SOWA relies on a peer review process for reviewing and scoring applications. SOWA staff do not participate in proposal reviews. 

To identify potential peer reviewers, we work with expanded learning partners from across the state to provide outreach into communities.  We prioritize engagement of BIPOC reviewers who have strong regional representation and also seek those who share identities and/or lived experience with priority youth populations.  Among the 75 peer reviewers who reviewed applications for the 2022 Summer Program Fund, 52% identify as BIPOC and 85% share identities and/or lived experience with priority youth populations. 

Reviewers are asked to disclose conflicts of interest to ensure that no reviewers read proposals from programs/organizations in which they serve as a staff member, board member, or consultant. SOWA also requires that all reviewers participate in anti-bias training.  

Reviewers independently score a subset of applications using a scoring rubric aligned to the funding priorities outlined in the Request for Proposals. The rubric is discussed as part of reviewer training. After independent scoring is complete, small groups of reviewers who scored the same proposals meet to discuss their rubric scores and agree on a consensus score for each application. Reviewer groups are facilitated by lead reviewers.  

SOWA uses Department of Children, Youth and Families’ six regions as a way to geographically divide the state when determining funding. Goals for distribution of funding are anchored by two key data points specific to each region: young people 18 and younger living in poverty; and BIPOC young people, 18 and younger.   

Once SOWA receives final consensus scores from the reviewers, SOWA then recommends to OSPI the number of high scoring applications that meet the pre-determined funding targets for each region. 

The percentage of applications funded from any one region varies based on geographic equity goals and the number of applications received. In regions where a large number of applications are received, the percentage of funded applications will be lower than in regions where fewer applications are received. For example, 25% of the total funding available in the state was targeted for King County for the 2022 Summer Program Fund. We exceeded that target slightly and awarded 26% of the funds to King County. Of the $4,575,000 awarded in total, $1,199,850 was awarded in King County. However, while in the five other regions, the percentage of applications funded ranged from 32% to 60%, only 19% of King County’s applications were successful, given the large number of applications submitted.  

As in the other grant processes we’ve administered since 2020, the requests far exceeded the funding available, and there are many well-aligned summer programs we wish we could have funded.