Network Innovation Grants

The Switzer Network is the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation’s greatest asset. The over 700 fellows in the Switzer Network represent diverse fields of interest including science, law, policy, journalism, architecture and planning, among others. Fellows are based in nonprofit organizations, the private sector, public agencies and academia. Through the Switzer Network Innovation grants program, the foundation seeks to tap this diverse network’s collective potential for innovation and action to solve today’s complex environmental issues. This grant program intends to create a pathway toward environmental improvement that starts with sharing ideas among network members that lead to action and results.

Network Innovation grants support fellows willing to take a leadership role in advancing progress on urgent issues through convening, shared learning, collaborative or pilot projects and policy-relevant outcomes. After discussing an idea with foundation staff, fellows must first share their proposed idea with the network before the foundation will consider an application. This builds on our belief that broader input can yield new approaches, especially from sectors outside one's own familiar area of expertise. Through this program, the foundation will help fellows test and improve their thinking with input from the network, provide funding to concepts that seem most promising, and have fellows share results and invite further feedback. We hope that this iterative approach will lead to "breakthrough" thinking and results on critical issues.

Although Network Innovation grants can address any environmental issue, we are particularly interested in those with immediate policy or practical relevance and which can be put into action quickly. All Switzer Fellows, current or alumni, are eligible to apply for network innovation funding through their own organizations or with a strategic organizational partner. Preference is given to projects that truly engage fellows across issues, disciplines or sectors, to expand the potential for innovative work. The proposed project must involve at least two fellows, with one fellow and organization designated as project lead. Fellows must engage the Switzer Network for feedback on, or involvement in, the project.

Currently, grants of up to $20,000 are available for planning, convening and seed-funding strategic initiatives. Grant requests up to $5,000 are considered on a rolling basis with rapid decision times. Grant requests between $5,000-$20,000 will be considered quarterly. (See How to Apply for more information on procedures and deadlines.) Sample network innovation ideas include:

  • Convene or collaborate with fellows to address a specific environmental policy or technical challenge you and your organization are tackling. For example, a group of fellows led a convening among leaders of disadvantaged communities seeking to improve California state policy providing equitable access and funding for water infrastructure projects. The convening resulted in policy recommendations presented to the California Department of Water Resources.
  • Undertake a focused policy-relevant research effort that can be moved to action quickly and with a clear dissemination plan and target audience. For example, Switzer Fellows collaborated with the nongovernmental organization Earthworks to write a report on the handling of fracking wastewater in areas of the Marcellus Shale. The research was shared with policymakers in those states and among activists working to regulate fracking across the country.
  • Design and launch a pilot project that could have broader regional or national implications for environmental policy or management. For example, two fellows designed a research program to determine the effectiveness of citizen science action on amphibian conservation.
  • Organize a group of fellows to write a collaborative document (e.g., white paper) to influence policy or management. For example, two fellows sought to update USFWS data and policy concerning the protected status of two species of threatened Pacific Albatross by creating a peer review process for research concerning population data used by USFWS.
  • Organize a panel of fellows to present at a conference or other high-profile meeting to present new research or policy recommendations.
  • Organize a study tour with tangible goals to examine a strategic issue that could benefit from Switzer Network input.

Recent Network Innovation grants are described on our website. Please refer to the Network Innovation Exchange for network innovation ideas currently seeking network input.

Spotlight on Leadership

Photo: Stephen Nowland - Emory Photo/Video
Among her many accomplishments bridging her love of science and public service, Fellow Karen Levy's most recent is her selection as a fellow of the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute (LLI) for Public Engagement with Science. “The best way to maintain public support for science is for people to understand it,” Levy says, “to understand the underlying scientific process, to learn about exciting discoveries, and to understand how it affects their own lives.”Read more >

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