August 31, 2023
Grants Management Symposium on AI and Emerging Technology – Aug 31, 2023
The session was opened with a keynote highlighting the importance of collaboration between managers and technologists to create meaningful technology implementations. It emphasized the need for a human-centered design approach when developing AI systems, focusing on defining the specific problem AI can solve and setting realistic expectations.
The keynote also addressed the rise of ChatGPT and how using this tool still requires human oversight. More importantly, being cautious with entering information may be the most vital aspect of utilizing this tool. It is imperative that sensitive information is not put into prompts.
Lastly, ethics and responsibility must be addressed when using AI in the grant process. Human oversight must be emphasized to prevent bias and discrimination in the AI system. For instance, an AI system disproportionately flagged fraud claims from black applicants. To combat these issues, agencies should interact with AI leaders to assess a system's intended actions and how it responds to training data.
After the keynote, a panel discussed further details and implications of AI in the grants management system. The panelists were:
Each panelist provided valuable, varied expertise based on their/their organizations’ involvement in AI. They also discussed how recent breakthroughs in this space can impact different aspects of the grant management process.
Stages of the Grants Management Process Can be Streamlined
AI programs can serve as a copilot that can accelerate and increase the efficiency of administrative functions. These programs are applicable at all stages of the grant process and can be especially helpful in pulling critical information out of a large volume of data. Some of the burden of producing and submitting data can be alleviated through AI tools. Decreasing these burdens can allow applicants with inadequate resources to better apply for grants.
AI Can Break Down Systemic Barriers and Enhance Equity
As advancing equity is a strategic goal for many organizations, the grant process must reflect it. AI creates opportunities to lower barriers for many grantees and reduce some of the burdens associated with the process, like simplifying Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs). NOFOs are notoriously dense documents, and streamlining them to be easier to understand will help diversify the pool of applicants. However, these opportunities for AI to advance equity will only be possible if human oversight is involved.
Human Agency and Oversight Must Still Play a Crucial Role
Organizations need to be in step with AI moving forward. For instance, AI adoption must involve everyone, not just technologists. AI models must be compatible with an organization’s specific goals and stay within the bounds of what an organization is comfortable with AI handling. Baking in agency and oversight will also allow for the opportunity to look for risks and biases that are initially overlooked. Involving that crucial human element can also increase public trust while providing critical oversight.
Enhancing Public Confidence is Key
Many people recognize AI's positive impact; however, there is a concern that AI programs will have many blind spots and biases. An increase in justified confidence can help quell many of these worries. Transparency and deliberate engagement with various stakeholders must be emphasized from the start. Well-executed AI implementation should also proactively explore potential risks instead of waiting for problems to arise. Human-centered design, user experience, and the abovementioned steps will improve familiarity and trust with AI.
The Academy and Guidehouse would like to thank our participants and audience for their valuable insights and engagement. We look forward to another great GMS event soon.
This event was not for attribution, was not open to the press, and was not recorded.
Questions? Email Miles Murphy (MMurphy@napawash.org).
December 08, 2022
The National Academy of Public Administration and Guidehouse hosted a Grants Management Symposium on the implications of the Biden Administration’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility policies on the grants management community.
Dale Bell, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Grants, Health & Human Services, and Co-Chair of the Grants Management Symposium, opened the session with a keynote. His remarks provided an overview of HHS’s Office of Grants resources. Then the presentation dug into how the agency and its grants resources plan to address inequities and advance DEIA throughout the grants management cycle. In particular, the Office of Grants reviewed a representative sample of Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) across the HHS to identify possible barriers to equity.
This review identified some immediate ways to reduce barriers, such as simplifying the NOFO language and improving the application process for individuals with less experience with the grant process. The HHS recognizes that flexibility, data sharing, and standardization will be critical in incorporating DEIA into the grants management lifecycle.
After the keynote, the Academy’s Joe Mitchell introduced the panelists which he would moderate:
The panelists provided a valuable, varied perspective on their organizations’ DEIA efforts and how their equity agendas and other actions impact the wider grants management community, both internally and to their external stakeholders. For instance, DEIA must be considered in every stage of the grants lifecycle to meet the Administration’s EO standards, including the NOFOs, applications, technical assistance, and reporting.
The First Steps Toward Achieving Equity are Internal
However, accomplishing this involves connecting with external stakeholders to understand where there are disconnects and how to fill those gaps more equitably. All government and private organizations are taking steps to address those disconnections. For instance, some organizations’ yearly budgets now incorporate equity programs and evaluate current and future programs from an equity lens, not just a financial one. The first steps towards achieving equity are internal; ensuring that your offices’ efforts consider DEIA will also set you on the right course for achieving equity in grants management activities.
After Internal, the Focus Shifts Externally
Next, the panelists indicated that the equity lens must focus externally. Communities and stakeholders can expect additional resources, not just generic technical assistance. These resources will come from webinars, surveys, and other activities that engage with communities to understand their lived experiences. Each interaction and step will help inform the grants management lifecycle about the challenges. Communities will ideally be less concerned about rigorous, confusing compliance processes and more able to obtain funding and see a project completed successfully.
Data Does Not Always Show the Complete Picture
Also, it is essential to remember that while vital, data only sometimes shows the complete picture. The same communities struggling to access grants may also need help providing the necessary data for a successful application or report. Those communities may also need a different type or timeframe of assistance. Some projects will need funding during construction and support for ongoing maintenance. Many states and localities do not take on projects with concerns about long-term funding or complete projects only to lack funding for essential upkeep. The grants management lifecycle must consider the development phase and the future maintenance of critical projects.
Equity is Not a “Zero-Sum” Game
Lastly, the panelists emphasized that equity is not a “zero-sum” game. Improvements to DEIA often improve the overall quality of life for an organization. Additionally, more significant amounts of equity in our underserved communities’ funded projects will see surrounding communities uplifted by improved quality of life and availability of reliable public resources. Understanding that DEIA is not a one-size-fits-all problem will support each stakeholder more effectively and improve overall trust in governance.
The Academy and Guidehouse would like to thank our participants and audience. These sessions help to distribute valuable knowledge and best practices to the broader grants community. They would not be as impactful were it not for the outstanding effort of stakeholders at all levels of the grants management system.
This event was not for attribution, was not open to the press, and there is no recording available.
Questions? Email Miles Murphy (MMurphy@napawash.org).
May 12, 2022
On Thursday, May 12th, 2022, from 9:00 to 10:30 AM ET, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on the implications of the Biden Administration's Made in America policies on the grants management community. Celeste Drake, Made in America Director at the Office of Management and Budget, gave the keynote for the meeting.
A roundtable discussion occurred following Ms. Drake's comments about the Made in America Office's current status and next steps. Representatives from the USDA, NSF, and EPA discussed their experiences with the Made in America office's requirements and their impact on the grants management community. Panelists included:
A Q&A allowed the panel to expand upon their initial insights, and those discussions carried over into several breakout rooms for networking.
The most significant takeaway from the panelists' discussion is that the Build America, Buy America program will impact many grant programs. So, grant applicants need to consider its policies quickly and start asking questions to ensure that they receive the necessary guidance for their projects.
The Academy did not record this event, and GMS is not open press.
Access OMB's BABA-IIJA Briefing Deck
Questions? Email Miles Murphy (MMurphy@napawash.org).
October 21, 2021
On Thursday, October 21, 2021, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on data analytics, reporting, and governance. Previous symposium participants indicated that data is a vital topic that deserves greater attention. The past 18 months of covid relief funding have shown efficient use of grant data is critical. Data will only become more crucial in 2022 and beyond, given the negotiations related to the IIJA.
In a roundtable discussion, panelists shared insights about data's role throughout the grant lifecycle, including how we can leverage data strategically to inform decision making. Guest speakers included:
Debbie and Ryan shared tremendous insights into the way the ONR, which manages upwards of 3000 grants for the entire DoD each fiscal year, deals with the grant cycle and the data it generates. They recognize the importance of having standard digitized elements and uniform guidance to improve governance and streamline application and reporting processes. ONR also hopes for greater coordination across the DoD and other agencies. They hope that responsible application of AI might simplify all aspects of the grants management cycle, reduce the number of independent application and management systems, and generate clean, higher quality data.
Chad provided a broader perspective from his work at Grants QSMO. They want to modernize the information landscape surrounding grants and are already taking steps as they continue to build out their grants marketplace. Grants QSMO hopes to be more attentive to the needs of applicants and recipients, reducing the repetitive paperwork and easing the reporting burden, especially for smaller or less experienced recipients.
In addition to his participation in the roundtable discussion on data, Chad provided a brief update on Grants QSMO's activities in 2021. The slides are accessible through the link below.
Questions? Email Miles Murphy at the National Academy of Public Administration (MMurphy@napawash.org).
June 23, 2021
On Wednesday, June 23, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on the implementation of American Rescue Plan grants.
Shelley Metzenbaum, an Academy Fellow, presented her recently published report Federal Grants Management: Improving Outcomes and her two companion white papers on improving transparency and operational quality for the IBM Center for the Business of Government. These three papers address the longstanding challenge of a compliance mindset in federal grants management. Shelley encourages the federal grants management community to continue sharing best practices based on data-driven evidence, promoting stewardship, and strengthening accountability and public trust.
Victoria Collin (Chief, Management Controls and Assistance Branch, White House Office of Management and Budget) provided the group with high-level remarks about the March American Rescue Plan memo M-21-20 on effective implementation of ARP funding and stewardship of taxpayer resources. Victoria expressed how the $1.9 trillion in American Rescue Plan funding for COVID-19 response efforts offers many opportunities for learning and innovation. However, this funding also presents an additional risk, underscoring the need for the government to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. Alongside agencies, OMB is working to identify flexibilities when risk circumstances permit and to provide greater award transparency.
The Symposium featured a moderated roundtable discussion on American Rescue Plan implementation with guest speakers representing both federal and local perspectives. Guest speakers included:
Terrance and Tyson shared how their agencies are leveraging flexibilities offered in OMB memo M-21-20 to reduce the administrative burden for grant and cooperative agreement recipients. Both agencies are also utilizing flexibilities already in existence in the federal grants system. While flexibilities are used whenever practicable, Terrance and Tyson shared that it is important to manage the risk. One way the agencies are doing that is through clear communication with grant recipients at all stages. CDC and USDA each have entities that engage with grant recipient organizations to receive feedback and to clarify outcomes at the start as a way to address issues in an early stage.
In Albuquerque, Donna shared that the city has taken steps to increase transparency in how the ARP funding will be used. For the CARES funding, the city prepared a document detailing how the funding would be used and Albuquerque will do the same for ARP funding. Transparency and clear accounting for what the funding is spent on will allow the city to track progress in Albuquerque’s efforts to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To address equity in the distribution of ARP funding, the three guest speakers shared what their organizations are doing to inform their equity decisions. The CDC recognizes that each state and local community has different circumstances, so the agency is including health equity language in their funding opportunities and tailors their equity goals based on specific community challenges. USDA has an equity working group that is reviewing datasets to pinpoint gaps in data and answer important questions about equity and social justice. In Albuquerque, leadership is looking at what gaps were not filled with CARES funding when determining how to best distribute ARP funding in the community.
Following the roundtable discussion, the Q&A portion of the Symposium allowed audience members to ask the guest speakers several questions.
March 18, 2021
On Thursday, March 18, 2021, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted the first Symposium of 2021.
Attendees heard from the newly designated Grants Quality Service Management Office (QSMO) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Chad Clifford (Executive Director) spoke about the Grants QSMO’s goals of managing a marketplace of solutions, procuring interoperable solutions and services, and promoting the user experience, while also explaining the roles Grants QSMO will take on in the grants management arena. Andrea Sampanis (Solutions & Services Lead) discussed the Grants QSMO’s desire to create a seamless user experience for grant recipients while reducing time and saving money on both the grant recipient and grantor sides. Mary Beth Foley (Customer Engagement Lead) presented opportunities for applicants/recipients, federal awarding agencies, and the public to connect with the Grants QSMO. The Grants QSMO staff also shared details of their current and future initiatives with attendees.
September 17, 2020
On September 17, 2020, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Symposium on grants management challenges resulting from increased grant funding from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Symposium co-chairs, Dale Bell (Division Director, Institution and Award Support, National Science Foundation) and Andrea Brandon (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, Finance, Grants and Acquisition, Department of the Interior), shared their perspectives on the impacts of COVID-19 to the grants management community
Cara Whitehead, the Director of the Office of Grants Management at the Department of the Interior, provided attendees with real examples of business process improvements her officer has implemented. The office has had success in standardizing templates and increasing consistency with award documentation and operations. As DOI plans to finalize the GrantSolutions implementations later this year, Cara indicated that they anticipate even greater process improvements to the grants management lifecycle.
Linda Miller, the Deputy Executive Director of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), shared how the billions in grant funding from the CARES Act will present new challenges and amplify existing challenges in the grants management community. These challenges include conducting remote site visits of grant recipients, receiving a higher number of ineligible applicants, and having a weakened controls system. Linda highlighted the PRAC’s goal of increasing their analytical capabilities to assist the IG community in analyzing the data they need.
Following all presentations, Symposium attendees participated in a discussion with the guest speakers.
March 18, 2020
On March 18, 2020, the Academy and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium focused on the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2019. Signed into law on December 30, 2019, the bipartisan GREAT Act requires federal agencies to modernize grantee reporting by standardizing data reporting requirements and increasing public access to federal grant reports, among other provisions.
The Grants Management Symposium co-chairs, Dale Bell (Division Director, Institution and Award Support, National Science Foundation) and Andrea Brandon (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, Finance, Grants and Acquisition, Department of the Interior), shared their perspectives from a departmental standpoint. Dale and Andrea expressed that for the GREAT Act to be successful, there must be a collaboration between not only federal agencies but also external grants communities. The grant recipient reporting burden for one community may not be the same for another, so it will be critical to leverage external grant communities in different fields and disciplines drive the change required by the GREAT Act.
Ann Ebberts, the CEO of the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), discussed how the GREAT Act will impact AGA’s membership, which consists of financial managers at the federal, state, and local levels of government, as well as from the private sector and academicians. Ebberts explained that the GREAT Act will benefit AGA’s members through the standardization and alignment of accounting principles, the reduced compliance costs and reporting burden, and the increased visibility of public grant information.
Hudson Hollister, the Founder, and Principal of HData, explained how the GREAT Act will make tremendous progress in bringing the federal government closer to common data standards for grantee reporting. Hollister offered his insight into the development of the GREAT Act to provide Symposium attendees with some context for why this act is crucial to the grants community. Through the GREAT Act, the federal government will increase the amount of grantee data that is machine-readable, Hollister explained, which will allow the government to analyze grantee reports and disseminate data to the public more effectively.
Nick Hart, the CEO of the Data Coalition, voiced the need to use the process of adopting change prompted by the GREAT Act as a learning opportunity from which there can be iterations of improvement. Hart noted that there will likely be a disparity in implementation as some agencies may struggle to introduce certain changes required by the GREAT Act. To reduce the disparity in implementation across agencies, there should be a sustained discussion within the grants management community. The grants management community has an onus to produce a burden reduction over time, which will be more feasible when the community places high importance on the strategic value of data and maintains an interest in advancing data standardization, even when other priorities come into play.
Rhea Hubbard, a Senior Policy Analyst at OMB, shared with Symposium attendees OMB updates on the GREAT Act implementation. Hubbard shared how OMB’s past and ongoing work, such as the issuance of Memorandum M-18-24, their efforts to make progress on the Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants CAP Goal, and their call for public comments on proposed changes to 2 CFR, all support the GREAT Act. Hubbard reiterated that OMB is committed to reducing the reporting burden and increasing transparency, making it easier for grant recipients to report for federal awards.
Following all presentations, Symposium attendees participated in a discussion with the guest speakers.
January 23, 2020
The National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on Thursday, January 23rd, 2020, about the use of audit data to promote change in the grants space and the unintended consequences of grants management rules.
Eloise Pasachoff, a Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, discussed her draft paper, Federal Grant Rules and Realities in the Intergovernmental Administrative State: Compliance, Performance, and Politics. Pasachoff highlighted the administrative side of federal grants, which are often laden with burdensome enforcement structures and detailed rules. She shared how grantees and grantmaking institutions often yield to unwarranted assumptions about audits that may stall grantees' programmatic innovation. The resulting effect of unintended consequences of grants management rules is that grantees and grant institutions alike prioritize administrative compliance and enforcement over programmatic outcomes and substantive oversight. Pasachoff's paper is forthcoming in the Yale Journal on Regulation in Spring 2020.
Gary McKeon, Director of FEMA's Audit Liaison Office, and his colleagues, Carroll Schneider and Cory Sherb, presented on the FEMA Compliance Dashboard (COD), which is an agency-wide interactive audit dashboard. The dashboard identifies questioned costs, compliance violations, recurring findings, and systemic problems from audits. Since the implementation of the COD, FEMA has increased efficiencies by reducing duplication and the level of effort required in the audit process. The dashboard also eliminated the need for static reporting.
For information on another interactive dashboard from FEMA, the Performance Audit Dashboard (PAD), that is designed to track, monitor, and report on the entire audit life cycle, audit follow up and Department of Homeland Security audit metrics, please see this short video from FEMA.
The Office of Management and Budget shared updates on the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2019 and provided more information on the act's timeline to issue and implement standards. This act will require federal agencies to modernize grantee reporting and adopt data reporting standards.
Proposed Changes to 2 CFR: The Office of Management and Budget calls for public comment on the changes proposed to Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Subtitle A-OMB Guidance for Grants and Agreements. The public comment period remains open until March 23rd, 2020. The 2 CFR revision reflects the foundational shift detailed in the President's Management Agenda, which calls for more result-oriented accountability in federal grant programs. Find additional information and join the community of practice here.
October 23, 2019
The National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a discussion on reducing the administrative burden in the research grants management community on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. The research community has found success in working with the federal government to streamline and standardize administrative processes. Speakers included:
The guest speakers presented real examples of how to reduce the administrative burden and shared lessons learned that are transferrable to the non-research grants management community.
July 12, 2019
On July 12, 2019, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a session on grants management strategies and barriers to improving economic mobility outcomes. Speakers included:
The guest speakers spoke to how making data collaborative, automating data processes, and implementing innovative practices will provide the opportunity to move away from burdensome compliance requirements and focus more on the grant recipient outcomes.
March 12, 2019
The Grants Management Symposium on March 12, 2019, hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton, covered the topic of improving grants management outcomes through the integration of data, analytics, and evaluation methods. Speakers included:
The guest speakers discussed examples of state and local innovations in data integration practices aimed at improving grant outcomes.
October 25, 2018
On October 25, 2018, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 8: Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants. Speakers included:
The guest speakers shared updates on CAP Goal 8 and strategies for Memo M-18-24 to reduce the reporting burden on grant recipients. Guests heard about the Impact Genome Project from Mission Measurement that has standardized outcomes in the social sector to streamline how nonprofits measure, report, and benchmark their impact.
June 28, 2018
The National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on June 28, 2018. The subject of this event was Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 8: Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants and agency leadership. Speakers included:
The guest speakers engaged in a discussion on how agency leadership should involve programmatic personnel in conversations about grants management guidance and what knowledge and resources training personnel need to understand the guidance.
April 03, 2018
On April 3, 2018, the National Academy of Public Administration kicked off the Grants Management Symposium with the first event. The Symposium Co-Chairs, Dale Bell, and Andrea Brandon introduced the Grants Management Symposium by highlighting the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 8: Results-Oriented Accountability of the President's Management Agenda and the need for a risk-based and data-driven framework that balances compliance requirements with demonstrating successful results.
The quarterly Grants Management Symposium events serve as an avenue for stakeholders to gather and revamp grant management through innovation, communication, and collaboration. Through this effort, government leaders and subject matter experts discuss grant management issues, share lessons learned, and gather effective practices.