The Sweet Water Foundation (part of Bay View’s Sweet Water Organics) cultivates educational programs to encourage sustainable urban agriculture and aquaculture by connecting with schools and communities in Milwaukee and Chicago. As the foundation continues to bloom, Sweet Water is wildly connecting with additional educational programs and igniting community initiatives across the globe. Sweet Water programs are especially beneficial to people in struggling communities and environments; turning waste into community resources allows people to take control of their food accessibility and their community health and well-being, improving overall quality of life.

And here at SmartWave, we’re excited to be a part of the experience! Sweet Water Foundation recently received a $175,000 grant in the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition after allowing SmartWave to assist in the 2nd and 3rd stages of the application process.

The competition was part of the 4th Digital Media and Learning Competition (aHASTAC initiative, supported by the MacArthur Foundation and in collaboration withMozilla), introduced to expand and inspire Open Badge infrastructure.

The Challenge
Short & Sweet 
Although the Sweet Water Foundation is no stranger to grant proposals, the organization was accustomed to presentation timeslots of at least a ½ hour to 2 hours – and often, that meant only talking about a small portion of the organization. But for stage three of the selection process for the highly competitive Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, the pitch was limited to a mere 15 minutes, including a few minutes for set-up and 3 minutes for questions at the end.

Targeted Tech
Sweet Water also engaged SmartWave to apply our knowledge in both public and private education, and also of technology systems and software. Sweet Water was almost there, but they needed an edge: a way to tie in their educational programs with existing common core learning standards and other forms of academic credit, (while also paving a path for those looking to build career skills), all via this new digital media platform.

The SmartWave Solution
Listening to our clients’ wants and needs is always the first step in our process. So we listened to what Sweet Water was looking to do within the new Open Badge system. Using that information, we first worked to shape their message by injecting ideas on how Sweet Water could use this digital media platform, before we even started talking technology.

The especially interesting part about this endeavor is that SmartWave came into this project midway through. Sweet Water could have engaged a general tech/web person, but instead, they came to SmartWave because of not only our understanding of technology, but also our broad understanding of the education and technology scene from Milwaukee to a national and even up to an international level. At SmartWave, we understand not only how to build the technology program to be scaleable and flexible, but Sweet Water knew they could count on us to inspire and infuse additional ideas to refine and clarify their ultimate goal with this new educational program and platform. Plus, our objective from the very beginning was to ensure a comprehensive approach – so we weren’t just addressing how to get the program up and running; we were also focused on ensuring long-term project sustainability.

Once we had an understanding of exactly what Sweet Water wanted to do, we were able to design and lay out a tailored concept of their particular digital media platform requirements. From there, we were able to research software options. Seeing as Sweet Water partners with a lot of companies, schools and organizations, they had understandable compatibility concerns, among other hesitations. So, to ease the process, we applied an effective decision matrix. The best choice was clear, and they were able to come to that conclusion in a hassle-free manner.

Meanwhile, the 2nd stage of the proposal was accepted! So then it was time to refine that sales pitch. Through effective coaching, we were able to get that pitch clear, concise, and down to 10 minutes flat.

In the end, Sweet Water successfully secured a $175,000 grant to start an entirely new educational program tied into this new Open Badge infrastructure: a new frontier that’s going to really launch The Sweet Water Foundation and Sweet Water Organics into a whole new stratosphere – and, at SmartWave, we couldn’t be happier to be an integral part of the process now and moving forward.