Community Mobility Design Challenge 2021 – Frequently Asked Questions

Pre-Application Activities

Q.1 Are these pre application activities to be done before we apply for the grant?

Yes, pre-application activities are to be completed before applying for the funding opportunity.

Q. 2  Are there specific interview objectives that are built into the pre-application process? Are questions conceived by the applicants or by NCMM?

Pre-application primary research involves conducting 8–10 (total per team) one-on-one interviews/observations with individuals in your community to learn about how they are affected by the mobility challenge, what their current workarounds are, and how they would address the problem, among other inputs. Best practice is for each interview/observation to be conducted by at least two team members. Teams are encouraged to use human-centered design interviewing and research techniques to deeply understand different types of customers’ experiences. (Tips for this style of interviewing will be provided in the pre-application webinar and are included in the free “Creating Innovative Transportation Solutions — Phase 2: Discovering “What Is” video available at Questions should be developed by applicants.

Q. 3  Could you speak more about what the focus question would be; examples?

Focus questions would incorporate the team’s challenge area, community and geographic area into a holistic question.  You can find past years’ grantees’ focus questions under the Past Grants section of NCMM’s Community Grants page. Also see Section 1D, p. 5-6 of the RFP.

Q. 4 Is the pre-application primary research, “8–10 (total per team) one-on-one interviews/observations with individuals in your community”, to be completed before applying for the grant?

Yes, these 8-10 one-on-one interviews/observations are expected to be completed before applying for the funding opportunity.

General Grant Questions

Q. 1 How many teams per region will be accepted? More than one?

Four (4) teams total will be selected. Teams will be considered based on a diversity in terms of geographic area, the type of community and the locations of applicant communities. 

Q.2. Is it possible to work with a Native American tribe that is located in 2 physical locations?

Yes, it is possible. Applicants must define their community of focus in their submission. As long as it is a manageable geographic scope and within the same applicant-defined community, it is acceptable.

Q. 3 Would it be acceptable to span the project over 2 counties?

Yes, it is acceptable. Applicants must define their community of focus in their submission. As long as it is a manageable geographic scope and within the same community, it is acceptable.

Q. 4 Are the Phases 4 & 5 a part of the two day in-person meetings in October/November 2021?  If not, what is the timeline for the last two phases?

Phase 4 (Assumption Testing; approx Nov ’21 to Jan ’22) and Phase 5 (project pitch; Feb ’22), as defined on page 8 of the RFP, would occur after the two days of in-person meetings occurring in October/November of 2021.  

Q. 5 Please describe what Phase 4 – Assumptions and Testing and Phase 5 – Project Plan and Pitch look like for the design teams? What is NCMM’s involvement with the design team during these phases?  

Please see the description in the RFP, Section 2D page 8 and Section 3C page 10 and also view the online course Creating Innovative Transportation Solutions – Modules 5 & 6, for descriptions of these Phases.

The team’s NCMM facilitator would guide team members in these phases.

Q. 6 What is meant to be completed in the six months during this grant?

With the six months of funding, selected applicants will have developed a well-thought out solution concept, selected from multiple solution concepts explored by the team. This developed solution concept is a good candidate to be moved forward into the next stage of NCMM grants – the Learning Launch grant. The idea is for teams to discover as much as possible about their community and target population through the human-centered design process, with the aim to create a feasible, sustainable, and desirable new community transportation service.

Q. 7 How long is the gap between the planning phase and the launch or pilot phases?

Technically there is no gap between grant phases; the NCMM aims to keep the phases seamless with a total of 18 months for the Planning, Learning Launch, & Pilot phases of the grant.

Q. 8 Is sustainability of the “service” during the 5th phase integrated into design thinking?

Financial sustainability of the service is initially addressed during the 4th phase of the grant, but in more detail in the Learning Launch grants.

Q 9 Would you hit the high points of the in-person meetings?  Location and budget restrictions? 

The team’s NCMM facilitator will conduct two on-site, one-day sessions. The first is the“sensemaking” session in which the team explores the data it gathered, discusses insights from the research phase, and develops conditions that a solution must meet to be successful. These conditions become the team’s “design criteria” for the rest of the phases of the grant.

The second session would be the “idea generation” session using the team’s design criteria, culminating in the team’s development of 2-3 concepts for prospective solutions. The facilitator will also help the team plan how it will test their assumptions embedded in those concepts. These in-person meetings would also allow for the NCMM facilitator to meet team members and get a better understanding of the team’s community.

The location of meetings would be determined by the community teams. Examples of past locations have been community centers and government offices. Costs for room rental should be reasonable; food costs can include a continental breakfast and working lunch for participants, again at a reasonable cost.  

Q. 10 Can the ”two individual customers from the target population (e.g. end user)” be stakeholders whose services to the community are impact by lack of transportation resources? 

No, stakeholders would not be allowed to serve as the mandatory two individual customer team members. The two customers must be from the target population and be likely “end users”.


Q.1 Are community development corporations (CDCs) eligible to apply for these grants?

Please review the eligibility criteria in the RFP, found in Section 2A, page 6.  

Q.2 We have a regional hospital moving from the center of town to miles outside of it. Would this grant be eligible for planning and design to incorporate transit and mobility into their design? Nothing is constructed yet, but definitely happening.

Yes, this situation would be eligible for this funding opportunity as it is for the planning of new transportation services to meet the needs of underserved community members.

Q.3 Does my community need to have an existing fixed route transportation system to apply?

No, any community that meets the criteria to apply for funding, with any level of existing transportation services, can apply.

Q.4 Are projects focused on a target population of school-age youth and university students accepted?

Teams will address populations that currently do not have access to equitable transportation because of income status, minority status, location, a pre-existing condition, or other reason. Teams are encouraged to be as specific as possible in defining their target population; as applicable, include information about age, disability status, ethnicity, and income status, as well as how the target population’s needs relate to the chosen challenge area.

Q. 5 After completion of the planning phase of the grant, are the next level of grants (Learning Launch) available to be used for capital or operations costs of a local circulator?

Applicants should not come into the application with an idea for a service already formed. The Learning Launch grants can cover some capital and operations costs necessary to further test the idea developed during the planning phase.

Q. 6 Are previous lead agencies for an NCMM Design Challenge grant allowed to participate again as a partner agency?

Yes, agencies who previously received funding as the lead agency for an NCMM Design Challenge grant are allowed to participate as a partner agency, as long as they will not be the agency receiving funds from NCMM.
Q.7 Does the lead applicant have to be a current recipient of 5310, 5311 or 5307 funding at the time of submission for Phase 1?
No, applicants do not need to be a current recipient but need to be eligible to receive these funds such as state or local government authorities, nonprofit organizations, and operators of public transportation. 

Fundings and Expense 

Q.1. Is $25,000 per participating agency in the team or for the whole team (only awarded to the lead institution)?

The funding award of up to $25,000 to successful applicants is awarded to the lead agency and should be used for the team’s activities.

Q. 2. Would the grant cover the in-person meetings?

Grant funds can be used for room rental, food, and any local transportation costs for the in-person meetings. NCMM will bring all needed materials.

Q.3. Are awarded organizations applying for additional launch and pilot funding during this grant period?

No, awarded organizations of the Community Mobility Design Challenge 2021 grant would be working towards preparing themselves for the next phase of funding (Limited Launch) in NCMM’s community grants. At the end of the planning grant, there is a transition process involving the NCMM’s evaluator to determine if the team is eligible to move into the next phase (e.g., team capacity, commitment, degree to which it completed the Planning Phase activities).

Q.4. Have any of the human-centered design processes you’ve led ended up using participatory budgeting processes to support the narrowing of options for implementation? If so, which funders have made the investments available?

Not sure what you mean by this question, but our initial answer would be no.

Q. 5. Is this an annual funding opportunity?

Yes, through funding from the Federal Transit Administration this grant opportunity is offered approximately annually.

Q.6. Is the $25,000 mostly for going through a human design process with your support?


Q.7. The RFP says no direct services can be provided. Does this mean funds can’t be used to pay for travel for consumers?

Funding can not be used to pay for existing or already planned transportation services for consumers. This funding opportunity supports the planning of transportation solutions. However, funds can be used to help pay expenses of consumers to allow them to participate on the team.

Q. 8 Can grant funding be used to supplement lost wages of those interviewed during the pre-application process?

No, funding can not be used to provide a stipend for pre-application interview participants.

Q. 9 Can grant funding be used to supplement wages of team members that are “end users” of the solution we develop?

Teams may provide a stipend to team members to compensate them for their time on team activities. However, this grant should not be used to supplement lost wages.

Have questions about the application process?

Reach out via email to with your question and we will post the answers below. You can additionally ask a question during registration for the Informational Webinar.


Skip to toolbar