Regional Opportunity Initiatives funds and assists cohorts of school districts through a 10-month design thinking process to better align PK-12 curricular and programmatic offerings with the education and workforce needs of their communities. This initiative has a particular focus on the Indiana Uplands’ key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and national security and defense.

Core Principles:

  • Every student is engaged in a relevant path to success.
  • Students graduate high school ready for post-secondary and career success.
  • Meaningful and ongoing collaboration occurs among schools, industry, and community.
  • Teaching and learning are grounded in relevancy.
  • PK-12 schools are aligned around a common vision of student success.
  • Schools embrace the significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity.

ROI developed the Ready Schools Initiative based largely upon the design thinking framework of the global design company IDEO and the coalition-building processes from CivicLab. School districts within the 11-county region of the Indiana Uplands served by ROI are welcome to apply. If selected, districts receive funding and coaching through a 10-month development process and may be eligible to pursue implementation funding through ROI at the end of the development grant period.

Cohort Selection:

Applying districts are required to complete the online readiness assessment to help school districts and communities understand their current PK-12 system and its level of alignment to education and workforce needs. Findings are used to identify priority areas for coaching and support.

Two Ready Schools development grants were awarded for the 2017-18 school year. Four development grants were awarded in the second cohort for the 2018-19 school year. Three development grants were awarded in the third cohort for the 2019-20 school year. Cohorts were able to learn from and with one another throughout the development process.


Selected cohort districts will have 10 months to proceed through the first four phases of the Ready Schools Design Process to be ready to apply for implementation funding.

Ready Schools Design Process:

The development grant will support participating districts through the first four phases of the Ready Schools design process. This process, developed by ROI and modeled on best practices for systems building and problem solving, includes:

Discovery Phase (3 months): The Discovery Phase engages design teams in a process of collaboration and data gathering. Through purposeful interviews with key constituencies, community members, and industry partners, the team begins to discover deeper community needs, develops a solid foundation for guiding questions, and listens to what others hope for their community schools.

Synthesis Phase (2 months): The Synthesis Phase builds on Discovery through learning and exploration. Here, the design team assembles the information gathered from stakeholders and begins to make sense of the needs and hopes of employers, educators, parents, and students. Context is developed by visiting model programs, researching strategies, and exploring relevant ideas to gain key insights and determine guiding questions.

Ideation Phase (2 months): The Ideation Phase involves having key stakeholders and the design team generate possible solutions and consider how the ideas fit together as a K-12 aligned system. The goal of Ideation is to create a pool of promising solutions to meet the needs of the students, community, and schools.

Refinement Phase (3 months): The Refinement Phase brings out the best solutions from Ideation and establishes a plan of action. With feedback and guidance from the advisory team and original stakeholders, the design team determines what will be done and develops a plan for how they will do it by building timelines, assessing needed resources, and determining roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. The goal of Refinement is to select a course of action and apply for funding for implementation.

Implementation (multiple years): With funding from ROI and potentially other sources, districts begin the process of implementing the strategies proposed in their applications. Implementation is supported through technical assistance and guidance by ROI staff.


Selected school districts are granted funding for the first year of planning.

  • Funding for a full-time District Readiness Coordinator position and other indirect staff costs.
  • Funding for travel expenses, exploration, materials, substitutes or stipends for team release time, and consultants. If needed, schools may apply for additional exploration funding for necessary further exploration and research if the initial exploration funding is deployed. Additional funding is not guaranteed.

Districts are eligible to apply for implementation funding following the development phase. Funding supports plans that clearly address the six core principles and fit within ROI’s funding parameters.

Eligible expenses:

  • District Readiness Coordinator (expected to be equivalent 1.0 FTE), required.
  • Stipends & release time (school team planning sessions, model visits)
  • Travel expenses for visits to model programs
  • Professional development

Anticipated Outcomes:

Upon completion of this development grant, school districts shall have:

  • An implementation plan for alignment with local workforce needs and opportunities
  • A sustainability plan for the outlined strategies
  • A collaborative partnership between education and industry