Taking the pain out of grant applications

Portable was commissioned by AusIndustry in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) to investigate the current journey of users of DIIS’ Business Grants Hub programs and identify ways the process could be improved for users.

Everybody loves winning grants. But the process of applying for government grants is a complex and time-consuming one for businesses, universities, local councils and community organisations. Online platforms have made the long application process more straightforward, but a lack of guidance, transparency and feedback makes it hard for organisations to determine how worthwhile it is to invest time and resources applying for a particular grant, and what to expect afterwards.

Approach

Portable was engaged to plan and conduct user research for AusIndustry in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS), to find out what was and wasn’t working in the current process applicants must go through – from awareness of a grant program, to applying for it, and reporting on it afterwards.

Our research methodology was defined in collaboration with DIIS, and comprised contextual user interviews to explore their experience of a multi-stage grants journey. The Portable team travelled around Australia, interviewing users of key demographics in metropolitan and regional areas. We also interviewed non-users, to help us understand the awareness and barriers in relation to their decision to apply.

Through this research we set out to understand three key questions: What is the current experience of users engaging with the grants process? What improvements can we make to the current experience? And what is already successful with the user experience of the current systems and should be retained?

We then held a collaborative synthesis workshop with DIIS to make sense of the data, compile it into key insights, and tease out relationships and trends. This collaborative workshop methodology allowed different stakeholders to bring their unique contexts to the data in order to unpack useful insights.

Outcomes

User researching resulted in a detailed report and tools to help improve the grants process.

We planned and conducted 20 contextual user interviews around Australia, in metro and regional areas. This included organisations in four key industries and of differing familiarity with the grants process.

DIIS received a detailed report including key findings across areas such as how and what guidance is provided throughout the process, how much direct contact and assistance is involved, and visibility for users over where they are in the process.

We also provided artefacts and tools to aid DIIS in improving the grants process, such as an in-depth user journey map and a list of quick wins that could be implemented to improve the user experience for the grants process.

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