Systems Innovations Application Questions

The grant application gives Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) staff the information needed to assess your collaborative and proposed strategy.

OTF staff and the Grant Review Committee will assess your collaborative’s readiness to do this work, the alignment of your strategy to a YOF Priority Outcome and its potential impact on selected YOF youth, the priority populations that are benefiting from the project.

How to apply

Learn more about the System Innovations stream and how to apply.


Eligibility of lead organizations 

  • Once you submit the Organization Information, the eligibility of the lead organization is assessed.
  • Only lead organizations that meet funding requirements will be invited to complete the grant application. 


Question: Is your organization's Signatory Contact an existing contact for your organization? Yes/No

If no: Provide the following details about your Signatory Contact:

  • Name
  • Position
  • Email
  • Phone
The Signatory Contact is the person who has signing authority to legally bind your organization, has authorized this application and will be responsible for signing an OTF Grant Contract.

Question: Provide the following details for your Organization Contact:

  • Name
  • Position
  • Email
  • Phone
The Organization Contact is the designated person who has the authority to submit this application. 


Organization Details

Checkbox: I have read and agree that this organization will comply with OTF's Anti-Discrimination Policy.

Checkbox: I have read and agree that this organization will comply with OTF’s Open Data Policy and that data provided throughout the application may be hared with other funders and/or may become public.

Question: Select your organization type:

  • A charitable organization or public foundation registered as a charity by the Canada Revenue Agency
  • An organization incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation without share capital in a Canadian jurisdiction
  • A First Nation
  • A municipality with a population 20,000 or less, or their cultural and recreational agencies, including public libraries and museums

Applicants must be eligible for funding according to OTF’s Eligibility Policy and need to provide direct programs and services to Ontarians.

  • Organizations that are both an incorporated not‐for‐profit and a registered charity should apply as a charity.
  • County Library Boards and Local Services Boards should apply as a municipality with a population of 20,000 or less.
  • A municipality with a population of 20,000 or less or First Nations seeking funding for their libraries, must apply on behalf of the library.
  • A Chartered Community Council, operating under the Métis Nation of Ontario is to apply through the Métis Nation of Ontario.
  • Inuit-led organizations should apply as either a charitable organization or an incorporated not for profit organization, as applicable.

Question: Provide the following details about your organization:

  • Legal name
  • Operating name
  • Preferred language of correspondence
  • Incorporation number (for not-for-profits)
  • Year of incorporation (for not-for-profits)
  • Charitable registration number (for charities)
  • Year of registration (for charities)
  • 9-digit Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Business Number. Learn more about submitting your business number.
  • Address
  • Street Address/RR or PO Box #
  • City
  • Province
  • Postal code * format (X1X 1X1)
  • Phone
  • Website
  • If your organization is active on social media, provide the social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram etc.) and handles you operate under.


Mission and Activities

Question: Provide your mission statement. Max 200 words.

If your organization does not have a formal mission statement, provide a statement that captures the organization's principal mandate or overarching goal.

Question: Tell us about your typical activities, services or programs. Max 200 words.

Question: What sector does your organization operate in? Select the option that best fits.

  • Arts/Culture
  • Environment
  • Human and Social Services
  • Sports/Recreation

Question: How many people does your organization serve annually?

Question: Does your organization offer programs and/or services in both official languages? Yes/No.

  • If yes: How is your organization mandated to offer bilingual programs and/or services? Choose one of the following: 
    • Agency designated under the French Language Services Act
    • Area designated under the French Language Services Act
    • Mandated by Board of Directors and/or Funder
    • Non-mandated but serving Francophone population

Question: Is a percentage of the selected population your organization serves Francophone? Yes/No.

  • If yes:
    • What % of people served by your organization are offered programs and/or services in French? (100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%, 50%, 40%, 30%, 20%, 10%)
    • What % of your organization's programs and/or services are offered in French? (100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%, 50%, 40%, 30%, 20%, 10%)

Question: On average, how many paid staff did your organization have over the last 12 months, regardless of full-time or part-time status?

Question: On average, how many volunteers did your organization have over the last 12 months, regardless of the number of hours volunteered?

Question: For each category below, select the population that your organization serves

  • Language of population served:
    • Bilingual (French/English) 
    • Francophone (and offered services in French)
    • Other Language excluding English or French
    • General Population
  • Gender of population served:
    • Non-binary
    • Trans-Men/Trans-Women
    • Men/Boys
    • Women/Girls
    • General Population
  • Lived-experience of population served:
    • People living in low income 
    • People who are newcomers/refugees 
    • People living with disabilities
    • People living with mental health challenges/addiction
    • General population
  • Identity of population served:  
    • Black
    • Indigenous
    • 2SLGBTQIA+
    • Other racialized groups
    • General Population

Question: Does your organization’s leadership and/or decision-making entities (Board, executive team, senior leadership etc.) reflect the language, gender, lived-experience or cultural identities of the communities served by your organization?  

  • Yes  
  • Somewhat  
  • No  
  • Unsure  


Financial Health and Stability

File upload: Upload your organization's most recent completed financial statements and surplus or deficit information, if required.

All applicants, except for Municipalities and First Nations, are required to comply with OTF’s Financial Statement Requirements

  • OTF requires financial statements for your 2 recent fiscal years, which need to be completed within 5 months of your fiscal year-end.
  • If your organization has been operating for less than two years, you will need to submit at least one full fiscal year of financial statements from the date of incorporation or charitable registration.
  • Organizations that submit incorrect or incomplete financial statements or are missing surplus and deficit information will be declined.

Files must be uploaded in one of the following formats: pdf, jpg, jpeg, gif, doc, docx, txt, odt, ods, png, bmp, tif, tiff, xls, or xlsx.  

Question: Does your organization have an accumulated surplus or a deficit? Yes/No

  • If yes: Upload your surplus or deficit information.
Review the required documentation for accumulated surplus and deficit.



Question: Does your organization have a minimum of three active board members (active terms as of grant application deadline date), with at least 50% of board members at an arm's length relationship to each other? Yes/No 

  • If yes: We need your most current board list including: 
    • First name  
    • Last name 
    • Term start date 
    • Term end date  
    • Position 
    • Arm’s length (yes/no) 

All applicants, except for Municipalities and First Nations, need to provide governance information.

Arm's Length

Your organization must have a minimum of three active board members (term end dates must be on or after the grant application deadline date). To be eligible for funding, at least 50% must maintain an arm’s length relationship to each other.

  • Answer yes if: board members and organization executives are not married or related to each other, do not work as business partners or are not otherwise in a relationship where interests may be compromised.
  • Answer no if: board members and organization executives are married or related to each other, do work as business partners or are otherwise in a relationship where interests may be compromised.

Question: Do you have staff who are directors or at a higher level? 

  • If yes: Provide details about your organization's senior staff (Director level and above): 
    • First name  
    • Last name  
    • Position 
    • Arm’s Length (yes/no) – in relation to other senior staff and board members 

File Upload: Upload your organization’s By-Laws. 

Files must be uploaded in one of the following formats: pdf, jpg, jpeg, gif, doc, docx, txt, odt, ods, png, bmp, tif, tiff, xls, or xlsx. 



Checkbox: I confirm that the organization has financial management and conflict of interest policies in place.

Checkbox: I confirm that all the organization information provided is correct, up-to-date and complete.

Checkbox: I confirm that the correct type and year of financial statements have been uploaded based on our organization's total revenues and fiscal year-end, and the Board of Directors table has been updated.

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Tab 1: General Information

Contact Information

Question 1. For this project, please confirm the key contact’s information:

  • Project contact name, title or role, phone number, email

Question 2. Are you the signing authority for the organization? Yes/No

[If no]: Please provide contact information for the person with signing authority including:

  • Signing authority's name, title or role, phone number, email 

General Information

Question 3. What is the name of the project?

Question 4. Our project will: (Check all that apply)

  • Lay the groundwork needed to strengthen a system of services or opportunities for YOF youth.
  • Implement strategies to strengthen a system of services or opportunities for YOF youth.

[If groundwork only selected]:

  • Please know that collaboratives have two years to complete groundwork.  
  • Any Project Plans and Budgets that exceed a two-year term will not be assessed.
  • Upload all supporting documents detailing the work completed in the groundwork phase of your project as part of your application. 

[If implementation only selected]:

  • If selected, it will be assumed that the collaborative has completed the groundwork phase. 
  • This should be reflected in the groundwork table and there should be no groundwork activities in the Project Plan or Budget. 

[If both groundwork and implementation selected]:

  • Please know that collaboratives have up to two years to complete groundwork phase.  
  • It should be clear in your Project Plan and Budget that your groundwork will be completed within the first two years of the project. 
  • The remaining duration of the grant needs to focus on the implementation phase. 
Note: “YOF youth” refers to those young people you selected (beneficiaries) to impact through your collaborative’s work.

Assess your readiness and check one or both options. Is there groundwork to be done? Is your collaborative ready to begin implementing strategies for systems change? If you are uncertain about what we mean by “groundwork” or “implementing strategies” to strengthen a system of services, please contact and learn more about what we fund or book a coaching call with YOF Program Manager. If your collaborative has already laid the groundwork, consider focusing this project on systems-strengthening work - implementation only.

Question 5. Please confirm that you are applying as a collaborative. Yes/No

Note: A collaborative is a group of two or more organizations - each with specific roles and responsibilities - that submit an application to achieve a common goal where there is mutual benefit, shared decision-making and accountability to each collaborative member. The lead organization of a collaborative must be an eligible organization according to OTF's Eligibility Policy.

We may ask to review the collaborative agreement between the collaborative's partners during the application review stage

[If no]: System Innovations grants invest in systems change work led by collaboratives only. Your project is not eligible.

[If yes]: I acknowledge that a formal agreement with our collaborative partners is in place. Yes/No

Question 6. Will the project activities take place in Ontario? Yes/No

Note: Only activities that take place in Ontario are eligible for YOF funding.

Question 7. Anticipated start date (Select from calendar)

Question 8. What is the requested grant term?

  • 2 years
  • 3 years 
  • 4 years
  • 5 years
Note: This is the total number of years you will receive funding if your application is approved. If you selected groundwork only, the grant term is 2 years. 
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Tab 2: Lead Organization and Collaborative

About the Lead Organization

Question 9. Why are you the right organization to lead the collaborative and this project? (350 words max.)

Note: Describe how your organization is situated within the system you aim to improve. Describe how you are connected to the communities you are seeking to serve through this work. Share your experience working strategically and collaboratively with stakeholders for systems change. Describe your organization's experience working with selected YOF youth and your understanding of the issues they face.

Question 10. As the lead organization in your collaborative, your organization is: (Check all that apply)

  • Black-led
  • Indigenous-led

About the Collaborative

Question 11. Complete the Partners Table. Provide the following information for each of the partners:

  • Organization, Group or Community Leader 
  • Please indicate if your organization or group is Black-led or Indigenous-led  
  • To the degree that you are comfortable and able, share lived experiences and knowledge that are relevant to this project 
  • Contact Person Name, Title, Phone Number, Email 
  • Has this organization, group or individual agreed to be a collaborative member on this project? Yes/No 
  • Has the lead worked with this partner on other projects before? Yes/No 
  • Role and contribution to this project 

Question 12. Why is this the right collaborative to lead this project? (350 words max.)

Note: Describe how collaborative members are situated within the system you aim to improve. Describe their collective experience working with, and for, the selected YOF youth. Tell us about the relationships, knowledge, experiences, and skills that you are bringing as a collective and how these will enrich your systems change work.

Question 13. Members of your collaborative are: (Check all that apply)

  • Black-led organizations
  • Indigenous-led organizations

[If Indigenous-led or Black-led selected]:

How many of the collaborative members are:

  • Black-led organizations?
  • Indigenous-led organizations?

Question 14. How will you ensure the full participation of youth as equal partners in moving the proposed systems change work?

Note: Consider how you will engage the selected YOF youth as partners in this change process. Describe: 
  • The internal reflective work that you and your partners will commit to doing that will create the mechanism for youth to be equal partners in the system change work. 
  • The values, commitments and processes you will put in place for their contribution. 

Question 15. List any stakeholders not yet involved that would strengthen the project's potential to improve/build the system and achieve planned results. How will you engage stakeholders not yet involved?

Note: If there are collaborative members missing that you consider essential to the work, describe how this collaborative will secure their engagement. 

Question 16. Tell us how your organization has led projects with multiple stakeholders toward a shared goal. Provide 1 or 2 examples. What work did you do together? What was the collaborative trying to achieve? How did this past experience prepare the collaborative for this project?

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Tab 3: Strategizing for Systems Change

Describing the System

Question 17. At a high-level, identify the system your collaborative is focused on improving. (Check only one)

  • Education 
  • Justice  
  • Child welfare 
  • Language and Culture  
  • Health 
  • Employment  
  • Youth Social Infrastructure (mechanisms that enable youth engagement and leadership)  
  • Social Security (social assistance, housing, financial assistance, etc.)  
  • Immigration and Settlement  
  • Social Services  
  • Other  

Question 18. What part of the system is your collaborative focusing on? Describe the key issues and/or challenges that your selected YOF youth face in accessing and interacting with this system. Why is the system (as it exists today) unable to fully meet the needs of your specific youth beneficiaries? (500 words max.) 

Note: Issues and challenges could be related to policy frameworks, ideologies, service design, integration of service delivery, etc.

Are there any deeply held ideas or assumptions that shape how services are organized? Tell us why you believe the system requires strengthening. What are the current gaps in the system? What are the risks of not addressing the issues/challenges identified? Where available, reference youth voices, research and data that speak to the issues you have described. 

Question 19. As you look to the future, what is the aspired state your collaborative is working towards? Given the issues and impacts on youth, describe the vision that your collaborative has for how the system could work to better serve your selected YOF youth beneficiaries. (350 words max.)

Question 20. Project Description. Complete the following sentence about your project (50 words max.): 

Our collaborative will (strengthen) a (name the system you are strengthening) for (selected YOF youth) in (geographic area). We will (describe the change you want to make to the system). 

Describing your Strategy

Question 21. Given what you know about the system and how it is experienced by your selected YOF youth beneficiaries today, what will the collaborative do to strengthen the system? Summarize your overall strategy for making systems change. 

Note: Ensure the strategy and approach respond to the issues you have identified. We recognize that collaboratives will enter this process in different stages of readiness. What steps do you envision taking to prepare for and to make systems change? Where available, reference groundwork documents that can include theories of change and action plans.

Question 22. Complete the Groundwork Table.

The Groundwork Table requires that you address these key deliverables:

  • Collaborative's Governance Model
  • Youth Governance Model
  • Summary of Research and Evidence
  • Summary of Youth Experiences and Needs
  • Theory of Change
  • Action Plan
Note: Provide details on the required deliverables by completing the Groundwork Table.  

If your request is approved, all of the deliverables will be included in your Grant Contract. Updates and results of this work will be requested as a part of your annual reporting requirements.

We expect that collaboratives will be in different stages of readiness to implement strategies for systems change. The groundwork stage is a stepping stone to any system change work.  This includes having a collaborative that is reflective of the communities served, includes youth in meaningful ways, and is equipped to lead systems change in ways that are culturally responsive and youth-centered. 

Question 23. Describe the concrete steps your collaborative will take to lay the groundwork for systems change OR if the groundwork has already been laid, describe the steps your collaborative took during this phase of the work. (350 words max.) 

[If you chose implementation only]:

Describe the concrete steps your collaborative will take to implement your strategy for systems change. (350 words max.) 

Question 24. Describe any factors or conditions that may hinder your efforts to make these system changes. How will your collaborative work to advance change given the factors and conditions described? (350 words max.) 

Note: We understand that systems change is hard work. We appreciate the challenges involved in shifting mindset, practice, and the allocation of resources at a collective level. Use this space to describe these challenges. Share your perspective on the limits of what may be possible to change, given the context in which you are working. This is also an opportunity to reflect on the collaborative's readiness to lead the groundwork for systems change.

Question 25. Upload any groundwork documents or any links to relevant documents/research on the system, its issues and steps forward. 

Note: You may upload up to five (5) links to documents, pictures or diagrams that will provide a greater explanation of your project. Please include a short description for each picture. 

Project Location 

Question 26. Please select the census divisions to indicate more specific regions where your project activities will take place. Find your region. (Select at least one from the list) 

Question 27. Please select the community size that is the primary focus of your system change work. (Select one) 

  • Rural or Small Communities (20,000 or less) 
  • Mid-size Communities (20,001 - 100,000) 
  • Urban Centres and Metropolitan Suburbs (100,001+) 
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Tab 4: Project Impact

Describing the Outcome and Beneficiaries

Question 28. Select the YOF Priority Outcome that most aligns with the expected benefit to YOF youth as a result of system improvements. (Check only one) 

  • Empowering girls and/or young women to lead, including women's economic empowerment initiatives 
  • Supporting Indigenous, Black, and/or newcomer youth to enter the labour market and transition to sustainable career pathways 
  • Supporting youth in and/or leaving care and/or involved in the justice system to navigate and access resources for wellbeing 
  • Addressing racism and its impacts on youth in urban, rural, and/or Northern communities 
  • Creating safe spaces for Indigenous and/or Black youth to build strong community and cultural connections 
Note: YOF youth refers to those young people you selected to serve through your project.  

Ask yourself: "If we are successful in strengthening the system, which outcome best describes the benefit our selected YOF youth beneficiaries will experience?"

Example: You chose the outcome that focuses on supporting youth who are leaving care to navigate and access resources for wellbeing. Your systems change work will focus on designing and supporting culturally anchored models and will be responsive to the interests and needs of Black youth transitioning from care. This model will be embedded in at least 10 organizations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Your goal is also to build a GTA-wide network of Black focused wellbeing resources that youth can access. In this case, you would select one primary beneficiary: Black youth. And additional selections would be, 'Youth in care or leaving care'. 

When selecting Indigenous youth (First Nations, Métis or Inuit), youth can be from urban, rural and on-reserve communities.

Question 29. Identify the population(s) that are the primary beneficiaries of your systems change work using the list below. (Select at least one) 

  • Indigenous youth (i.e. First Nations, Métis or Inuit) 
  • Black youth 
  • Racialized youth 
  • Newcomer youth 
  • Francophone youth 
  • Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) youth 
  • Youth living with disabilities or special needs between the ages of 12 to 29  
  • Youth living in rural or remote communities 
  • Youth in conflict or at risk of being in conflict with the law 
  • Youth in care or leaving care 
  • Youth in low-income situations or from low-income families 
  • Youth who are homeless or at risk of being homeless 
  • Youth at-risk of dropping out or have dropped out of school 
  • Youth living with mental health needs and/or addictions between the ages of 12 to 29 
  • Youth who are not engaged and/or at risk of not being engaged with education, employment and training programs 
  • Girls and/or young women 

[If Indigenous is selected] (Select at least one) 

  • First Nations  
  • Métis 
  • Inuit 

Question 30. What is the age range of youth who will benefit from systems improvements? (Select at least one) 

  • 12 to 14 years  
  • 15 to 19 years 
  • 20 to 25 years 
  • 12 to 29 years for youth living with disabilities and/or special needs 
  • 12 to 29 years for youth living with mental health needs and/or addictions 

Describing the Impact 

All YOF grantees are required to use YOF standard evaluation tools so we can share a much larger story of change across Ontario. We invite the collaborative to explore, and budget for, evaluation and learning that would benefit the project. 

Question 31. How will your collaborative work to advance the selected YOF Priority Outcome? (350 words max).

Question 32. Describe your impact. (250 words max. per change box)

  • Describe the main changes in organizations connected to the system, including collaborative members (250 words max.) 
  • Describe the main changes in the collaborative (250 words max.) 
  • Describe the main changes in how the system functions (250 words max.) 
  • Describe the main changes in how young people experience the system (250 words max.) 

Use the next four questions to describe those concrete and achievable changes your collaborative will make through this project. We recognize that collaboratives will be in different stages of readiness and we ask that you identify changes that reflect your entry point into this work.  

If there is groundwork to be done, describe the changes that you expect to see as a result of the more immediate groundwork and future implementation work. If the groundwork is done, describe the changes you expect to make through the implementation phase of the work. Consider expected changes to partner organizations, the collaborative itself, young people, and the system as a whole. 

Question 33. As part of the System Innovations Stream, YOF requires all grantees to host one knowledge-sharing event. If your project is approved for funding, check to confirm that you agree to host one knowledge-sharing event during the grant term. Yes/No 

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Tab 5: Process

Project Plan

Question 34. Complete the Project Plan.

Note: Use the Project Plan to describe:
  • The detailed activities that are needed to complete the deliverables in the Groundwork Table. Ensure that your activities will set you in the right direction to advance change at various levels of the collaborative. 
  • The role of partners, including young people, in completing key activities. 
  • A logical sequence and staging of activities. 
For multi-year projects where early-stage work informs the progress of activities, describe the processes you will follow instead of listing activities. For example:
  • If an early stage activity is the completion of a needs assessment, while you will not know what the specific needs are today, describe the process you will use to respond to the findings from the needs assessment.  
  • However, if most of the groundwork has been laid for systems change, share in greater detail the activities and steps you will follow to strengthen the system.


Question 35. Open Budget Instructions 

Question 36. Complete the Budget Worksheet  


  • Use this worksheet to list all expenses related to this project for the number of years you are applying for.  
  • This is the total amount of money you are requesting from OTF.  
  • Please do not include requests from other funders in this amount.  
  • The Budget Worksheet should be consistent with the activities/resources listed in the Project Plan.  
  • Please avoid any quotation marks (“…”) as the system will not save your work if these are detected. 
Ensure that you clearly explain the costs for all activities in each budget category (staffing, project expenses and administration) and budget items identified. This is critical information needed to assess your collaborative’s process.

Take note: Total request amount is generated as a result of the information provided in your budget worksheet.

Question 37. How much funding are you requesting from OTF? 


Question 38. I confirm:

  • I have read the Budget Instructions and completed the Budget Worksheet. 
  • I understand that two (2) written quotes are required for goods and/or services individually valued above $10,000. OTF may request them these quotes at any time. during the assessment or if approved for a grant. 
  • I understand that project activities that take place outside of Ontario are not eligible. I confirm that we have not requested funds to support any project activities that will take place outside of Ontario. 
  • I understand the importance of avoiding any conflicts of interest (or the appearance thereof) when obtaining quotes for goods and/or services. 
Note: When you are requesting OTF funds for goods and/or services individually valued above $10,000, OTF asks your organization to show that it sought the best value for money. The amount requested must be reasonable and supported by competitive bids. OTF requires two or more written quotes for purchases of individual goods and/or services individually valued above $10,000. 


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