December 14, 2020 – The national and local elections of 2020 have cast a bright light on the centrality as well as challenges of democratic participation. Election systems, patterns of voting across different communities, access to voting, civic education, partisan divides, movements for social justice, and media representation are all factors for democracy now. How does democracy work in 2020, and why does it matter?
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is supporting Humanities Councils across the country to tap the power of the humanities to meaningfully ask “Why It Matters” — to learn about these issues, place them in wider contexts, and promote reflection, questions, and conversation at a moment when greater understanding is urgent. In Rhode Island, our program will make seven grants of $5,000 each to non-profit organizations to quickly and simply support public engagement with issues connected to voting, elections, and democratic participation. In partnership with the RI Department of State, Why It Matters is part of XIX: Shall Not Be Denied, an established initiative which amplifies humanities projects statewide that explore the legacy of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. More details at: www.shallnotbedenied.org.
Why It Matters is especially interested in projects that focus on connecting with audiences who face historic and current barriers to full participation in American democracy, including (but not limited to) young and future voters, people of color, people who speak languages other than English, people in low-income communities, and formerly incarcerated people. To make these efforts as robust as possible, we encourage participating organizations to work with community, individual, and organizational partners.
Note: This PDF offers application details for reference. All applications MUST be submitted via the Council’s grant portal.
Any activities funded by this grant must be free, accessible, and open to the public. In the context of the ongoing pandemic, we recognize that programs and projects will need to be virtual and/or employ safe, socially distanced methods in compliance with local and state health directives. Your proposed project does not need to be new to your organization, but rather can build on, amplify, and extend what you already are doing, as long as it connects to these issues. Since this is a non-partisan initiative, funds cannot support the promotion of a particular political, religious, or ideological point of view; advocacy of a particular program of social or political action; the promotion of specific public policies or legislation; or lobbying activities.
Applications will be evaluated based on:
- The plan for connecting with audiences.
- How the project addresses the topics of voting, elections, and democratic participation.
- How the format of the project is suitable for virtual platforms and safe social distancing during the pandemic.
Grant Cycle Timeline:
- Applications open December 16, 2020 through the Council’s grant portal.
Note: Click here to download a PDF of the application which may be used for reference only. All applications MUST be submitted via the grant portal.
- Applications due via the grant portal by January 11, 2020 at 5:00pm EST.
- Award notifications will be made the week of January 25th
- All grant-funded activities must be completed by April 30, 2021
- A brief report on the project, including a participant survey and information to be specified by the Council, will be required by May 15, 2021 or within one month of the project’s conclusion, whichever comes first.
Questions about the application process? Contact Julia Renaud, Associate Director of Grants & Strategic Initiatives at email@example.com.
Topics for suitable projects include (but are not limited to):
- Access: Who can vote? How has that changed over time? What are significant historical events in Rhode Island, e.g. the Dorr Rebellion, that we can learn from?
- Experiences of and views on voting: e.g. from the perspective of formerly incarcerated people, youth, people of color, speakers of languages other than English, newcomers to the US and RI
- Challenges and opportunities for democratic participation in various communities (low-income communities, immigrant communities, etc.)
- Differences among rural, urban and suburban communities, with respect to access, voter participation, and perspectives
- An exploration of activism, protest and voting as forms of democratic participation
- The role public art, performance, and public humanities can play in our participatory democracy
- Civic Education: How do we learn about democratic participation? Who gets this education? Who doesn’t? What is civic education for the 21st Century?
- The role of journalism and social media in our civic conversation
- How changes in technology and internet/social media/gaming culture have affected and can affect civic engagement
Potential formats include (but are not limited to):
- Virtual panels and discussions
- Virtual community gatherings
- Public art, performances and screenings accompanied by dialogue
- Exhibitions and interpretation
- Digital tours and other digital experiences
- Walking tours
- Film and video productions, including documentary and other genres
- Oral histories and archives
- Combinations of the above
- Organizations that currently have a 501(c)3 or equivalent tax-exempt status. Fiscal sponsorship is accepted for nonprofit entities leading projects that do not have a 501(c)3 status. Applicants must be based in Rhode Island.
- Community and cultural organizations including: museums, libraries, historic sites, preservation & historical societies, cultural heritage organizations, community centers, civic engagement groups.
- Current Humanities Council organizational grantees
- Proposed projects should be distinct and separate from projects currently funded by the Council
- Educational institutions are not eligible for support, including: public, private, parochial, and/or charter schools and colleges/universities, though faculty members, staff, and students are welcome as participants in a project led by an eligible organization.
- Individuals, although they are welcome to partner in a project led by an eligible organization
- Municipalities or government agencies
This funding can be used to support elements of the project including, but not limited to:
- Staffing costs
- Permanent staff time and benefits
- Stipends for speakers, scholars, community advisors, researchers, policy experts, artists, performers, storytellers, culture bearers, and videographers
- Researchers and data analysts
- Costs of partners
- Media and virtual platform producers
- Equipment and software connected to the project
- Supplies for project outputs such as public art, performances, exhibitions, public programs, etc.
- Subscriptions and upgrades to virtual platforms and websites that connect to the project
- Food and beverages for programs, excluding alcohol ($500 cap)
- Design and printing
- Social media and videos that engage the issues at hand
- Indirect costs are capped at $500 (indirect costs are costs incurred by an organization in the execution of activities that cannot be specified to a particular activity, i.e. payroll processing fees, rent, administrative personnel costs, etc.)
Matching funds are not required.
This funding cannot be used for:
- Since this is a non-partisan initiative, funds cannot support:
- the promotion of a particular political, religious, or ideological point of view;
- advocacy of a particular program of social or political action;
- the promotion of specific public policies or legislation;
- lobbying activities;
- Additionally, funds cannot support:
- purchase of land or facilities, construction or renovation;
- projects that fall outside of the humanities and empirically-based social science research or policy studies;
- purchase of alcohol, archival acquisitions, academic fees or other degree-related expenses, courses, foreign or non-economy travel, book publication costs, fundraising or for-profit activities, eliminating or reducing existent debt or endowment contributions, prizes and awards, the regranting of funds, private and non-ADA accessible events/programs.