Crafting a Toolkit to Enable Pilots in City Procurement

A Request For Proposals

From: The City of Philadelphia’s Office of New Urban Mechanics

For: Analytical, design and, likely, web services and the creation of two specific deliverables

Crafting a Toolkit to Enable Pilots in City Procurement: Lessons Learned from Philadelphia’s FastFWD Initiative

The City of Philadelphia has supported a variety of efforts to bring innovation to our work and to concurrently lend support to Philadelphia’s vital startup economy.

FastFWD, an initiative co-led by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, is our most comprehensive and integrated effort to date. It has included an incubator style curriculum for two cohorts of promising entrepreneurs that are not yet mature companies (hence, startups). They received mentoring, training, and insight into how government works with a focus on Public Safety and Community Stability (Police, Fire, Corrections Departments etc.) . Funding was competitively offered to a short list of the participating firms for pilots with select City agencies. At this time, the selected firms from the first cohort have implemented their pilots which were to last approximately one year, and the firms from the second cohort have just pitched/applied to be selected for pilot funding.

We seek to wrap the participant’s, and participating City staff’s collective experiences and sense of what did and didn’t work into a toolkit that will guide the next stage of Philadelphia’s efforts to encourage City departments to try pilots, learn about goods and service providers in new ways, and infuse the FastFWD-style of innovation into how we work.

For the purposes of this RFP, “we” is actually 3 audiences including: (primarily) City departments and City employees looking to experiment or innovate, (secondarily) startups and entrepreneurs looking to work more effectively with city government, and (thirdly) the national conversation around procurement reform.

Creating a series of tools, that easily bundle together (hence the “toolkit”), that encourage and support departments to engage in innovative approaches to problem solving through challenges, pilots, or proof of concepts is a primary objective of the FastFWD effort and a key output from the project. We also believe it will be genuinely useful to the above audiences.

This toolkit is being developed with support from the Philadelphia offices of Integrity and Innovation and Technology in addition to substantial interest from Bloomberg Philanthropies which has generously been the primary funder of FastFWD.

Elements of the toolkit may include, but will not be limited to, the following:

·         Pilot registry (a place for businesses to highlight their goods/services and for City staff to identify problems that they seek solutions to, likely via an online tool)

·         Pilot RFP Template(s) – This will be provided to the selected vendor in 90% complete form

·         Problem framing and articulation

·         Partner cultivation (internal and external)

·         Understanding and managing risk

·         Communications and outreach protocols and best practices

·         Setting up appropriate metrics

·         Evaluation

·         Taking a project to scale

Note: Certain of the toolkit audiences are focused on a single item or a subset of the above list. To augment these opinions, we seek the selected vendor’s views on what the toolkit should contain and how it should be designed. We will have the final say on toolkit components but we want your opinion as well.

This toolkit could take a variety of formats and we seek proposals in an effort to determine the best one(s).  However, we can imagine something along the lines of a summary document and a companion web-based tool. A proposal that includes training for City Staff would also be a reasonable suggestion as it would be a holistic and interesting way to make this last beyond paper/web. If you believe that training is not possible as part of this project/budget, please feel free to summarize your training offering and a stand alone budget, which will not be included in this project but could be considered in the future.

Below is the guidance around which we hope you will craft proposals. It is not prescriptive by design. We do not want to preclude great ideas or stamp out creative approaches that we have not yet considered. We are happy to answer specific questions from potential submitters. Directions for asking questions are below and will be seen by anyone who visits the Big Ideas Small Contracts website (presumably all applicants).

Scope of Work – Analysis

  • Submissions should describe a creative approach planned for quickly gathering information, feedback, perspectives, and insight on the FastFWD process. This will likely require a review of online and written materials, a few key person interviews (government officials, FastFWD support team members, and the entrepreneur participants, at a minimum),  and some research regarding trends and best practices. We will furnish the selected vendor with a list of already created written/online materials, people, and places to visit as a starting point as well as provide introductions via email and in person as needed. The selected vendor should anticipate bundling the information, feedback, perspectives and insight into a packet that we and our partners will be able to read, review and understand. It does not need to be elegant but should be comprehensive (which is likely what you would need to assemble for the below summary anyway). Please anticipate a phone call/meeting of reasonable length to review these materials with our partners as they will help inform other concurrent efforts led by Bloomberg Philanthropies among others.

  • Submissions should describe their creative approach for summarizing the above data into a concise “lessons learned from FastFWD”. We are eager to see interesting and outlandish proposals for doing so but encourage that you be specific and articulate about what you propose in your submission. An illustrative approach is, in our opinion, the optimal way to collect a vast amount of information and make it legible and useful in a summary form however we are open minded about creative alternatives. Please also provide two peer examples of how you have creatively summarized data before that will generate our confidence in your approach.

  • We think that there is a role for an online pilot registry. We would like to hear your views on the value of such a tool and what functionality might encourage its use by both vendors and City departments. We would also expect that you would gather feedback on this idea as you gather information. Submissions should also describe your process for creating such a “pilot project” online registry (likely a website) that would allow vendors to register their products and services in a way that is conducive for government employees to see value in considering a pilot partnership. This tool should easily empower vendors to create accounts with appropriate detail about their products and services and concurrently allow government employees to post needs and log pilot projects. Ideally this tool will support a simple and accessible yet effective match-making style functionality between the two parties. This tool should not be clunky or time consuming to use and its functionality should resemble contemporary online tools that consumers use. It would be helpful for you to share an example or two of the types of online tools you have built in the past to generate our confidence in your approach

  • Submissions should outline a process to infuse a human centered design approach into this project, both in terms of analysis and deliverables. All too often in the public sector, we see policies developed to ensure that behavior we hope not to see is limited. Rarely do we create tools that empower people to do what we’d like them to do – in this case, take (smart) risks, experiment, and test innovative solutions. We believe that utilizing tenants of human centered design best positions us to develop a toolkit that will be utilized and offers the greatest potential to change the way people work.

  • Submitters should prepare and budget for an approximately 4 hour meeting approximately 1/2 of the way through the project at which they will preliminarily present findings of the above analytical work and their proposed approach to completing the below deliverables. The selected vendor should be prepared to craft the below deliverables based on the feedback they receive at the meeting.

Scope of Work – Deliverables

(the actual work products we expect to receive that are possible through the analyses bulleted above) :

  • We look for you to utilize the steps outlined above and your expertise to design the final deliverable(s). Our assumption is that this will live as both a .pdf document that can easily be shared, as well as an online portal / website, where additional information and best practices can continue to be added, but if you have a better idea, we are all ears.

  • If selected, you will create  an attractive and illustrative online “pilot project” tool.

  • Please note, we expect that at least two additional pdf documents will need to be referenced in the deliverables. These are simple text-heavy multi-page pdfs that will not need your review but will need respective placeholders. If they are not complete within your project schedule, that is on us and we pledge that their absence will not hold you up.

Additional Questions:

Please post any questions as a comment below this solicitation on so that additional information provided in any Q&A will be available for all potential submitters to review. Any questions sent via email will be directed back to the comment section below the solicitation on

Details on Submitting:  

Please send proposals to Story Bellows ( no later than Thursday, 3/5/15 at 5:00 PM EST. Websites that are constructed as your submittal are fine and may help demonstrate your agility to support this effort. Submissions should outline your proposal to undertake the work and create the deliverables described above.

We hope to select a vendor by the second week of March and begin work promptly.

You must be able to conclude this project by the end of the third week of May 2015 and your proposal must not exceed $32,000 in cost, including expenses. Please include a statement certifying your ability to meet these two critical path elements (completion date and cost) as well as a reasonably simple budget showing how you generally propose to use the funds.


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4 comments on “Crafting a Toolkit to Enable Pilots in City Procurement
  1. Adam Becker says:

    Hi Story & team,

    I’m a little bit confused about the scope of this RFP — is the deliverable intended to be just a packet of compiled design research, or should it include working, fully-built web applications, such as the pilot registry?

    Towards the top, you mention:

    > Pilot registry (a place for businesses to highlight their goods/services and for City staff to identify problems that they seek solutions to, likely via an online tool)

    And then there’s a long paragraph:

    > We think that there is a role for an online pilot registry. We would like to hear your views on the value of such a tool and what functionality might encourage its use by both vendors and City departments.

    And the most ambiguous deliverable is this one:

    > If selected, you will create an attractive and illustrative online “pilot project” tool.

    Do you expect a fully-functional pilot registry to be built as part of this contract? Or an “alpha” prototype? Or is the deliverable just our “views on the value of such a tool”?

    Looking forward to your response. Congrats on the project!

    Adam Becker
    CTO, Department of Better Technology

    • todd b says:

      Sorry for any confusion Adam, and thanks for your interest and questions.

      We would recommend structuring your thinking regarding your response as follows and hopefully this will answer your questions.

      1) Read the “scope of work – analysis” section and budget the time your team will need to undertake those activities and the thinking surrounding them. That is the content, essentially, and the team needs to gather the content in a thorough way that will comprehensively inform what you trying to do with it (which we are fairly open minded about).

      2) Regarding firm deliverables, we need the “toolkit” (based on the content) to be created by and for this project. It is needed for a variety of purposes and audiences, as noted in the RFP.

      We think it should be a gorgeous and well designed document we can email or print, and we think it should also live on the internet in a format we can augment over time…maybe it is a simple website..or maybe it is a sophisticated website. or maybe you have a better idea for what form(s) the “toolkit” should be. Maybe it should be a or a social media account. We are open minded and don’t want to preclude great ideas.

      3) We also think that the “toolkit” should include a “pilot registry”, and that that registry should be online. We are open to better or complimentary ideas but we think there should be a place firms and individuals should be able to visit to let City staff know about their goods, products or services without us having to know to solicit for them. Think about it like a Dept. for Unsolicited Proposals, but that Dept does not (yet?) exist. Do you agree?

      Ideally the selected consultant will have the time, skills and inclination to create an “alpha” prototype of the pilot registry online, or an “alpha” version of whatever their proposal entails.

      If that is not possible, a sketch or document laying out “your views on the value of such a tool” would be fine, but the team that can take it furthest in their proposal and in the context of our timeline and budget will be in a better position than one that just types something up for us to read, all else being equal of course.


      Todd (I work with Story)

  2. Alex Gilbert says:

    Hi Story and Todd,

    Quick clarification:

    > Please send proposals to Story Bellows ( no later than Monday, 3/5/15 at 5:00 PM EST.

    3/5/15 is a Thursday. Will you be accepting proposals up until then?


    Alex Gilbert (P’unk Ave)

    • todd b says:

      Hi Alex, Thanks for the question and catching this, and ugh on the mistake. As you might imagine we had revisions etc. and the dates got jumbled up. Yes, proposals are due on THURSDAY 3/5/15 and I am going to promptly update the above text as well.

      Thanks! Todd

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