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

2019-2020 Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™

1. General Questions
2. Eligibility Questions
3. Application Questions
4. Budget Questions

1. General Questions

Q: Who runs the CIRD Program?
A: The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, along with buildingcommunityWORKSHOP.

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.

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, the focus of this assistance is on an intensive local workshop as well as ongoing technical assistance through December 2020 and peer learning opportunities, so be sure that the project can be advanced within those parameters. There should also be some key questions or outstanding issues that require outside technical assistance. You can apply for a project that is already underway or to build off of previous work, but in your application, you should explain why the additional resources brought by CIRD are necessary. 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 do small towns and rural communities benefit from this program?
A: Workshop communities benefit by being able to take a deep dive into tackling a local design challenge. They are provided with a stipend to host a multi-day community workshop and directly work with design experts, planners, and CIRD staff members. Additionally, these communities have access to additional learning opportunities through participation in Learning Cohort activities and attending HAC’s National Conference. Communities chosen for the Learning Cohort can build capacity by gathering together for peer learning to receive training in design, planning, community engagement, facilitation techniques, and support in navigating funding opportunities.

Q: How many towns will be selected for CIRD?
A: CIRD will select up to three communities to host workshops in 2019-2020, and up to 20 additional communities to be a part of the Learning Cohort.

Q: What's the commitment like for the Learning Cohort?​                                                                     
A: We require attendance during at least the Learning Cohort Summit event in Fall 2019, and there will be as many as 4 other in person events cohort members are encouraged to attend (3 workshops, HAC national conference). That may be between 5-10 workdays of commitment. Online presentations and office hours may add an additional 4-6 work hours, plus commitment towards helping us build a better program through responding to surveys and other inquiries on your progress (perhaps 10-15 hours). These 85-90 hours are spread out between application announcements in September 2019 to December 2020.

Q: My town's not ready for the larger design consulting project right now, but the learning cohort sounds awesome. Can I indicate that as my preference and simplify the path forward?
A: Yes. When you submit an application, you are automatically considered for both the Local Community Workshops and the Learning Cohort, unless you check the box on the application stating you are only interested in being considered for the learning cohort      

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, but if chosen for the Learning Cohort its helpful to show that these capacity building efforts will have a broad reach in multiple communities.

Q: How can regional organizations or other partners be involved? ​                                                                                    A: We want to make sure the lead applicant is public facing, but other partnerships are welcome to get involved and contribute. Regional organizations are welcome to provide staffing or funding support. Regional umbrella organizations could also benefit from, and be of benefit to, the learning cohort by distributing the information learned to help build capacity across their network. Examples of other partnerships could be a university in a nearby rural community, local businesses, or real estate developers. We have seen several key partners that are critical to the project’s success

Q: What specific technical assistance do you offer a community? What follow up is conducted after the workshop?
A: The technical assistance is provided at the two-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. Additionally, all local workshops and learning cohort members can schedule check-ins with CIRD’s design team, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, throughout the period of the program (December 2020) and as new issues come up. Resource Team members provide recommendations post workshop, but local coordinators and their partners are responsible for follow up and implementation of identified priorities. 

Q: Does CIRD have an archive of past design challenges/workshops to review?
A: Yes! Check-out https://www.rural-design.org/ for more information on part CIRD workshops. https://www.rural-design.org/where-we-work has a list and more info about all past CIRD locations.                                                                                                                                                                                     

2. Eligibility Questions

Q: How do you define a rural community?
A: We have defined “rural” as a community with a population of less than 50,000 people and that is rural in character. Check out our page here on rural eligibility.

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: 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.

3. 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, there is an option to attach letters of support to the online CIRD application

Q: Can I see the questions before I start the application?
A: The PDF here has the questions listed at the end of the document.

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. Please be aware that Typeform uses character count, including spaces as characters.

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: If I am having trouble completing my application online, what do I do?
A: You can email us at cird@bcworkshop.org and we would be happy to help you.

4. Budget Questions

Q: What format should the budget be in? 
A: There’s no set template for the budget portion of the application, so feel free to submit in whatever format you’re most familiar with, as long as it includes the required details.

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. Some other funding sources in the past have included local business sponsorship or university support. 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: Are there any limitations to how the $10k can be spent?
A: The $10,000 must be spent on costs related to the workshop - this could include workshop supplies, food, transportation, and venue rental

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: Examples of in-kind match: include staff time, the value of which you could calculate based on salary or hourly rate; food or lodging, the value of which you could calculate based on the normal rate or cost of the goods or service; venue use, which if it’s a space that’s normally rented for events you could use the typical rental rate, and if it’s in a space that doesn’t have a rental rate, ask the venue to estimate the value of use based on overall rent or other factor.