Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., (ROI) will fund and assist a second round of school districts during the 2018-19 school year to engage in a 10-month design thinking process to better align K-12 curricular and programmatic offerings with the education and workforce needs of their communities. This initiative has a particular focus on Southwest Central Indiana’s key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and national security and defense.

Core Principles:

  • Every student is engaged in a relevant path to success.
  • Students graduate high school ready for post-secondary and career success.
  • Meaningful and ongoing collaboration occurs among schools, industry, and community.
  • Teaching and learning are grounded in relevancy.
  • K-12 schools are aligned around a common vision of student success.
  • Schools embrace the significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity.

ROI developed the Ready Schools Initiative based largely upon the design thinking framework of the global design company IDEO and the coalition building processes from CivicLab. School districts within the 11-county region of Southwest Central Indiana served by ROI are welcome to apply. If selected, districts will receive funding and coaching through a 10-month development process and will be eligible to pursue implementation funding through ROI at the end of the development grant period.

Cohort Selection:

The first Ready Schools development grants were awarded for the 2017-18 school year. Up to three development grants will be awarded to the second cohort for the 2018-19 school year. Cohort 2 districts will be expected to learn from and with one another throughout the development process, as well as from Cohort 1 awardees. A third round of development grants will be awarded for the 2019-20 school year.

Applying districts will be required to complete the online readiness assessment to help school districts and communities understand their current K-12 system and its level of alignment to education and workforce needs. Findings will be used to identify priority areas for coaching and support.


Selected cohort districts will have the 2018-19 school year to proceed through the first four phases of the Ready Schools Design Process to be ready to apply for implementation funding.

Cohort 2: 2018-19

Three months (Aug-Oct)
Two months (Nov-Dec)
Two months (Jan-Feb)
Three months (Mar-May)
Multiple Years
2018-19 School Year

Ready Schools Design Process:

The development grant will support participating districts through the first four phases of the Ready Schools design process. This process, developed by ROI and modeled on best practices for systems building and problem solving, includes:


Discovery Phase (3 months): The Discovery Phase engages design teams in a process of collaboration and data gathering. Through purposeful interviews with key constituencies, community members, and industry partners, the team begins to discover deeper community needs, develops a solid foundation for guiding questions, and listens to what others hope for their community schools.

Synthesis Phase (2 months): The Synthesis Phase builds on Discovery through learning and exploration. Here, the design team assembles the information gathered from stakeholders and begins to make sense of the needs and hopes of employers, educators, parents, and students. Context is developed by visiting model programs, researching strategies, and exploring relevant ideas to gain key insights and determine guiding questions.

Ideation Phase (2 months): The Ideation Phase involves having key stakeholders and the design team generate possible solutions and consider how the ideas fit together as a K-12 aligned system. The goal of Ideation is to create a pool of promising solutions to meet the needs of the students, community, and schools.

Refinement Phase (3 months): The Refinement Phase brings out the best solutions from Ideation and establishes a plan of action. With feedback and guidance from the advisory team and original stakeholders, the design team determines what will be done and develops a plan for how they will do it by building timelines, assessing needed resources, and determining roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. The goal of Refinement is to select a course of action and apply for funding for implementation.

Implementation: With funding from ROI and potentially other sources, districts begin the process of implementing the strategies proposed in their applications. Implementation will be supported through technical assistance and guidance by ROI staff.


Selected school districts will be granted up to $130,000 for the first year of planning.

  • Up to $100,000 for a full-time District Readiness Coordinator position and other indirect staff costs.
  • Up to $30,000 for travel expenses, exploration, materials, substitutes or stipends for team release time, and consultants. If needed, schools may apply for up to an additional $20,000 for necessary further exploration and research if the initial $30,000 is deployed. Additional funding is not guaranteed.

Districts will be eligible to apply for up to $500,000 of implementation funding following the development phase. Funding will be available for plans that clearly address the six core principles and fit within ROI’s funding parameters.

Eligible expenses include:

  • District Readiness Coordinator (expected to be equivalent 1.0 FTE), required.
  • Stipends & release time (school team planning sessions, model visits)
  • Travel expenses for visits to model programs
  • Professional development

Anticipated Outcomes:

Upon completion of this development grant, districts shall have:

  • An implementation plan for alignment with local workforce needs and opportunities
  • A sustainability plan for the outlined strategies
  • A collaborative partnership between education and industry

Frequently Asked Questions for School District Applicants

Updated April 16, 2018

How specific should the submitted budget be? What format should we use for the budget?

The budget should provide a general idea of where your district intends to use available funding. In the first section, schools should identify the anticipated use of the $100,000 available for one full-time equivalence (FTE). This should include the estimated salary of the District Readiness Coordinator and other encumbered expenses associated with the position.

The second portion of the budget should address the use of the $30,000 for exploration. This budget should include general plans for exploration, facilitation, and professional development. We recognize that this plan may evolve and change throughout the life of the development grant and encourage successful grantees to work with ROI to make modifications if and when necessary.

We have assembled a Ready Schools Sample Budget to help applicants think through how to allocate funds.

Do you have any other projects that you looked at and inspired this approach?

Yes! ROI has spent extensive time over the last year visiting model schools and investigating new and innovative education approaches. We have also found that there is no one approach to modernizing and aligning education and workforce that will work in every school and/or district. Some of the models/approaches have included components of experiential learning such as project-based learning and inquiry, and pathway specific high school models.


Are the three pathways of life sciences, defense and advanced manufacturing priorities or is this an overall program for postsecondary career readiness?

Yes, these three sectors are a priority for this work. ROI’s mission specifically encourages workforce development and growth in the fields of life sciences, defense, and advanced manufacturing as these are the three primary sectors in which our 11-county region excels. The core principles put forth as a guide for this process includes a need for schools to recognize the “significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity.”

Our research has indicated that life sciences, national security and defense, and advanced manufacturing are key to the region achieving and growing prosperity. Many skills and abilities are applicable to all three sectors, such as problem skills, IT skills, employability skills, and many others. While the focus for our region lies within life sciences, defense, and advanced manufacturing ROI will consider funding for other supportive skills and pathways that align with the organization’s goals.

Is it possible for school districts to apply together?

The creation of the Ready Schools process was intended to support a single school district through a design thinking process to develop an innovative community-driven plan. We recognize that not all school systems have reached the same system-building milestones or need the same level of support. Therefore, we will accept multi-district proposals that include a strong rationale for collaboration and support systems in place to ensure that the design process will not suffer by the inclusion of multiple districts. Please know that cross-district collaboration will not result in a prioritization during the proposal scoring process.

What if a school district does not feel ready for the second cohort but is interested in being a part of the 3rd cohort? Should that district or districts apply now?

We are unable to guarantee participation in subsequent cohorts, however we strongly encourage districts to communicate their intent to apply in the future to ROI. ROI will be providing engagement and development opportunities to regional school systems throughout the school year in preparation for rounds two and three of the Ready Schools Initiative.