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Backstage tour of Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. Image: Liza Voll Photography

Innovation and Learning Network

Application Process

The Innovation Learning Network (ILN) brings together 10-12 diverse organizations to learn with each other. As organizations implement their individual projects, they will also contribute to the larger community of practice. The key objective of the ILN is to increase public participation in the arts.

Over the course of the ILN, participants will:

  • Receive a stipend of $3,000 to offset staff time and travel
  • Attend 5 full-day workshops, covering a number of subjects including:
    • Website audit
    • Integrated settings
    • Emergency plan review
    • Staff training
    • Wayfinding guidelines
    • Marketing strategies
    • Logic models
  • Receive a user/expert* site review and a website audit.
  • Receive UP Designation upon successful completion of the ILN and be eligible for the Innovation Fund, the UP LEAD stipend, and the UP Award.

*A user/expert can be anyone with a functional limitation or disability who has developed natural expertise in dealing with the challenges of our physical, information and/or communication environments.

Applications are open in September and due at the end of November.

How to Apply

  1. Create an organizational profile to access the online application.
    (Please note: Usernames/Passwords created for previously-submitted CIP-Gateway, CIP-Projects, Cultural Districts, Cultural Facilities Fund, SerHacer, MassFestivals, and/or YouthReach applications can all be used.)

  2. Complete the online application. Including an upload of the following supporting document:

    An organizational resolution approved by the applicant’s governing board stating a commitment to learn, take action, and embrace inclusivity as a core organizational value. If the board is not able to meet prior to the application deadline, the applicant should be able to provide the date that the board will meet to vote on the resolution.

  3. Click the “final submission” button of the online application. Your application will then be electronically sent to the Mass Cultural Council.

Program Guidelines

Participation Requirements

  • Staff time: One to two representative of the organization should attend every meeting. A board member should attend the reception at the start of the program and the presentation at the final session. Based on the topic, additional representatives are expected to attend the workshops relevant to their jobs. Representatives may be staff, volunteers, or board members. Up to four representatives may choose to attend an ILN workshop.
  • Class time: Attendees of the workshops are expected to participate fully with instructors and other students.
  • Homework: Expected to be shared regularly with staff of the institution. Upon completion of the site visit and web audit, the staff is expected to review the challenges and determine priorities. From this discussion, a plan or project should be identified and developed. The final workshop includes a presentation on this process.
  • Reporting: An annual report must be completed annually so that the Mass Cultural Council can begin to measure the collective impact of the Universal Participation Initiative.

Schedule and Components

  • January: Reception with Participant and Board attendance. Day-long workshop.
  • February: User/Expert site visit. Website audit.
  • March: Day-long workshop. Project development.
  • April: Day-long workshop.
  • May: Day-long workshop.
  • June: Day-long workshop with final presentations on project. Board attendance.
  • December: Annual Report.

Logic model: A system for organizational planning and project implementation will be introduced at the first workshop. Experienced attendees are able to mentor emerging leaders.

User/Expert site visits: A user/expert can be anyone with a functional limitation or disability who has developed natural expertise in dealing with the challenges of our physical, information and/or communication environments. Each ILN organization receives an on-site holistic review of their organization. User/Experts come from the UP Initiative partnership with the Institute for Human Centered Design. In addition, at least two user/experts should be recruited from your own community.

Website audit: The National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH will provide an initial audit of participants’ websites and offer recommendations for improvements.

Final presentation: After the site visit and audit, the staff should convene to determine their Access Project and identify systems and policies to implement the project. During the final ILN workshop, participating organizations will deliver a 10 minute presentation on their Access Project and the strategies for implementation.


Massachusetts non-profits offering public programming in the arts, humanities, or sciences are eligible to participate in the ILN.

Review Criteria

The Mass Cultural Council will review the application materials and select up 10-12 organizations for participation that:

  • Demonstrate evidence of a commitment to learn, take action, and embrace inclusion as a core organizational value.
  • Make a compelling case that the organization:
    • board members, staff, and volunteers are invested in the UP vision and will be able to commit the time and staff resources necessary to participate.
    • has the capacity, and is prepared to, implement the Access Project they will develop during the ILN.
  • Ensure geographical diversity
  • Ensure diversity in discipline and organizational size/type represented

Final Decisions

A panel of Mass Cultural Council staff and experts in the field of universal design and accessibility will review applications and make recommendations to the Mass Cultural Council’s executive leadership for final approval. Decisions will be finalized mid- December.


Applicants will be notified of the outcome by the second week of December. The ILN will kick-off in January.

Reporting Requirements

In order to measure the collective impact of the UP Initiative and to continue to improve the program through participant feedback, a final report will be required at the end of the first 12 months after designation and yearly thereafter. The final report will entail a 1-2 page self-evaluation, results to an all staff internal survey, a short narrative, and the results of a five question survey, provided by the Mass Cultural Council, to be completed by visitors to the organization. The annual report will be due in December.

Failure to Meet Requirements
An organization selected to participate in an Innovation Learning Network that fails to meet its obligations as a participant will lose its UP Designation and may forfeit its participation stipend. Organizations that do not meet the annual report requirement will lose their UP Designation.

The Mass Cultural Council also reserves the right to revoke UP Designation in cases where it has concerns that an organization no longer represents the ideals of the UP Initiative. In such cases the Mass Cultural Council will first communicate its concerns to the organization and allow the organization the opportunity to respond and/or address the Mass Cultural Council’s concerns in order to maintain its status. If an organization does not address the Mass Cultural Council’s concerns it will lose its UP Designation.

Questions? Contact Charles G. Baldwin, Program Officer, at 617-858-2739.

Proceed to the Online Application

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