President's Administrative Innovation Fund

The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund was created to catalyze administrative innovation and collaboration across Harvard by investing in staff-generated, creative solutions that support our faculty, students and staff colleagues.

Through modest but meaningful support, these grants could be used to explore a new idea or process, build a prototype, take an existing homegrown idea to the next level, bring in a subject-matter expert to design a solution, convene a ‘hackathon’, or be used in any number of creative ways. Emphasis is placed on novel, creative, and collaborative solutions that capitalize on value-creating opportunities or address known challenges.

Ideas funded will focus on:

  • Innovation in Inclusion and Belonging;
  • Innovation in academic administration;
  • Innovation in service delivery; or
  • Innovation in talent development

The fund will provide competitive grants to individuals and teams with innovative ideas or pilots for $2,000 to $15,000. There is a possibility that one or two exceptional projects could receive funding up to $25,000.

Eligibility

All benefits-eligible Harvard administrative/professional, support or service and trades staff member may apply.  Faculty, post-doctoral fellows, temporary employees, students, and co-ops are not eligible.  If you have a question about eligibility, please contact administrative_innovation@harvard.edu.  

Projects will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • The proposal represents an innovative approach to an administrative challenge.
  • The proposal is expected to have measurable impact once implemented.
  • The proposal highlights a persistent administrative problem worth solving.
  • The intended outcome reflects the proposed type of innovation (MVP, Pilot, Collective Action, Scale).
  • The initial plan outlines actions the team can execute within a year (or 6 months for MVPs).
  • Ideas with cross-School and cross-functional collaboration will be especially valued.
  • Ideas that will enable us to realize the University’s full potential as a diverse and inclusive workplace will also be especially valued.

Those interested in making a proposal to the fund should review the downloadable pdf of the Project Proposal to prepare for your submission. This application is intended as a brief description of your innovation and its impact. You won’t be expected to submit a project plan or detailed budget now, but you may be asked to do so if you move to the next judging round.

There are four different ‘types’ of innovations the PAIF is designed to fund. Innovations related to Inclusion and Belonging will be especially valued this year.

1. Experiment (Minimum Viable Product, MVP): A very limited test of an idea that is expected to generate learning; and MVP uses the smallest set of features/activities possible to test a hypothesis.

2. Pilot: You have an idea for an innovation and hope to implement it at a small scale (e.g., in one School/Unit, or a select handful of Schools/Units).

3. Collective Action: You have had some successful experiments and would now like to bring your innovative solutions to a shared administrative challenge to a cross-school or cross-unit group.

4. Scale: You already have a successful local implementation of an innovation and seek to broaden its reach and impact by supporting its application in new settings.

 

Guiding Principles

  • Most projects can request up to $15,000 in funding for up to one year. MVP’s can receive up to $5,000 for up to six months. One or two exceptional projects may receive up to $25,000 in funding for up to one year.
  • Funds may be used for non-exempt overtime (as applicable), software/technology, temporary help (staff or students), back-filling for staff working on the project, and other project-related costs. Funds may not be used for payment to staff salaries nor to fund a proprietary product

FAQs

Why was the President’s Administrative Innovation Fund created?

The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund was created to foster a culture of administrative innovation and collaboration at Harvard. The University’s administrative senior leadership knows that staff members have many creative and innovative ideas; the fund was created to provide a path for moving some of those innovative ideas to action.

How are proposals awarded?

Proposals will be initially reviewed by multiple “judges” (made up of senior leaders and subject matter experts across the University). All those submitting proposals will receive feedback from these judges. This initial review will determine finalists who will then give a brief presentation on their idea to a group of senior leaders (members of the Harvard Administrative Innovation Group), and afterwards fund recipients will be awarded.

Decisions as to what proposals are funded will be based on the idea itself and what it proposes to do; how it maps to innovation in academic...

Read more about How are proposals awarded?

What are some examples of ideas that might be awarded funding?

There are four different ‘types’ of innovations the PAIF is designed to fund:

  1. Collective Action: You have had some successful experiments and would now like to bring your innovative solutions to a shared administrative challenge to a cross-school or cross-unit group.
  2. Experiment (Minimum Viable Product, MVP): a very limited test of an idea that is expected to generate learning; and MVP uses the smallest set of features/activities possible to test a hypothesis. 
  3. Pilot: you have an idea for an innovation and hope to implement it at a...
Read more about What are some examples of ideas that might be awarded funding?

What if I submit a project proposal but it doesn’t get funded?

Not all proposals will receive funding. If your project is not funded, don’t give up. We expect to receive more good ideas than we can fund.

We will provide feedback on all proposals, in the event that there may be need for more research, or more detail on what the project will accomplish. We also hope if your first idea doesn’t move forward that it doesn’t inhibit you from submitting your second idea in the next cycle of the innovation fund. Remember, entrepreneurs learn from their ideas that didn’t make it and often come back with a much stronger idea the next time.

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Read more about What if I submit a project proposal but it doesn’t get funded?

I have an idea; should I speak with my manager about it first?

Yes, we request that you share your interest in submitting a proposal with your manager. The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund does have support from President Faust, the Executive Vice President Katie Lapp and the other senior leaders at the University including School Administrative Deans and Central Vice Presidents. We are hopeful that your manager will work with you to determine how best you can fit this opportunity into your day-to-day work.

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