System Innovations Stream - Frequently Asked Questions

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About the System Innovations Stream

What is the System Innovations grant?
System Innovations grant for up to $250,000 for 2 to 6 years.  Up to two of these years can be dedicated to setting the groundwork for systems change. Collaboratives can apply for groundwork only, implementation work only, or both groundwork and implementation.


Who can apply to the System Innovations Stream?
The System Innovations Stream is for collaboratives that are working to improve the way systems work for YOF priority populations. 

The application is submitted by a lead organization, that is eligible to apply to OTF, on behalf of a collaborative. A collaborative is a group of two or more organizations - each with specific roles and responsibilities - that have come together to achieve a common goal where there is mutual benefit, shared decision-making, and accountability to each collaborative partner.


Does the YOF have priority populations?
Yes. The YOF prioritizes projects led by and for:

  • Indigenous (First Nation, Métis, Inuit) youth, parents, guardians, and caregivers
  • Black youth, parents, guardians, and caregivers


What is the application process and when are applications due?
There are three steps to take in applying to the System Innovations Stream:

  • Step 1: Required Pre-Application Coaching Call.
  • Step 2: Registration Deadline by September 16, 2020
  • Step 3: On-line Grant Application due October 14, 2020

Please note, you will not be able to access the on-line grant application until steps 1 and 2 are completed.


As the lead organization, how do we access the on-line System Innovations Grant application?
As the lead organization, you must first participate in the required pre-application coaching call and you must register your organization. After you register, if your organization is verified as an OTF eligible organization, the YOF Team will give you access to the on-line application. The YOF Team will support you through the process of registering. The deadline to register your organization is September 16, 2020.


I’m waiting for my organization registration to be processed. Can I access the application questions while we wait?
Yes. You can access the application questions here.


What activities are eligible/ineligible for funding? 
System Innovations applications must be focused on improving systems for YOF priority populations through system change and not program/service delivery. Similarly, the YOF is not intended to fund: 

  • Capital infrastructure projects (renovation of spaces to make it “youth friendly”, construction of new spaces, making spaces physically accessible etc.)
  • Large equipment that serves as a one-time use only, and is not key to program/initiative

Please connect with a YOF team member to confirm the eligibility of any potential programming/capital expenditures.


What makes a strong collaborative?
A collaborative is a group of two or more organizations - each with specific roles and responsibilities - that have come together to achieve a common goal where there is mutual benefit, shared decision-making, and accountability to each collaborative partner. 

Collaborative partners should also be members of the community(ies) they seek to serve. Similarly, they should have a strong track record of serving selected YOF youth. 

It is important that YOF System Innovations work is initiated by and for the intended community. We encourage collaboratives to include partners from different sectors. We also recognize that collaboratives will enter this process in different stages of readiness. If there are collaborative members missing that you consider essential to the work, you will have the opportunity to describe how this collaborative will secure their engagement as part of the application. 

Also, consider how you will engage the selected YOF youth as partners in this change process. The meaningful engagement of young people is also required for a System Innovations grant.


Do young people need to be included as collaborative partners in the System Innovations Stream? 
Yes. Young people, as the intended beneficiaries of the systems change work, must be included as partners who are meaningfully engaged in both the groundwork and implementation stages of work.  

At the time of applying, if you do not have youth partners, you must describe when and how young people will be included in the collaborative and the roles they will play. 


What is the pre-application coaching call? 
A Pre-Application Coaching Call is a mandatory step for all collaboratives interested in a System Innovations grant. During the call, potential applicants will share information about the systems change work they will do or are doing, their beneficiaries, their collaborative make-up etc. 
The YOF team will guide applicants to assess readiness and fit with stream requirements. Potential applicants can book a Pre-Application Coaching Call.


What does YOF mean by groundwork and implementation? 
Collaboratives can apply for groundwork only, implementation work only, or both groundwork and implementation. Learn more about what YOF means by groundwork and implementation.


Can my System Innovations project be for children under 12 years? 
No. System Innovations Stream beneficiaries are youth 12 to 25.  For projects serving youth with disabilities, the age limit is 29. 


Can a group/organization have an extension to submit their Grant Application?
Late submissions will not be accepted, out of fairness to all applicants.


My proposed systems change work is designed to impact a broad range of young people. Should I select all of the YOF beneficiary groups?
No. YOF provides grants and capacity building support to collaboratives focused on improving the wellbeing of youth facing systemic barriers. 

The collaborative must be focused on improving systems for specific YOF populations through system change. Consider the key issues and/or challenges that your selected YOF youth face in accessing and interacting with a system. 

Issues and challenges could be related to policy frameworks, ideologies, service design, integration of service delivery etc. Also, ensure that your proposed systems change work is aligned with the beneficiaries named in your selected YOF outcome. For example, if you select, “Supporting Indigenous, Black, and/or newcomer youth to enter the labour market and transition to sustainable career pathways”, your systems change work must be designed explicitly to improve/strengthen a system for Indigenous, Black and/or newcomer youth who face systemic barriers to entering the labour market and developing a sustainable career pathway.


My project will contribute to more than one YOF outcome. Can I select more than one outcome?
No. Choose the one YOF outcome that most strongly aligns with benefits you hope to make through your systems change work.


When will we find out if our Grant Application has been approved for funding. 
All applicants that submit a System Innovations Grant Application will be notified in April 2021


How many SI applications are funded each year?
YOF generally funds 3-5 System Innovations applications each year.  

Group Eligibility

Can unincorporated grassroots groups apply to the System Innovations Stream?
No. We encourage grassroots unincorporated groups to be a part of the collaborative, but these groups cannot act as the lead and applicant.


Can incorporated not-for-profits apply to the Youth and Family Innovations Streams?
Yes. Your organization must be verified as an OTF eligible organization. The deadline to register your organization is September 16, 2020.


Can a lead organization submit more than one System Innovations application?
No. Leads can only apply once per deadline.


I’m a current/past YOF grantee, can I reapply to the YOF?
Yes. You may be eligible to apply for a YOF grant as a current or past grantee. Please connect with a member of the YOF Team if you are current or former grantee and you are interested in reapplying to the YOF.

Take note, a current grantee cannot apply for a new YOF grant for the very same work (same idea, same scope) it was already funded to do.


Can an organization form a collaborative with non-eligible / non-traditional organizations (i.e. educational institutions) and individual leaders?
Yes. A collaborative can include individuals/community leaders, grassroots groups, and system partners (such as schools, school boards, hospitals, universities, municipalities, private sector partners etc.). 

The lead organization applying for the System Innovations grant must be an OTF eligible organization.


Are small municipalities eligible to be OMs or Lead Organizations in the System Innovations Stream?
No. Municipalities are not eligible to be OMs or to apply as the lead in the System Innovations Stream. 


If your project is approved for funding

If I am approved for funding, when will the project start?
No earlier than May 1, 2021.


Will my grant be audited? When? 
Each year, OTF conducts Compliance Audits of a random sample of grants. Typically, an audit will take place after a progress report has been submitted in the first year of the project. It is important to adhere to the Terms & Conditions of your grant. Keeping good records of spending and tracking project activities will help you to be ready should your grant be audited. Grantees are required to retain all receipts and expenditure records relevant to the grant. IF you are approved for a YOF grant, your program manager will provide further information on monitoring your grant.


What is the grant holdback and how does it work?
A proportion of all grant funds are held back until the grantee has submitted the Final Report and OTF has reviewed and verified the satisfactory completion of the grant. For YOF grants, 10% of the grant budget for the final year of the grant is held back. 


What does evaluation look like in the YOF?
OTF places an emphasis on measuring impact and identifying opportunities for improvement within funded projects. An evaluation plan is required of all YOF grantees.
With the support of a third-party evaluation partner, all YOF funded initiatives are required to develop an evaluation plan and measure their progress towards their selected YOF outcome. Evaluation plans will require the collection of data through surveys, focus groups, and other tools based on needs of the project and community context. 

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