Making it Real

Phase 2: Design

The Design phase is where all of your research comes together to inform key decisions for each part of your pilot. It is important to note that often significant iteration occurs between the Design and Discovery phases. One aspect of your pilot will be impacted by another, and it is during the Design phase that you start to understand if the decisions you are making support other areas of the pilot, or create tension or issues. Don’t worry if you end up having to scrap an initial decision and move back to the Discovery phase to find a better solution. This is all part of the work, and the reason why these early phases can take longer than first anticipated.

Key Questions to Ask

  • How many participants will our pilot include, how much will they receive every month, and for how many months will payments be distributed?
  • How do we anticipate potential issues with participant access to payments and front-load solutions into the design?
  • How many staff do we need to administer the pilot, when should they start, and what should their training entail?
  • Which distribution mechanism / partner makes the most sense for our targeted recipients?
  • How will the payments be categorized and how can we minimize impact on recipients' access to existing benefits?
  • What types of advisory boards do we include in decision-making, including community members with lived experience?
  • What is our communication strategy for our various stakeholders (partners, government, potential participants, media, etc.)?
  • How will we conduct outreach to potential recipients and make the application process easily accessible?
  • How will we create excitement for the guaranteed income program in the broader community?
  • How do we want to launch: all at once or in a phased approach?
  • How will recipients be selected and how can we be transparent during this process?
  • What communication tools are needed to interact with recipients and in what languages?
  • What types of advisory boards do we include in decision-making, including community members with lived experience, and how do we plan to address power-dynamic and logistical concerns?

An overarching question posed by Aspen FSP and Springboard to Opportunities' Start At The Beginning can be useful to keep in mind during the Design phase:

“How do we design a system that allows families to feel confident that they will receive what they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it, and with minimal barriers to receiving and keeping it?”

opportunities for engagement

Lay the Foundation For Your Pilot

The Design Phase will be your biggest lift as your organization and partner coalition are laying the groundwork for how you will actually administer your pilot program. Through informed strategy cultivated in the Discovery Phase, you will now need to make decisions on all aspects of the pilot including: Funding, Distribution, Research, Community Engagement, Benefits Impact, Wrap-Around Services and more.
Below are different goals for each of the key community groups you will likely engage with during the Design phase, and some strategies and resources for you to achieve these goals. As always, please reach out directly to Income Movement to discuss these ideas further. If you would like to access the full list of community engagement activities click here.

Community Groups

Pilot Administrators and Partners

Pilot Participants

General Community Members

Your Team & Local Partners

Include the voices of the impacted community members you are aiming to serve in the Design phase, genuinely and without bias.

Co-creating your pilot is an important step in making sure that your pilot is working in a respectful manner that reflects the values of the demographic you are serving. This increases people’s excitement around the pilot and gives the community and recipients a sense of ownership as co-creators of a pilot that will inform national policy.

Create a diverse advisory board that includes several people from the demographic you plan to serve so that lived experience is centered and valued as expertise for decision making.

When designing an advisory board, it is important to think about your entire coalition as you do not want it to feel like all decisions are made solely by the board. Transparency and including members of the target demographic can help diminish the feelings of two separate entities.

Design the pilot with your ultimate policy goal in mind and an understanding that your messaging and framing will be primary in reaching this goal.

Designing the pilot in the fashion your organization views as the best design for national policy, this will make your pilot something elected officials can point to and use as a guide when creating policy. Knowing that this is not always a 1:1 process, as there are decades of research that show the benefits of guaranteed income, craft a narrative that fits the values of your community as you take a position as a new narrator in the story of poverty and poverty alleviation programs.

Broad Community Members

Continue to engage the broader community around the idea of basic income and include opportunities for them to get involved in the larger movement beyond applying for the pilot.

Throughout the pilot lifecycle, you will want to continue to educate and provide opportunities for your broader community to engage with the idea of basic income. This is all working towards our ultimate goal of creating hubs of active and engaged communities in cities where pilots are taking place.

Ensure the broader community understands the flow of your pilot, including when the application opens and closes, the amount of money people will receive and for how long, and if the pilot will have more than one cycle.

Community members should feel that the application process is an easy and smooth process, and be aware that if they hit up against anything confusing, there is support from the pilot team if and when they need it.

Inspire “ambassadors” of the pilot, who are trusted by and from the targeted impacted community, who will help spread the word about the pilot and help build trust for it.

When trying to serve certain impacted community members, it can be difficult to build trust in the pilot and the concept of “no-strings-attached” payments. You can build trust by having others from the same impacted community spread the word along with trusted institutions.

community resources

Best Practices & Tools

The Design phase is when your team digs into the details and begins laying the groundwork for what will become your pilot program. It is time to harness the learnings from your Discovery phase and feedback from other pilot's work and recommendations to thoughtfully build a program that centers and serves your target demographic. For a full list of reports and resources that are part of the compilation, click here.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement will be most prominent with your internal team, partners, and potential recipients, but it is never too early to plan how you will engage with policymakers, the press, and the general public. This is a good time to think about creating a task force and / or working group if you haven't already started the process in the Discovery phase.


Demographics Targeting

Once a specific recipient demographic has been chosen, you should consider the different ways basic income can be disbursed to participants and what will work best for your program. This is also an opportunity to explore how you will connect with, build trust, and eventually enroll these participants.


Human-Centered Design

A key element of human-centered design is ensuring that the program in question is “power-building” — meaning it is designed to empower program participants to exercise their own agency as well as empowering them to provide feedback that influences the program or policy’s design to better serve its participants. Because so many policies have effectively done the opposite, power-building design must be prioritized in order to combat the understandable mistrust and alienation sowed by many government programs.



Once funding streams have been established and a budget finalized, you can consider the different roles that need to be filled for the pilot to be successful. You will also need to choose a disbursement partner that aligns with the goals and distribution decisions for your pilot.



Now that you understand all the different avenues for funding your program, it is time to: apply for this funding, choose a funding structure, establish your timeline, and craft the message around your funding. Depending on the amount of funding you secure, you will need to take into account administrative and staffing costs when deciding on the amount of cash being disbursed to recipients.



When you understand the budget of your program, you can solidify the amount, frequency, and duration of payments to recipients. From the viewpoint of person-centered design, it can be beneficial to include your target demographic in this decision-making to ensure their needs and preferences are being considered.


Navigating Benefits

In this phase, you will need to design a process to provide recipients with benefits counseling to ensure that the guaranteed income payments cause a net benefit to their financial stability. It can also be prudent to set up a “Hold Harmless” fund or seek waivers that exempt the cash transfer to be counted as income.


Research Methodology

Depending on the goals of your program, you may include research in your pilot and use  an organization for support. Research will have a significant impact on your pilot design and have a ripple effect across stakeholders. It may be important for you to be fully involved in decisions around research strategy and methodology so you can adjust to accommodate your recipient's' needs.


Framing Communications

As major components of your program become solidified, it is important to work with your communications team on messaging, framing, and how you will communicate with the press and general public. For most pilots, creating a storytelling component is paramount to ensure the program helps combat the negative stereotypes perpetuated around poverty.