Transform Howard Innovation Grants promote innovative solutions that cultivate a thriving, equitable, resilient, and sustainable community. In addition, Transform Howard Innovation Grants recognize that collaboration with non-profit partnerships is central to promoting the safety, security, and well-being of all Howard County residents. Transform Howard innovation grants provide an opportunity for non-profit service providers and their partners to design and implement forward thinking, emerging, and creative ideas derived from data-informed, people-driven metrics to build our capacity for serving our neighbors.

Howard County Innovation Grants

Information Sessions

The following information sessions will be offered so that potential grantees and their partners can learn more about this exciting opportunity.

March 27th, 2023
11:00AM - 12:00AM
PowerPoint Link
Watch Webex Recording

March 30th, 2023
3:30PM - 4:30PM
PowerPoint Link
Watch Webex Recording

Grant Categories

1. Reliable & Accessible Infrastructure - Modernization, Technology, or Equity in Digital Access
Applicants should justify that their innovation uniquely leverages technology. Does the innovation modernize an outdated process? Does the innovation close the equity gap surrounding technology? Is the organization able to sustain technology beyond the grant period?

2. Ready & Successful Students - Education and Empowerment
Applicants who submit in this category should provide ample rationale on why the specific innovation is unique. Has the innovation been attempted before? How will the innovation accelerate a needed solution pertaining to educators, students, support professionals, or another youth supported initiative?

3. Thriving & Healthy Residents – Community Solutions
Applicants are encouraged to bring forward a social innovation that can have collective impact. Community solutions should bring forward innovative proposals that work to solving complex problems and needs within the community. Has this idea been attempted? How is this different from what other programs have offered before?

4. Safe & Engaged - Improving Cybersecurity and Resilience
Applicants are encouraged to submit innovative ideas that will help to boost cyber security awareness and resiliency within their organization. This innovation should focus on enhancing an organization's data protection & privacy; breach prevention & recovery, and/or security training & awareness. Does this innovation reduce cyber risk to your organization, county government, or residents within the county?

5. Clean & Sustainable Environment - Innovation in Sustainability
Applicants are encouraged to submit innovative ideas that will help our fight against Climate Change. Whether the idea is surrounding environmental justice, energy, increasing pollinators and trees, does this innovation accelerate Howard County toward an even greater sustainable future?

Application Process & Requirements



  • Applicants must demonstrate that the organization is a 501c(3) and in good standing.
  • Applicants must provide direct services to the residents of Howard County. Maryland (if the agency serves a larger geographic area, funding may only be requested for those services offered within Howard County, Maryland).
  • Alignment with at least one of the grant categories.
  • Organization demonstrates equitable partnerships with other non-profit organizations. Specifically, the non-profit must be able to show the collaboration and willingness of the partnership with other organizations.

Application Process


1. Applications must be submitted by April 21, 2023 at 11:59PM.

2. Attend Information Session March 27th or March 30th. The recorded session will be posted to the website after each date.

3. Please download the application and budget form.

4. Complete and submit application and budget form to innovation@howardcountymd.gov.

Your application should contain the following information:

  • Concept
  • Goals and objectives
  • Innovation
  • Relevance
  • Practicality and viability
  • Design, management, and deliverables
  • Organizational commitment, partnership, and resources
  • Project timeline
  • Reporting requirements
    • Data template
  • Budget form



For questions regarding the application process, please contact Dawn Tinker at DMTinker@howardcountymd.gov or 410-313-2020.

Past Recipients


Community Ecology Institute


Innovation Name: Clean and Sustainable Environment

Organization NameCommunity Ecology Institute

Award Amount$50,000.00


Summary of Innovation

The County Executive announced exciting new commitments to address climate change, including that Howard County is the first county in the nation to accept the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands Challenge. The challenge is to reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration by making innovations in the way we manage farms, woods, and other landscapes. The Community Ecology Institute (CEI) will help Howard County meet this challenge through its Climate of Hope initiative. 

The Community Ecology Institute is a Howard County based non-profit with a vision for a world in which people and nature thrive together. CEI’s mission is driven by four C’s: Connection to Nature, Civic Ecology, Community Health and Climate Action. Based on our strong track record of nature-based community educational events, CEI was given the opportunity to purchase and protect the last farm in Columbia. With the county’s financial support, CEI was able to become the new stewards of this 6.4-acre organic urban farm. One of the primary objectives for this farm is to use it as an accessible place to practice, demonstrate, and provide education related to land-based climate solutions.  CEI’s Climate of Hope project has three distinct innovative and interconnected parts:  1) Climate Aware Agriculture featuring Renewable Energy Integration; 2) Cultivating Climate Victory Gardens; and 3) Community Climate Change Education.  

CEI is further innovating in agriculture by pioneering agrivoltaics – farming under solar panels. CEI is partnering with Power52 and the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability to install solar arrays above cropland at the farm to demonstrate climate resiliency benefits of co-locating solar and agriculture. Agrivoltaics is cutting edge. Most demonstrations are limited to sheep grazing or honey operations under solar. Isolated demonstration and research installations growing crops under solar are in place or planned in Massachusetts, Arizona, Japan, and France. The concept is becoming increasingly attractive, as the price of solar panels has dropped, interest in renewable energy has risen, and financial pressures on small farmers have grown. Currently, solar arrays often displace agriculture, causing tension between the two land uses. Agrivoltaics is a solution that allows both agriculture and renewable energy to thrive. In addition, as our summers become hotter and harsher due to climate change, it becomes harder to grow sensitive crops like lettuces, kale, and other vegetables critical for healthy eating. Solar panels over crops provide just enough cooling shade to allow these crops to thrive. The demonstration has additional benefits, including providing a hands-on training opportunity for participants in Power52’s workforce development institute and opportunities to promote solar and community solar to CEI’s network and community program participants.  

CEI’s education center is an optimal venue for demonstrating land-based climate action that is accessible and relevant to the county’s residents. CEI’s innovative and ambitious programs are in direct alignment with Howard County’s Clean and Sustainable Environment priority area. Howard County is committed to leading the fight against climate change, promoting agricultural conservation and innovation, and expanding renewable energy use. The project supports all these specific priorities and also supports the priority of having thriving and healthy residents. Our biggest innovation is to engage, educate, energize and empower all Howard County residents to think globally and act locally regarding climate change and climate-based actions.   



  • Spoke with Power52 and are looking at the week of Earth Day for the installation of the photovoltaics in the climate victory garden.

Selected a contractor for the "barn" renovation and will be moving forward with the permitting process shortly. The roof replacement will be one of the first orders of business and once that is done, we can work on the roof-top solar part of the innovation grant with Power52.


Howard County Autism Society


Innovation Name: Workforce Pipeline

Organization Name: HoCo Autism Society

Award Amount$10,000.00


Summary of Innovation

Provide meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with ASD and access to talented employees for companies.

It supports and encourages local business entities hungry for capable staff

People with ASD get to chance to have job with consistence income.

The pilot hiring program will serve as an intermediary between the employer and potential employees, providing trainings for managers and staff on ASD, ADA compliance, and inclusivity and creating natural supports. Approximately 80% of individuals with disabilities in this country are unemployed or underemployed. For those with ASD the rate is 90%.

The program will onboard 5 local employers looking for skilled employees and that are interested in creating a hiring program. During the same period, job candidates would receive a practical skills assessment, guidance of interview skills and social navigation, along with a “life coach” to assist in the onboarding and work through any challenges in the work environment.

The hiring program addresses the needs of potential employees with Autism that display marketable skills and builds a culture of inclusion within participating companies to assist transforming the community.

Lastly, HoCo Autism will partner with their Housing Imitative, Patuxent Commons, and local business to cultivate and create a successful pilot which can be grown to serve a larger scale in the future.



  • Twenty Applications Received, ten individuals interviewed, and Five participants were selected to become the first cohort of the Autism hiring program.
  • Candidates had 1:1 sessions with Accessible Resources for Independence (ARI) and Lisa Wingfeldt who provided resume development and interview practice.
  • Held webinar to introduce employers to the program and candidates.
  • Of the 5 candidates, 4 completed the program (P/T at Michael’s, Cyber Security Classes at UMBC, P/T local restaurant and applying for apprenticeships in IT field, F/T Admin Aide.
  • Partnership with ARI, UMBC Training center, Ananta Hejeebu/Howard tech, and the workforce
  • Recruitment for the second cohort has begun for April 2021- with re-vamp to curriculum from feedback.

Howard County Office of Community Sustainability


Innovation Name: Clean and Sustainable Environment

Organization Name: Howard County Office of Community Sustainability

Award Amount: $14,130.00


Summary of Innovation

Office of Sustainability and University of Maryland Extension used replicated field trials to develop successful strategies for combining “lawn mimics” and pollinator meadows to reduce emissions from County-owned landscapes. By signing the “We are still in” proclamation of the US Climate Alliance, Howard County has committed to significant reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as outlined in the Paris Agreement.  However, scientists now realize that reducing emissions is not enough—we must also draw down GHGs that are already in the atmosphere. Using plants to store carbon in soil or forests are a “nature-based solution” and are currently the only available strategy for carbon draw down that is proven and can be accomplished at a reasonable cost.  Howard County has embraced this important strategy and is the first county in the nation to accept the US Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands Challenge, a multistate effort to increase carbon sequestration in soil and forests. 

Using lawn mimics as a tool for GHG reduction is an approach that is unique to this group of collaborators.  Lawn mimics are mixes of slow growing grasses and clovers that reduce emissions from mowing up to 80% and are applicable on a large scale.  Pollinator meadows are mixes of native plants that sequester carbon in the soil, reduce the need for mowing and have a high habitat value.  The combination of lawn mimics and meadows as an approach to sustainable landscape management has not yet entered the national conversation on climate mitigation. Understanding how lawn mimics and meadows can be integrated into sustainable landscape management offers applications for a range of site sizes while offering the aesthetic appeal and usability that traditional lawns provide. 

This project supports the County’s Clean and Sustainable Environment Priority Area by laying the groundwork for a more sustainable public landscape that:

  • requires less mowing, reducing air pollution, noise and carbon emissions
  • requires little or no fertilizer or lawn chemicals, reducing water pollution
  • improves stormwater infiltration and management by increasing soil health
  • increases pollinator habitat, and
  • saves money that would have been spent on mowing and chemical applications.        



Overview of project goals

In this project, we used replicated field trials to identify effective strategies for two types of regenerative landscaping— partial replacement of environmentally costly mowed turfgrass with climate-friendly “lawn mimics”, and establishment of low-upkeep garden beds to attract pollinators.  Once widely used, these methods can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from mowing, improve soil health, reduce fertilizer contamination of streams and boost pollinator populations in the County.  In the lawn mimic trials, we compared a total of 8 different seed mixes and two planting strategies. Our pollinator plot trials compared several establishment methods and compared the amount of hand weeding required for each. The outreach component of this project included three demonstration plots in Columbia, webinars given by Dr. Via and two example landscape designs that can be used by residents in their own yards.

General challenges resulting from the pandemic

Despite changes in the overall plan required by the pandemic, we were able to carry out virtually everything planned in the project. The biggest impacts of the pandemic were the inability to involve volunteers or a college intern in the field work and the need to cut down the number of field sites used. Trials conducted during Spring 2020 were established at Dr. Via’s residence and additional trials were established in Fall 2020 at a County Shared Septic (Walnut Grove). Without the help of volunteers, all the work was done by team members, limiting the variety of measurements that could be taken and the time available for data analysis.  Despite these limitations we were able to obtain some useful results for both parts of the project.  In addition, we were able to plant more demonstration sites than originally planned and to add some additional community outreach efforts.

Overall results

In this short project, we were able to obtain some solid results from both the lawn mimic trials and our experimental pollinator plots.  We are now using these to develop recommendations for residents and municipal workers interested in installing lawn mimics or pollinator plots and protocols for how to implement their projects.





Innovation Name: Thriving and Healthy Residents

Organization Name: Humanim

Award Amount: $50,000.00


Summary of Innovation

Humanim seeks to create an innovative, first of its kind Direct Service Professionals (DSP) cooperative to better serve Howard County families and direct care providers. Humanim will use the funds to pilot a separate LLC (DSP Cooperative) whose purpose will be to provide quality direct service professionals to human service providers, including, but not limited, to, Humanim. The DSP Cooperative’s control and ownership will be divided among the Employee-Owners, Humanim, and the families/individuals with disabilities in the form of a Family Trust.



  • Completed a financial analysis of the cost of employing a DSP, factoring-in training, turnover, and supervision expenses.
  • Completed risk/reward analysis of moving to a coop staffing model.
  • Created a business model for a joint venture and vetting multiple business model options.
  • Educated the work group on various business models.
  • Interviewed other staffing cooperatives to further evaluate the coop model.
  • Met with  Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) and PHI home health care. cooperative in New York to discuss their services and model.
  • Met regularly with Obran (“Staffing Cooperative” in grant application) to complete a pro forma on the proposed model and to evaluate the best structural model for both entities.

Respite Retreats


Innovation Name: Thriving and Healthy Residents  

Organization Name: Respite Retreats 

Award Amount: $8,100.00


Summary of Innovation

Respite Retreats’ mission is to provide retreats of respite for cancer patients, their caregivers, and families and to encourage healthy living for all.  Cancer affects our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies. Conventional treatment is invasive, and to say the least, life changing. It’s why Respite Retreat’s offer patients an experience of holistic therapies and fun activities to disconnect from everyday life with cancer. The 501(c) (3) organization was founded with a fierce determination to let everyone affected by cancer take a break. Respite Retreats strives to create a healing environment focused on fun, relaxation and self-care that will encourage healthy living long after the retreat ends.

As Respite Retreat’s strives to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and caregivers within our community, they are always looking for ways to integrate creative and innovative therapeutic activities into their retreats.  They believe that adding a Virtual Reality experience into our range of activities would be cutting edge and ahead of the curve– according to our research, there are no other local cancer support organizations using this technology yet.   Respite Retreat’s proposed VR experience is aimed at creating a prosperous community and improving the lives of Howard County residents dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

Virtual reality (VR) is the use of computer technology using 3-D images to create a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world.  These immersive experiences allow users to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions using both visual and auditory cues. Applications of virtual reality can include entertainment, gaming, and usage for educational purposes. Examples of virtual reality include: VR exposure therapy for military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; training for medical students learning complex surgical procedures; military fighter pilot training; empathy training for caregivers of Alzheimer’s and depression patients; and, most relevant to our proposal – virtual reality use with cancer patients.

Grant money would allow them to utilize the innovative, immersive, and proven technology of a Virtual Reality (VR) Experience into our retreat activities.  VR is consistently listed as one of the Top 10 medical technologies for the future.  VR has proven success with patient rehabilitation and recovery, pain relief (lessening the need for pain medications and opioids), lessens anxiety, creates a meditative experience, and is also shown to boost the effectiveness of other medical treatments.



  • $978.30 was spent on equipment for our Virtual Reality Program which the grant was originally awarded to support. Due to Covid-19, this program was postponed. We hope to relaunch in early 2022 and look forward to refueling the spirits of those affected by cancer through this impactful program. 
  • Respite Retreat’s pivoted and changed our innovation project to a Virtual Retreat Program due to COVID-19. Hosting our first event on April 24th, we served 21 people affected by cancer by providing them 4 ½ hours of uplifting & therapeutic activities designed to take their mind off cancer. Activities included meditation, art, bingo, gratitude journaling, gentle chair yoga, & raffles.
  • While we were faced with a few minor challenges, we overcame them and had an amazing day.
  • Challenges:
    • A few retreat packages did not arrive on time – Solution: We sent them everything they needed via Instacart & hand delivered another to a local family.
    • Language barrier – Solution: patient used an on-line translator.
    • Different time zones – Patients had to get up early to join us.
    • While we were uncertain of the outcome and impact of this program going into it, the shift from in-person to virtual retreats during the pandemic was just as impactful, if not more. The gift of the virtual setting has allowed us to expand our reach and serve patients who may be too ill to travel to an in-person retreat.  We can also, serve more families during an event virtually vs. in-person.
    • While we only have one virtual retreat completed, we have three more scheduled for this year which will exceed the balance of the generous awarded grant. Please see the attached flier for dates & breakdown of expenditures. 

While we hope to start hosting in-person day retreats in early 2022, we plan to continue the Virtual Retreat program.

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