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Insight from the HHS Conference: Focus on Outcomes and Innovation

Posted: March 06, 2018

Over 77,000 grants awarded to more than 11,000 recipients—a total exceeding $480 billion in FY 2017 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—is significant. As Andrea Brandon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of HHS’ Office of Grants and Acquisition Policy and Accountability (OGAPA), explained at the conference, this makes HHS the largest grant-making agency in the U.S. and globally.

While OGAPA hosted hundreds of attendees—both federal grantors and some applicants—there were many who could not make it to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Natcher Conference Center. looks back on two key themes from the conference. Over the coming weeks, they will share other updates and information about grants management and the federal grant lifecycle from the conference on their blog.

Key Themes from the HHS Grants Management Conference

Each main session of the conference, along with the 11 breakout sessions, covered a different area of federal grants. These sessions provided unique insight and information on how to better manage grants. Two themes in particular surfaced again and again:

  1. Increase focus on outcomes and “return on investment.” That is, are the federal funds awarded to applicants actually accomplishing their purpose to serve and benefit the public? How efficiently are the specific grant program goals being accomplished? As explained during the conference, these are questions for both federal grant managers and the applicant organizations to address.
  2. Innovate and improve both programmatically and systematically. “Because we’ve always done it that way” will not carry weight. HHS is searching for ways to reimagine and improve its federal grant programs and systems. Simpler systems and more strategic programs will better support both (1) the purpose of a grant and (2) the people doing the hard work of implementing a grant in a local community.

Yes, these are BIG questions and ideas. Everyone in the federal grants community need to take time to consider them carefully and answer them regularly.


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