Audience Engagement Grant Guidelines
About the Grant
About the Grant
The Audience Engagement Grant (formerly called the Distribution Grant) supports photographers to take an existing body of work on a social justice or human rights issue and devise an innovative way of using that work as a catalyst for social change. We are interested in well-designed projects that inspire audiences visually and create meaningful interactions with photographic content.
Projects should combine existing bodies of work with programming or tools that give viewers a deeper, more nuanced understanding of issues and empower them to participate in the process of improving their own or others’ realities. Projects should also include a partnership between a photographer and an organization that combines expertise in documentary photography with experience working on the topic or community the project addresses.
Since 2005, the program has supported over forty projects that range in format and purpose. To view a list of previously funded projects, please consult the Grantee List.
What We Provide
Five to eight grants ranging from $5,000-$30,000. Grant funds cannot be used to shoot new imagery. When selected projects closely align with the work of the Open Society Foundations, we will facilitate contact with relevant foundation staff and grantees.
What We’re Looking For
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.
The Audience Engagement Grant supports individuals who are partnering with organizations on collaborative projects. Projects must involve:
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).
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.
We’d like this grant to stimulate both effective and innovative ideas, so we encourage you to be imaginative when devising ways to use your photography to inspire change. 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.
Previously funded 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). See the Grantee List for examples of previously funded projects.
Preference will be given, but not limited, to projects that address issues and geographical areas that concern the Open Society Foundations.
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 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: The Open Society Foundations do not discriminate based on any characteristics that may be protected by applicable law.
Letter of intent (optional): Friday, March 11, 2011, 5pm EST
Completed online application: Friday, May 13, 2011, 5pm EST
Application & Selection Process
All applications must be submitted using our Online Application System (OAS): http://oas.soros.org/oas/. Please download and read the full Application Packet for detailed instructions and additional resources for applicants.
Letter of Intent / pre-screening (optional)
Although it is not required, we strongly encourage you to submit a brief Letter of Intent to have your project idea pre-screened and approved before writig the full grant proposal. This 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.
See the Application Packet for detailed instructions.
All Letters of Intent must be submitted using our using our Online Application System (OAS).
March 11, 2011
Notification of approval
If your project idea is approved, you should begin preparing the full Online Application.
March 25, 2011
A complete application consists of:
1. Contact information & resume
2. Project summary
3. Narrative proposal
4. Letter(s) of commitment
7. Work samples
See the Application Packet for detailed instructions.
All applications must be submitted using our Online Application System (OAS).
May 13, 2011
Applications will be initially reviewed by the Documentary Photography Project, as well as other Open Society Foundations staff whose work coincides with the proposals. A short list of semi-finalists will then be considered by a selection committee of outside experts.
We may be contacting you by email during this time with any follow-up questions we might have. Note: not all applicants will be contacted, only those whose proposals require more specificity.
Shortlisted semi-finalists will be reviewed by a selection committee of outside experts. Proposals will be evaluated based on quality and adherence to the Selection Criteria (available as part of the Application Packet below).
Applicants will be notified by email.
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.
If you have any questions, please contact Yukiko Yamagata at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A complete list of past and current recipients of Documentary Photography Project Audience Engagement Grants.
You can access this page at the following URL:
2011-03-18 14:24:10 UTC