The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge (SLA GC) offers comprehensive Research Development programming and support services to foster a collaborative, radically interdisciplinary, cross-sector and impactful research culture at UCLA. SLA GC is committed to extending this programming to faculty and researchers from all disciplines, all career levels and at all scales that are confronting urban sustainability challenges in a way that could benefit the L.A. region and other megacities across the globe.
If you are interested in support, or would like to learn more, please read about our services below and connect with the SLA GC team specializing in Research Development, Strategic Relations and Communications by clicking on the Go To Inquiry Form button to start a conversation.
The SLA GC team creates collaborative spaces and opportunities to bring together UCLA faculty and external stakeholders to co-develop research agendas, design interventions and yield effective, accelerated knowledge translation with meaningful societal impacts. Beyond space making and relationship building, the SLA GC team brings expertise to increase the competitiveness and impact of UCLA research in urban sustainability through the following services:
- Research seminars and workshops
- SLA GC designs, delivers and facilitates research seminars and workshops on a variety of topics and for a variety of purposes, but all aimed at growing UCLA faculty members’ capacity to be effective interdisciplinary, cross-sector PIs, collaborators, partners and entrepreneurs.
Workshops may be developed and offered exclusively by the SLA GC team, but can also be developed in partnership with other entities, internal or external to UCLA, to deliver customized experiences and support specialized aims.
- Navigating UCLA’s expertise on a specific sustainability topic (capacity report)
- The SLA GC team regularly works with faculty and supports initiatives across UCLA aimed at confronting urban sustainability challenges, particularly focused on water, energy, transportation and/or ecosystems. A capacity report leverages this knowledge to produce a comprehensive overview of faculty expertise and research outcomes on a particular topic.
Capacity reports are often a first step in developing UCLA-led initiatives, aligning external stakeholders with internal stakeholders for strategic partnerships, or identifying opportunities for collaboration and growth.
- Development of a UCLA-led initiative
- A UCLA-led initiative is a high profile, interdisciplinary, inter-departmental, and likely cross-sector effort that increases the visibility and competitiveness of UCLA as an institution. Developing a UCLA-led initiative requires a tremendous amount of strategy, facilitation and coordination, and the SLA GC team brings expertise to support the many phases of developing initiatives at this scale that are aimed at confronting urban sustainability challenges in the L.A. region and globally.
Support will vary, but may include strategy sessions, reconnaissance, design and facilitation of collaborative activities, and concept development and refinement.
- Concept development and refinement
- The SLA GC RD team offers support to individuals, teams and UCLA organizations in rigorously considering all of the factors that affect the competitiveness of ideas. SLA GC promotes proactive thought leadership and a portfolio mindset, and encourages the investment of time to develop and refine concepts through iterative exchanges of Concept Sketches and strategy sessions. Doing so results in the translation of abstract ambitions to actionable, concrete plans that lay the foundation for developing funding strategies and securing funding.
- Competitive intelligence and reconnaissance
- The SLA GC team has dedicated personnel to gather, track and strategically manage information on UCLA’s expertise, sponsor and regional priorities in urban sustainability, with the intent to provide meaningful insights on how to prioritize partnerships, projects and competing interests, and how to position concepts for support. The SLA GC team draws on this expertise to support faculty with concept development and developing funding strategies, but also to produce a series of products described below to support decision-making and the development of research agendas:
Capacity analysis and report: UCLA’s strengths in a specific area
Capacity analyses leverage the SLA GC team’s working relationships with faculty across UCLA combined with comprehensive information gathering activities to deliver reports on UCLA’s capacity within a given topic area.
Capacity reports are often a first step in developing UCLA-led initiatives, aligning external stakeholders with internal stakeholders for strategic partnerships, or identifying opportunities for collaboration or growth.
Landscape analysis: Priorities, performance and influence within a specific area
Landscape analyses identify exemplar institutions and individuals, determine who and what are influential within a specific area, and how. This may also include consideration of related funding opportunities and trends.Sponsor analysis: Priorities and trends on specific sponsors
Landscape analyses support decision making on whether or not to pursue efforts, and can inform the development of an overall framework and activities needed for competitively pursuing opportunities.
Comprehensive information gathering activities at the sponsor level to illuminate priorities and trends and inform overall funding strategies for UCLA’s work in urban sustainability.
Understanding sponsor’s priorities can provide general guidance about where to look further for alignment with programs and identify specific funding opportunities to competitively pursue.
Program analysis: Priorities and trends on a specific funding program
Comprehensive information gathering activities focused on a specific funding program to illuminate priorities and trends that can inform UCLA faculty in how to position or frame their work to be competitive for funding within a specific funding program.
- Funding strategy development
- SLA GC promotes “getting ahead of the RFP” by anticipating and influencing funding opportunities. The SLA GC team supports faculty in developing focused, intentional pursuits of funding, informed by landscape analysis, and funding trends.
Developing a funding strategy requires working with the SLA GC team on thoroughly developing and refining the concept to be funded. With a thoroughly developed concept, or portfolio of concepts, the SLA GC team's expertise in competitive intelligence and reconnaissance can be leveraged to inform the development of a funding strategy.
- Strategy sessions
- Strategy sessions, generally, are meetings to define or review goals, to consider, identify and align resources, and ultimately make thoughtful informed decisions about how, or sometimes what to pursue.
Strategy sessions can be on a number of topics, or part of a variety of efforts. These are a standard component of SLA GC’s proposal development support, but also important in developing funding strategies and UCLA-led initiatives.
- Document review
- The SLA GC team brings expertise to various review documents related to urban sustainability work being done at UCLA. Review services may range from copy-editing to content review, including argument structure, framing, quality and responsiveness. SLA GC can also coordinate expert panel reviews.
Although document review may occasionally be an ad hoc service, it is a standard support across many other services, such as concept, proposal, or funding strategy development, and best results are when the SLA GC is familiar with the effort.
- Development of research marketing materials (collateral)
- SLA GC promotes socializing UCLA’s work in urban sustainability, whether to gather feedback to refine concepts, attract potential partners or collaborators, increase visibility and gain influence, or to competitively position for funding. An important tool in doing so is developing research marketing materials that display critical, compelling information about an effort, in a format that is intuitive and digestible for the targeted audience.
Examples of research marketing materials, or collateral, may include, concept papers, one-pagers, executive summaries, tri-folios, infographics or pitch decks.
- Strategic communications
- SLA GC is committed to increasing the visibility of UCLA’s work on urban sustainability, in particular, work that is being done that benefits the L.A. region. The SLA GC team can offer strategic insights and lead communications efforts on behalf of UCLA faculty. This may include coordination across UCLA’s communications personnel, external stakeholder and collaborator networks, and trumpeting UCLA across SLA GC’s own expansive network.
Support may vary depending on how and when SLA GC is involved in a given effort, but SLA GC is always glad to learn about the work UCLA faculty are doing in the L.A. region to be able to promote it further.
- Stakeholder and partner engagement
- SLA GC can support stakeholder and partner engagement in a number of ways, starting with information gathering to determine who to target for engagement, and leveraging SLA GC’s constantly growing network and privileged access to regional stakeholders and decision-makers to facilitate introductions and develop productive relationships.
In addition to determining who to engage, SLA GC supports the development of the materials and messaging that are essential for productive engagement. This support may be with developing research marketing materials such as concept papers, 1-pagers, executive summaries, tri-folios, infographics or pitches and pitch decks. But support may also include pre- and post- engagement strategy sessions to review goals, to consider, identify and align resources, and ultimately make thoughtful informed decisions about next steps.
- Program manager and foundation engagement
- The state and federal funding landscapes are increasingly competitive, and in many cases, foundations do not accept unsolicited proposals. Engaging program managers can be a key resource in refining a concept, or developing a proposal that aligns with the sponsor’s priorities and is competitive for funding.
The SLA GC team supports UCLA faculty with information gathering (reconnaissance) to determine which individuals to target for engagement, and develop a strategy for engaging them. This includes the development of research marketing materials such as concept papers, 1-pagers, executive summaries, tri-folios, infographics or pitches and pitch decks.
But support may also include pre- and post- engagement strategy sessions to review goals, to consider, identify and align resources, and ultimately make thoughtful informed decisions about next steps.
- Proposal development
- Research development consultation: Initial meeting to define scope of work
A preliminary meeting between the SLA GC team and the PI to gather any additional information, discuss proposal development support services and define the scope of work for the duration of the effort.
Sponsor and program analysis: Review of priorities, trends, and funding history
Comprehensive information gathering activities at the sponsor and program level to illuminate priorities and trends and inform proposal development strategy. Understanding the sponsor’s priorities can inform how to position or frame the proposal to be competitive for funding within a specific funding program, and help shape merit and broader impacts sections, where relevant. This includes developing an awareness of the research questions, size, and geographic distribution of previous awards.
Proposal timeline: A customized timeline of milestones to optimize time
A customized timeline, developed for a specific proposal development effort that maps out important, intermediate milestones leading up to the deadline to ensure continued progress and allow the integration of review and other services to strengthen the competitiveness of the proposal. The SLA GC team will collaborate with the PI to establish internal milestones for deliverables, and develop, assign and track progress on tasks.
Information management and proposal workbook: Organization and management of materials
The proposal workbook is a working document with all of the reference materials in one place — timeline, milestones, list of tasks and task owners, guidelines, sponsor and program priorities, evaluation criteria, etc. The SLA GC team will generate a workbook for each proposal development effort, customized to the program and research team. The workbook serves as a common resource throughout the proposal development process.
Proposal launch and team meetings: Structured meetings for effective progress
A Proposal Launch serves to discuss the initial concept and identified needs, agreed-upon milestones and responsibilities, determine communication/information management practices, and present materials, such as the sponsor and program analysis.
For ongoing team meetings, the SLA GC proposal development team can support the PI with scheduling and facilitation, and also by developing and maintaining a shared agenda for structured, effective meetings that allow for ideation and brainstorming as well as problem-solving and progress check-ins. Meetings are followed up with correspondence that summarizes action items, outstanding issues, new information, and upcoming deadlines.
By optimizing team meetings and related correspondence, the SLA GC team reduces the administrative burden on UCLA faculty and ensures timely submission of a compelling, competitive proposal.Content planning: Compelling, engaging content that aligns with sponsor’s priorities
The SLA GC team offers support to individuals, teams and UCLA organizations in translating novel research ideas into compelling, engaging content that aligns with the sponsor’s priorities.
SLA GC promotes the use of a tool called the Concept Sketch, which is a series of prompts that rigorously considers all of the factors that affect the competitiveness of an idea, and identifies the strengths and weaknesses of a concept. SLA GC’s team encourages iterative exchanges of Concept Sketch drafts to develop research messaging and content and compliments this exercise by gathering information and facilitating strategy sessions to refine the content, and ultimately articulate a clear scope and value of work that needs to be done, with a compelling rationale.Proposal draft review(s): Review proposal package documents for responsiveness and clarity
The SLA GC team will review and edit all documents that comprise the proposal package: proposal narrative, research team CVs and biosketches, management plans, and other materials. Document review ranges from copy-editing to content review, including argument structure, framing, quality and responsiveness.
The SLA GC team will make recommendations to enhance the competitiveness of the proposal and address any perceived gaps or weaknesses for maximum alignment with program priorities. The SLA GC team can also review the proposal budget for consistency with the proposed research agenda and compliance with sponsor guidelines.
SLA GC document support includes document format and layout review to ensure the submission is compliant with sponsor requirements.
- Preparation for site visits or stakeholder meetings
- The SLA GC team brings expertise to support teams in preparing for high-stakes meetings, like site visits or stakeholder meetings. Support may include developing and refining messaging and content, designing and rehearsing presentations, as well as coordinating and facilitating activities ahead of the event.
- Development of knowledge translation/implementation strategy
- SLA GC is committed to accelerating the impact of UCLA’s work on urban sustainability challenges in the LA region, and offers support with stakeholder engagement and interest alignment, facilitating relationship building and co-development of use-inspired research agendas, and developing supportive materials, in addition to coordination and guidance in navigating UCLA’s administrative processes.