CIRD supports host communities before and after their workshops via informational conference calls and webinars that cover critical topics in community engagement, rural design, partnership development, and workshop planning.

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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Q: Who runs the CIRD Program?

A: The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™ is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Project for Public Spaces, Inc., along with the Orton Family Foundation. Project for Public Spaces, Inc. is the lead cooperator and administrator of the program.

Q: What is CIRD looking for when selecting communities/applicants?

A: We are looking for communities with clear goals for a workshop that will address a design challenge or opportunity relevant to other rural communities in their region, and across the country. It is imperative that workshop hosts have the commitment to plan and facilitate a workshop, to engage a diverse audience, and to produce follow up activities that result in positive change for the community. This would include experience with, and understanding of, the design challenge and capacity to engage the community. Planning and hosting a CIRD workshop also requires strong partnerships between multiple organizations that have a role both before and after the workshop. In summary, the organizations’ experience, the partnership component, and project concept are all part of CIRD’s criteria for selecting applicants. For the detailed selection criteria please reference the Request for Proposals (RFP).

Q: How do I determine if my project fits within the scope of ‘design’?

A: The term ‘design’ can encompass a broad range of project types and activities, as described in the RFP. Design projects are those with a physical impact or scope – that could include the design of a street, a building, an art project, a plaza, or broader community design. Design also suggests the need for a process to shape those physical changes. Design is not about building a project; it’s about shaping what the project will look like, how it will function, and the impact that its physicality will have. Proposed design projects can be process-oriented (for example, engaging stakeholders to create a vision for a design project) or more physically focused (for example, developing specific design drawings, sketches, or concepts) for the workshop.

Q. What are some criteria to think about in choosing an appropriate project to propose if we have multiple options?

A: In addition to the criteria outlined in the RFP, consider which project will have the most positive impacts on your community and one that has high levels of support from local citizens and key stakeholders. In addition, since the focus of this assistance is a two-and-a-half day workshop, make sure that your project can truly be advanced within this format and timeline. There should also be some key questions or outstanding issues that require outside technical assistance; for example, this program is not designed to simply help you implement a project that is already completely defined. Finally, since this is a program designed to result in real change in communities, it is advantageous to have tangible opportunities – and ideas – for implementing recommendations that evolve from the workshop.

Q: How many towns will be selected for workshops?

A: CIRD will select up to six communities to host workshops in 2016—2017.

Q. Can a region apply for a workshop?

A: Yes, regions can apply, provided that each community partnering on the application has a population of 50,000 or less (county or regional-level governments can have a greater population, as long as the communities that are the focus of the assistance all have populations that are 50,000 or less). In addition, each community partnering on the application must share the same design challenge or issue so that the workshop proposal has a coherent focus. The workshop will only occur in one location in the region.

Q: How do small towns and rural communities benefit from this program?

A: Local communities propose workshop topics that focus on addressing a particular challenge or taking advantage of a particular opportunity. The workshop benefits can be as different as the communities themselves. Past CIRD workshops have focused on and resulted in:

  • Main street revitalization
  • Design of cultural trails
  • Arts-based community development
  • Economic development that builds the local community
  • Land and agricultural conservation
  • Transportation planning
  • Design of age-friendly communities
  • Connecting recreation trails to downtowns
  • Place and community brand identity
  • Fostering collaborative regional partnerships
  • Creating or improving community public spaces
  • Enhancing a sense of place and community

Workshops are typically 2-3 days long and attended by at least 35-40 participants.  Holding a public event that is open to the broader community is strongly encouraged.  Workshop structure and schedule will be developed in collaboration with the local coordinating team.  Communities not selected to host a workshop can still benefit from the CIRD program by registering for conference calls on rural design topics, using resources on the CIRD website, and benefitting from follow-up and lessons learned through the host communities. Click here for more information on the workshops and here to learn more about previous CIRD workshops.

    Q: What specific technical assistance do you offer a community? What follow up is conducted after the workshop?

    A: The technical assistance is provided within the context of the two-and-a-half day workshop, through a resource team that often includes national, state, regional and local experts in fields relevant to the scope of the workshop topic(s). In the past, some workshop outcomes have been process-oriented (getting different stakeholders in a community on board with a vision), while other communities have focused on the development of actual design drawings, proposals, sketches, or concepts during the workshop, and raising additional funds for implementation of workshop outcomes. Resource Team members provide recommendations post workshop, but local coordinators and their partners are responsible for follow up and implementation of identified priorities. Local coordinators develop a notebook for the actual workshop and a report with a plan for moving forward the identified priorities; see the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design’s™ Coordinator’s Manual and past workshop notebooks for more information:

    Q: Does the local jurisdiction select the consultant to perform the work or would the local jurisdiction use their own technical staff?

    A: Applicants can propose any combination of existing staff or outside consultants necessary to carry out the work of organizing and hosting a workshop. Resource Team members will be selected in conjunction with CIRD staff and must be approved by the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Q: How will (or can) the local, state, or regional U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office be involved in workshop?

    A: USDA Rural Development is a CIRD program partner. After communities are selected, CIRD staff will work with state USDA Rural Development staff as part of the workshop planning process to determine the most appropriate role and participation of USDA field offices. Feel free, however, to reach out to your area USDA contact as part of your application process and include a letter of support, if available.

    Eligibility Questions

    Q: How do you define rural? 
    A: The CIRD program is intended to serve rural communities. We recognize that there are many ways to determine whether or not a community is rural. CIRD is interested in working with communities that see themselves as having rural attributes, and we expect that applications will demonstrate the community's rural character. Only communities with a population of less than 50,000 are eligible.

    Q: Can I apply to host a workshop if I am not a local government agency or official?

    A: Yes. A detailed description of entities that can apply to host a workshop can be found in the eligibility section of the RFP. Lead applicants can include, but are not limited to: municipal, tribal, or county governments; nonprofit entities such as main street organizations, preservation groups, historical societies, or chambers of commerce; regional planning organizations; arts and cultural centers, and university community design centers located within 50 miles of the community.

    Q: I work for a state level office. Can I apply as the lead for several rural communities in my state? 

    A: No. State-level entities may support an application, but cannot serve as the primary applicant.

    Q: Can a university partner on a workshop proposal? 

    A: Yes. Any university can partner on a project in a nearby rural community, or the university's community design center, agricultural or extension service, or another university entity can serve as the primary applicant to CIRD.

     Q: Are U.S. territories eligible to apply for a CIRD workshop? 

    A: Yes, applicants must be located in, and project activities must be conducted within, the United States or its territories.

     Q: If my town has received funding from another federal program, are we still eligible to apply?

    A: Yes. In the application form you will be asked to provide the name of the federal agency and the program from which the funds were granted.

    Budget Questions

    Q: Do I have to use the budget template provided, or can I submit my own? 

    A: We ask that you use the template provided as it provides consistency during the application review process. The template is an Excel file, available for download by clicking here. Detailed budget instructions are included in the file. 

    Q: What should my budget total be? 

    A: Because we suggest a 1:1 match, your total budget should include expenses of at least $20,000.

    Q: What expenses qualify as the local match for our proposed budget?

    A: We ask that each community match the $10,000 funding they are awarded with their own $10,000 in kind contribution. This in kind contribution can come from donated staff time, donated materials or space, or actual money from another funding source. The local match needs to be used for the planning and execution of the workshop.  Federal funds are not eligible to count towards the match.

    Q: Do I need to include expenses for the Resource Team members in my budget?

    A: No, all honoraria and travel for Resource Team members are covered directly by CIRD and should not be included as part of the $10,000 stipend or matching funds.

    Q: Can salaries for administration or additional fundraising be included? 

    A: Salaries, contract fees, and stipends for workshop administration and planning are allowed, but fundraising is not an eligible expense.

    Q: What guidelines are available for valuing goods and services submitted for the in-kind match?

    A: For time and services, look at what a person would normally charge based on hourly rates and the percentage of staff time involved in project, and/or the cost of similar services or goods.

    Application Questions

    Q: Can I submit a hard copy of my application? Can I mail, fax or email my application?

    A: No. All applications must be submitted via the electronic application form and all supporting materials and budget must be uploaded to this form before you submit. Applications that are mailed, faxed or emailed will not be accepted. 

    Q: Can I submit my letters of support separately?

    A: No, letters of support must be uploaded as PDF attachments to your application.

    Q: Can I see the questions before I start the application?

    A: Click here to download a printable version of the PDF.

    Q: Is it possible to cut and paste into the online application?

    A: We recommend compiling your answers in a Word document and cutting and pasting them into the electronic form once you have prepared responses for the entire application.

    Q: Each application question has character limits. How can I tell the number of characters in my responses?

    A: If preparing your responses in Word (which is strongly recommended), highlight your response, click on “Words” at the bottom of your document and the character count will be displayed. Spaces between words are counted as characters; be sure you are checking the “Characters (with spaces)” count. When pasting your responses into the application form, at the bottom right of each response field, the total number of characters remaining is shown.  

    Q: Can I save and resume my electronic application?

    A: At the bottom of each page you will have the option to Save/Resume your work. Click the link and Formstack will provide a URL you can use to resume completing the application form. However, at this time there is no way for Formstack to resend the links of partially completed applications. In order to avoid losing your work, we strongly recommend compiling your answers separately first in a Word document and cutting and pasting them into the form only once they are complete.

    Q: If I forget to include part of my answer to an application question, can I email CIRD additions to add to my application?

    A: To be fair to all applicants, we will not be able to add any text to your application once it is submitted.

    Q: How will I know if my application has been submitted?

    A: Once you have completed your application, you will have the option to review and submit. After reviewing all your responses, hit “submit” and Formstack will send you an automated email confirming your submission.

    Q: If I am having trouble completing my application online, what do I do?

    A: You can email us at cird@pps.org, or call us at 212.620.5660 x 314 until 5:30 PM EST on January 12, 2016. Ms. Kurt Wheeler, our Program Associate, will be happy to help you. Additionally, we are hosting two pre-application assistance webinars on November 10th and December 10th. Questions should be submitted in advance when you register for the webinar.

    Download our FAQs here.