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OSI Audience Engagement Grant


In 2005, the Open Society Institute Documentary Photography Project (DPP) created the Distribution Grant—now called the Audience Engagement Grant—to support photographers who would like to take existing documentation of issues they care about and use that work as catalysts for social change. Created in the context of diminishing print media outlets, the grant promotes alternative models for presenting and disseminating documentary photography to the public. Moreover, we hope to stimulate innovation in designing projects that create meaningful interactions with photographic content.

Starting with the 2010 grant cycle, the Distribution Grant has been renamed the Audience Engagement Grant to more accurately reflect the goals of the grant. That is, we aim to support photography-based projects that actively engage audiences on human rights and social justice issues.

The grant funds projects that go beyond inspiring audiences visually. We are looking for projects that combine existing bodies of work with programming or tools that give viewers a deeper, more nuanced understanding of issues and/or empower them to participate in the process of improving their own or others’ realities. Projects should include a partnership between individuals and organizations that combines expertise in documentary photography with experience working on the topic or community the project addresses.

Since 2005, the program has supported over thirty projects that range in format and purpose. To view a list of previously-funded projects, please consult the Grantee List.
What We Provide

The Audience Engagement Grant program provides 5-8 grants ranging from $5,000-$30,000 to support projects that use existing bodies of work. Please note that grant funds cannot be used to shoot new imagery. When selected projects closely align with the work of other Open Society Institute (OSI) programs or previously-funded projects, DPP will facilitate contact with relevant OSI program staff and former grantees.
What We’re Looking For

The Applicants
The Audience Engagement Grant supports partnerships between individuals and organizations who are working on collaborative projects. Projects must involve:

1. Photography Partner whose expertise is in documentary photography; and 2. Audience Engagement Partner whose expertise is in the topic or community the project addresses.

A third Distribution Partner, whose expertise is in the dissemination or presentation method, may also be included, but is not required.

Each project partner should contribute resources to the project. These contributions may take the form of: content, expertise, services, administrative/logistical support, staff, organizational infrastructure, access, contacts/connections, equipment, space, or funding. Based on the experience of past grantees, we’ve found that the most successful projects engage all project partners equally. Partners should think of themselves as working collaboratively, while also committing a unique skill set to the project.

For examples of possible partners, please view our list of Frequently Asked Questions (available for download below as part of the Application Packet).

The Project
We welcome projects that use an existing body of photographs to advance human rights and social justice issues. We are looking for strong images that are circulated in a way that could spark a change in how viewers think about or support a particular issue or community.

Possible examples include, among others: exhibitions; photography in the public sphere; community-informed, locally-based exhibitions; slideshows & presentations; discussions & workshops; educational tools; visual resources; archives; and new media. For more guidance on what we’re looking for in these categories, please consult the Frequently Asked Questions document (available for download below as part of the Application Packet). Examples of previously funded projects can be found in the Grantee List.

We’d like this grant to stimulate new distribution ideas, so we encourage you to be imaginative when designing your project. To trigger your thinking, we’ve created a list of Questions to Think About (available for download below as part of the Application Packet). This document is NOT part of the grant application, but is meant to spark new ideas and fine-tune your thinking.

Preference will be given, but not limited, to projects that address issues and geographical areas that concern OSI. Please consult our website, www.soros.org, to familiarize yourself with the foundation’s activities.

What makes a strong project proposal?
The most effective projects respond to the unique needs and interests of the community they address. They combine compelling documentary photography with creative approaches and thoughtful strategies for presenting the images to that audience. Projects often get more mileage when they include or are timed to coincide with related efforts and programs, such as discussions, events, workshops, activities, or larger advocacy, organizing, or educational campaigns. We are also interested in interactive elements that allow the audience to engage directly with the material. Ideally, projects will be connected to an organization that can sustain interest in the project beyond the timeline of the grant.

The following projects are not eligible for funding:

  • Requests to shoot new work
  • Dated material, unless the purpose is to collect and preserve untold, alternative, or historically significant narratives about a particular community or historical event
  • Projects whose only goal is to fundraise and/or raise awareness in a general way
  • Projects that are geared toward “the general public,” and do not identify a primary targeted audience
  • Exhibitions that serve only the interests of the photographer or the gallery
  • Book production
  • Documentary film or video
  • Lobbying activities

Note: OSI does not discriminate based on any characteristics that may be protected by applicable law.
Application & Selection Process

Prescreening / Letter of Intent (optional)
Beginning with the 2010 grant cycle, we are offering applicants the opportunity to have their project ideas pre-screened and approved before going through the process of writing the full grant proposal. Although it is not required, we strongly encourage applicants to submit a brief Letter of Intent before applying to the grant. Selecting this option will save you the time and effort of pulling together a full application in the event that your project idea is not suitable for the grant. The optional Letter of Intent should be submitted using our using our Online Application System (OAS) and is due on Friday, May 28, 2010, by 5:00pm (Eastern Standard Time). Whether you are applying as an individual or an organization, please register and create a profile on OAS by selecting “Individual Grants” and “Audience Engagement – Intent.” DPP staff will review your Letter of Intent and notify you by email by June 11 whether your project idea was approved. Once approved, you should begin preparing the full Online Application.

Online Application (required)
Applications must be submitted using our Online Application System (OAS). Completed Online Applications are due on Friday, July 23, 2010, by 5:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time). Whether you are applying as an individual or an organization, please register and create a profile on OAS by selecting “Individual Grants” and “Audience Engagement Program – Full Application.”

Online Applications will be initially vetted by DPP staff, as well as other OSI programs whose work coincides with the proposals. A short list of semi-finalists will then be considered by the Selection Committee.

Final selection will be made in late September 2010 by a committee of outside experts. Shortlisted proposals will be evaluated based on quality and adherence to the Selection Criteria (available as part of the Application Packet below).

You will receive notification of the committee’s decision by mid-October 2010.
Application & Selection Timeline




Pre-screening (optional)

Letter of Intent (optional)

May 28, 2010

Notification of approval

May 14, 2010

Online application

Completed Online Application:

1. Contact information
2. Project summary
3. Narrative proposal
4. Letter(s) of commitment
5. Budget
6. Timeline
7. Work samples
8. Letter of recommendation

July 23, 2010

Processing & vetting

All applications reviewed by OSI staff.

August 2010

Follow up

We may be contacting you by e-mail during this time to answer any follow-up questions we might have. Note: not all applicants will be contacted, only those whose proposals require more specificity.

Sept 13-17, 2010

Final selection

Shortlisted semi-finalists will be reviewed by an external Selection Committee.

Late Sept 2010


Applicants will be notified by e-mail.

Mid-October, 2010


Letter of intent (optional): Friday, May 28, 2010, 5pm EST
Completed online application: Friday, July 23, 2010, 5pm EST

Resources for Applicants

We have created the following documents to assist you in preparing and fine-tuning your Audience Engagement Grant application. To access these documents, and the application questions, please download the full Application Packet, available below.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: We strongly recommend that you review this document for additional guidance on submitting your proposal.
  • Questions to Think About: Whether you are proposing a new idea or the expansion of ongoing activities, there are a number of factors that you will need to consider in designing your project and applying for this grant. This document will help you to think through the various elements of your project. Not all of these questions will be relevant to your project and they are NOT required for the grant application. Rather, these questions are meant to trigger your thinking, inspire new ideas, and foster projects that are uniquely-tailored for your topic or community.
  • Selection Criteria: Applications will be evaluated based on a range of criteria. This document will give you a sense of what questions the Selection Committee will be considering when reading your proposal.

Contact Information

If you have any questions about the grant or the application process, please contact Yukiko Yamagata at yyamagata@sorosny.org.

by teru kuwayama at 2010-04-09 06:24:18 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

28 May 2010 00:05
Thanks Teru!!!

by [former member] | 25 May 2010 22:05 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→

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teru kuwayama, I/O teru kuwayama
New York , United States


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