Simplifying the way farmers apply for grants
DEFRA is changing the way farmers are funded from a subsidy funding model to a grant payment model. The objective is to direct framers to become more business-minded and plan their agricultural projects to meet the grant requirements; which incentivises eco-friendly farming in line with government carbon reduction pledges.
As a Lead Service Designer, I wanted to understand who are the different farmers’ groups and how they currently find out about upcoming government grants and the process required to apply for them.
What we did
We interviewed different types of farmers. I also approached farmer groups and invited them to participate in online co-design sessions.
From these interviews and sessions, we learned that farmers have very different needs which can affect their ability to successfully apply for a grant. Some were business focused and knew what they needed to do in order to secure a grant. However, many others had to use 3rd party agencies to help them fill in their grant applications, which was an additional up-front cost with no guarantee of a successful application.
Some farmers lived in rural areas with no reliable internet or phone connections. Many farmers were at an age where digital technology itself was a challenge.
We identified five major pain-points derived from the research:
Many farmers waste their time completing applications when they aren’t eligible, leading to frustration and wasted money. This creates an unnecessary burden on the application assessors and an added risk of not getting quality applications approved.
To provide a quick way for farmers to check if their project is eligible for a grant and to understand how well the project fits the funding priorities.
An online checker will:
1. Improve farmers’ understanding of their eligibility
2. Improve farmers’ investment decisions
3. Reduce processing overhead
4. Reduce the need for farmers to use agents
I created a Service Blueprint which included a pre-preparation stage that the business was previously oblivious to, but could affect farmers’ ability to apply for a grant in the first place. This is because some projects required planning permissions in place which could take a long time to obtain therefore missing the application deadline.
We identified five major design themes derived from research and the Service Blueprint:
1. Simple and intuitive
2. Risk reduction
3. Improved confidence
4. Understanding the process
5. Being informed
The solution was a pre-application questionnaire that gave an immediate result so that farmers could tell if they have a good chance of success before submitting a full application. This also helped them understand what makes a good application and what they should do if they wanted their application to be competitive.
The new designs tested well with users and were approved by the DEFRA grants team and business stakeholders. The cost reduction in time and effort was clear, and the process will form the basis for all new grants. The project also passed a GDS service assessment.