How CivicSpark Works
CivicSpark provides organizations and agencies with motivated and committed emerging sustainability professionals, who serve as Fellows for eleven months. CivicSpark Fellows are focused on assisting with climate change and water-related research, planning, and implementation project that benefit public agencies in California. CivicSpark Fellows also build community engagement in your initiatives through volunteer recruitment and support.
The fellows have been great to work with and I am confident they have great careers ahead of them. The work they are doing for us and the cities of the region is invaluable.
CivicSpark has been an invaluable resource to the County of Santa Barbara, and we’re still experiencing the benefits. Once our ECAP was adopted and the rubber hit the road, our CivicSpark Fellow was able to take on a crucial role in coordinating implementation, and monitoring and reporting.
Our CivicSpark fellows have brought a fresh perspective on how we engage the community in energy planning in the Sierra Nevada, and they are not short on ambition.
The projects our fellow is working on are important for the County’s success in designing and implementing climate action strategies. They are also significant components in broader thinking about long-term sustainability. Without our CivicSpark fellow, these significant pieces of work would be several years out for their completion.
The CivicSpark has been invaluable to the successful launch of our building energy transparency requirement…Collaboration of the CivicSpark Bay Area team has enriched our program through new perspectives and best practices from other cities. It has been a great experience for all involved.
Our CivicSpark members have been very active, enthusiastic, and engaged with our staff and have been a pleasure to work with. Their outreach work and communication has been wonderful.
This program is providing a lot of value for us. When we are required to address the climate action plans, it is a requirement we can’t implement. This is providing us some real action and support and we are seeing progress.
CivicSpark offers two thematic tracks: Climate (50 Fellows) and Water (20 Fellows). All CivicSpark Fellows are AmeriCorps Members selected through a highly competitive national application process. Fellows have at minimum a college degree in a relevant field, and typically have workplace and community service experience.
CivicSpark implements projects that build capacity for public agencies that have a demonstrated “capacity need.” While all CivicSpark projects must have a defined target public agency who is part of the project, partners who direct the project and host CivicSpark Fellows do not need to be a public agency or the target agency themselves. CivicSpark can partner with public agencies, NGOs, or state agencies as long as the project has a connection to and supports public agency capacity building. For more information see Partnership requirements and eligibility criteria below.
- CivicSpark Climate Fellowship places Fellows individually or in teams with partner organizations in eight regions across the state. Fellows serve with local leaders responding to statewide climate priorities such as greenhouse gas inventories, alternative transportation, renewable energy, and adaptation. Fellows are supported by a local Regional Coordinator who provides partners with program-level engagement and coordinates fellow professional development activities.
- CivicSpark Water Fellowship places Fellows in teams of 2 within local project partner offices throughout the state. Fellows serve with local leaders responding to statewide priorities in water management, through specific local or regional projects. Project priorities include stormwater resource planning, sustainable groundwater management, integrated watershed management, and water use efficiency.
All CivicSpark Fellows provide support to public agencies through 4 core activities:
2017-18 Service Year Calendar
February 1, 2017
Call for proposals is open for project applications.
LGC staff work with potential partners to gauge interest, evaluate opportunities, and help develop projects.
April 15, 2017
Priority deadline to submit project applications.
May 30, 2017
Second priority deadline to submit project applications.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis after this deadline.
April - July 2017
LGC staff review applications in the order they are received.
Service agreements and capacity assessments completed for approved projects.
August 15, 2017
Target date for all service agreements to be signed, and capacity assessments to be completed.
Mid September 2017
In-person Fellow orientation for 2017-18 cohort.
Mid August 2018
Projects wrap up and the 2017-18 CivicSpark cohort graduates!
CivicSpark is now accepting project applications from interested partners (local governments, NGOs, state agencies)!
- Submit Project Application
To ensure your project receives support, submit your application by the Second Priority Deadline on May 30th, 2017. Applications will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis after this deadline, but may not receive priority for review or placement.
A completed application includes the following:
- Contacts for both project details and contracting
- Brief background information on the organization
- A concise project summary, including scope, desired outcomes, required and/or preferred skills.
- Local Public Agency beneficiaries (2 per fellow; must receive at least 200 hours of “benefit” from the project).
- Confirmation that you understand the program requirements
Download an overview of the application content to review the details and prepare your content offline
Estimated time to complete the application form: 30-45 minutes (once a project concept is defined).
- Application Review & Follow-Up
Once your application is submitted, CivicSpark staff will set up a call with your lead project contact to:
- Learn more about your needs
- Confirm eligibility
- Define a clear project scope.
The purpose of this step is to ensure your project will deliver results while also meeting our goals as an AmeriCorps program. Once this step is completed, your project is approved.
- Project Approval & Contracting
Approved projects must complete a Service Agreement (contract). The Service Agreement outlines mutual roles and responsibilities (between project partners and LGC), as well as payment terms. Service Agreements must be completed prior to the start of project work.
- Pre-Service Capacity Assessment
Prior to the start of service, local public agency beneficiaries must complete a Pre-Service Capacity Assessment survey. This survey establishes baseline information about the agency’s capacity needs and goals. This information will be used by the Fellow(s) to complete their Gap Assessment, and to evaluate success after project completion. Capacity Assessments must be completed prior to the start of project work.
CivicSpark is funded in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, and in part by match-funding from our project partners. Participation in this program requires a fiscal contribution based on the level of support provided by the CivicSpark program. Specific costs are determined by the thematic track (Climate or Water) and number of project hours requested.
CivicSpark rates for project work are:
- All-inclusive (e.g. covers workers compensation, liability insurance, workplace costs, fellow personnel benefits, job travel support, etc.);
- Covers both the CivicSpark fellow and staff support by LGC; and
- Only based on project work, not training time spent by the Fellow. (For additional information, please visit our FAQ page).
- 6 months, 650 project hours.
- 20-40 additional project-prep hours.
- Up to 75 additional service hours focused on volunteer engagement.
- Up to $200 in project-related travel covered.
- 11 months, 1300-1400 project hours.
- 40-80 additional project-prep hours.
- Up to 150 additional service hours for volunteer engagement.
- Up to $400 in project-related travel covered.
Water Fellows (2)
- 11 months, 2,700+ project hours.
- 80-120 additional project-prep hours.
- Up to 200 additional service hours for volunteer engagement.
- Up to $800 in project-related travel covered.
CivicSpark is a federally-funded AmeriCorps program that uses national service to build local climate, water, and community resilience. We must follow strict requirements on what partners we can work with and how we define our service to local public agencies.
- CivicSpark Fellows can be placed with (i.e. have a fellow placed under the supervision of) public agencies, NGOs, or state agencies. CivicSpark Fellows cannot serve directly with a for-profit organization.
- CivicSpark Fellows must serve eligible local public agency “beneficiaries” (i.e, regardless of the project partner, the project scope must have a clearly defined connection to an eligible local public agency (or agencies). See eligibility criteria below).
- Partners provide direct project supervision for Fellows; level of supervision varies by thematic program track.
- CivicSpark Water: Partners provide overall Fellow supervision as well as some professional development training support. This additional supervisory role is subsidized (see costing below). LGC Water Associate provides additional support for partners and training for Fellows.
- CivicSpark Climate: Partners provide project supervision only; an LGC Regional Coordinator provides program support, member development training, and acts as a local liaison to the partner.
- Project beneficiaries – the target recipient of service – can be local, county, or regional public agencies (e.g., cities, towns, special districts, school districts, MPOs, COGs, etc). State agencies, NGOs, and for-profit entities cannot serve as beneficiaries (however, a state agency or NGO can serve as a project partner and/or Fellow host site; just not the target of the service).
- Fellows must have a defined scope of work that aligns with our program mission, and that can be completed within the term of service.
- Partners must agree to follow all AmeriCorps requirements and prevent fellows from participating in prohibited or unallowed activities.
- Partners must ensure that target public agencies provide required eligibility information and complete a pre and post service Capacity Assessment survey.
Partners are responsible for securing local public agency “beneficiaries” for project activities to benefit. Eligibility requirements for “beneficiaries” are outlined below:
Participating public agency beneficiaries must demonstrate a “capacity need,” measured by the absence of 1 or more criteria:
- A full-time dedicated sustainability staff,
- A formally adopted climate action plan or similar document, or
- Robust mechanisms to track climate action progress.
Tracking mechanisms will vary from community to community, but should be established systems and processes that allow the local government to 1) monitor implementation progress on all measures in the Climate Action Plan or similarly formal climate action policy 2) document GHG reduction results from implementation of each measure, and 3) update the inventory and revise targets and measures as needed to adjust to changing conditions. Tracking activities should be completed at least on an annual basis, and should include council/board level as well as department level reporting that allows for discussion of outcomes and formal discussion of any needed changes.
Participating public agency beneficiaries must demonstrate a “capacity need,” measured by the absence of 1 or more criteria:
- Dedicated staff responsible solely for cross-sector & inter-jurisdictional collaboration, or coordinating water & land use;
- Actively participating member of an IRWMP (Integrated Regional Water Management Plan);
- Actively participating in GSA formation (Groundwater Sustainability Agency) or GSP development (Groundwater Sustainability Plan);
- Currently equipped to meet all data, research, planning, engagement, and coordination needs.
Exceptional Need Targets
CivicSpark strives to serve communities demonstrating “exceptional need” for capacity building. We track service to these communities through our project beneficiaries that meet specific “exceptional need” criteria. Our goal is for at least 50% of our beneficiaries served to be “exceptional need.” Each thematic track identifies specific “exceptional need” criteria:
Beneficiaries that meet 2 of the following 4 criteria are considered to be in “exceptional need” for climate capacity building:
- Community unemployment above the state average for the current recorded year.
- Key climate indicator (e.g. energy, water, waste) unimproved from the previous year.
- Local tax revenues lower than the previous year.
- CalEnvironScreen rating in the top one-third (score of 23 or greater).
Beneficiaries that meet 2 of the following 4 criteria are considered to be in “exceptional need” for water capacity building:
- Within one of the 24 counties designated by the state as most severely impacted by the drought.
- Within a medium- or high-priority basin experiencing critical overdraft, as defined under Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
- CalEnviroScreen Impaired Waters score in the top 1/3 (67% or above).
- CalEnviroScreen Drinking Water score in the top 1/3 (67% or above).