience with your message
  • Not hearing direct feedback from those you serve

ODI has already kicked off 5 pilot programs. We’ve completed discovery workshops and are diving into research with:

  • LifeLine
  • Department of Toxic Substance Control
  • California Department of Education
  • CalHR
  • Benefits (CalFresh, CalWorks, Earned Income Tax Credit)

Working with experts

When a department application for a DIF project is accepted, they get access to ODI’s team of experts in user-centered design, engineering, content writing, and user testing. But they also get to work with experts outside of government, such as:

  • Berkeley Innovation Group (BIG): A group of design thinking educators from UC Berkeley that have led our discovery workshops, with excellent results
  • Bloom Works: A woman-owned digital services company that helps organizations serve people better with products that are beautiful and easy to use
  • CityInnovate: Specialists in procurement that help drive innovation and digital transformation within government

Ready to innovate?

If you work for the State of California and want to collaborate with ODI, register for an information session and learn how to apply for the DIF.

Applications will be accepted for this round until July 15, 2022. Stay tuned for when future rounds are announced!

Jeffery is Deputy Director of Service Innovation with the Office of Digital Innovation.