How CivicSpark Works
CivicSpark supports sustainability-focused research, planning, and implementation projects that benefit public agencies in California. CivicSpark provides public agencies and other organizations with high-quality capacity building support and community engagement through volunteer engagement via highly motivated emerging sustainability AmeriCorps Fellows for eleven months.
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.
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 Fellows are placed with partner organizations across the state (ideally in teams of two or more for Fellow experience and impact). Fellows and host Site Supervisors are supported by a local Regional Coordinator and CivicSpark program staff in Sacramento. Regional Coordinators provide partners with program-level engagement and coordinate Fellow professional development activities. CivicSpark program staff handle program administrative duties as well as provide sector-specific support to both Fellows and partners.
CivicSpark can partner with local public agencies (including special districts), NGOs, or state agencies to complete projects that build capacity for public agencies demonstrating a “capacity need.” Non-local public agency partners can direct CivicSpark projects and or/host CivicSpark Fellows, as long as the project has a connection to and supports local public agency capacity building. All CivicSpark projects must identify participating local government “beneficiaries” as the target of service.
For more information, see Partnership Details and Eligibility Criteria below.
CivicSpark supports statewide sustainability and resilience priorities, through specific local actions. CivicSpark Projects and Fellows fall into one of three thematic tracks:
Opportunity Access Track
To view the list of current and past projects, you can visit Our Projects page. CivicSpark recently put together a Project Concept Repository, which is a searchable database that contains examples of successful CivicSpark projects and project ideas. Project Partner agencies can use this database to get ideas and recommendations about the type of work Fellows typically complete during the service year and see some of the results of past Fellows’ projects.
All CivicSpark Fellows provide support to public agencies through 4 core activities:
2018-19 Service Year Calendar
Project Application opens.
LGC staff work with potential partners to gauge interest, evaluate opportunities, and help develop projects.
First Priority deadline to submit project applications.
LGC staff will review all project applications received between Feb 12 – March 16, prioritize and approve projects for program participation. All applicants will be notified of their current application status.
Second priority deadline to submit project applications.
LGC staff will review all project applications received between March 16 – May 1, prioritize and approve additional projects for program participation. All applicants will be notified of their current application status.
Rolling application period & Service Agreements.
LGC staff will review applications in the order they are received to fill any remaining project slots.
LGC staff will work with approved project partners to execute Service Agreements (contract) and complete other program startup requirements.
Deadline to complete Service Agreements and Capacity Assessments.
LGC staff will work with approved project partners to draft and execute service agreements, and provide guidance on completing capacity assessments.
In-person Fellow orientation for 2018-19 cohort.
Site Supervisor orientation via webinar.
Project wrap-up and the CivicSpark 2018-19 cohort graduation.
CivicSpark is a federally-funded AmeriCorps program that uses national service to build local sustainability and 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, with support from LGC staff and Regional Coordinators.Partners provide overall Fellow supervision as well as some professional development support.
- Regional Coordinator provides program support, member development training, and acts as a local liaison to the partner.
- LGC program staff provides additional content expertise and support for partners and training for Fellows.
- LGC Admin staff provides Fellow and Partner support with reporting requirements and other logistics.This additional supervisory role is subsidized (see costing below).
- 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 – or “beneficiary” – 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 agency “beneficiaries” provide required eligibility information and complete a pre- and post- service Capacity Assessment survey.
Partners are responsible for securing local public agency “beneficiaries” as the target of project activities. Eligibility requirements for “beneficiaries” are outlined below.
Participating public agency beneficiaries must demonstrate a “capacity need,” measured by meeting one or more of a given track’s capacity indicator criteria:
- No full-time dedicated sustainability staff.
- No formally adopted Climate Action Plan.
- No robust mechanisms to track climate action progress.
- Lack of dedicated staff solely for cross-sector, inter-jurisdictional collaboration, coordinating water & land use.
- Not an actively participating member of the Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP).
- Not actively participating in a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) development.
- Currently not equipped to meet all data, research, planning, engagement, & coordination needs.
Opportunity Access Track
Currently Under Development
*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.
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 amount and type of support provided by the CivicSpark program. Specific costs are determined by the thematic track (Climate, Water, or Opportunity Access)* and number of project hours requested.
CivicSpark rates for project work are:
- All-inclusive (covers workers compensation, liability insurance, workplace costs, Fellow personnel benefits, job travel support, etc.);
- Covers both the CivicSpark Fellow and LGC staff support; and
- Based solely on project work, not training time spent by the Fellow. (For additional information, please visit our FAQ page).
*This represents the general pricing structure and the floor for pricing, but some variations may exist depending on terms and conditions of specific placements.
*Each thematic track is funded by different CNCS and CV programs, which accounts for the difference in cost and structure. All Fellows meet the same program requirements.
*CivicSpark is no longer accepting applications for the current 2018-19 service year. Applications for 2019-20 will open Spring 2019.*
Step 1: Submit Online Project Application
Submit your application by the First Priority Deadline (~mid March) to ensure the highest likelihood that your project will be accepted. Project applications submitted by the Second Priority Deadline (~early May) may still receive support, but depending on interest, may not have as many options for placements. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis after this deadline, but will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis.
A completed application includes the following:
- Contact information for both project lead and contracting lead;
- Concise project summary (including scope, desired capacity building outcomes, anticipated deliverables, and preferred Fellow skills);
- Local Public Agency beneficiaries (at least 2 per Fellow);
- Confirmation that you understand and agree to the program requirements.
You can download an overview of the application content to review the details and prepare your content offline:
We estimate it should take 30-45 minutes to complete the application form once you have developed your project concept.
Step 2: Application Review & Follow-Up
LGC will review project applications and schedule a call with your lead project contact to:
- Learn more about your needs;
- Confirm local public agency eligibility;
- Ensure there is a clear project scope that is suitable for an AmeriCorps Fellow.
The purpose of this step is to ensure your project will deliver results while also meeting our goals as an AmeriCorps program. LGC will then review and consider your project for approval based on our programmatic priorities.
Step 3: 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 (September 10, 2018).
Step 4: Pre-Service Capacity Assessment
Local public agency beneficiaries must complete a Pre-Service Capacity Assessment survey prior to the start of service. This survey establishes baseline information about the agency’s capacity needs and goals. This information is used by Fellows to complete their Gap Assessments and to evaluate success after project completion. Capacity Assessments must be completed prior to the start of project work (September 10, 2018).
*Eligible partners include local public agencies, regional agencies, state agencies, and NGOs. If the host organization is NOT a local public agency, there must be a clear and direct connection to a local government agency “beneficiary.” Private for-profit organizations can sponsor Fellows on a case-by-case basis, but cannot host or supervise Fellows.