Understanding how to write successful grant applications is an important skill for anyone engaged in doing arts and social change work. Whether successful applications are written to public or private agencies, increasingly they constitute a substantive part of what enables arts oriented social change programs to exist, both in the United States and abroad.
The exercises offered in this area create models for later use. In the arts and social change class at Swarthmore, students work in groups and divide the tasks according to their areas of strength. First, as a large group we identify possible granting sources and then articulate our goals for the grant as well as how these align with the focus of the funder's mandate. In this brainstorming phase, large visions are encouraged and 'mapping' of ideas is broad.
Next, in smaller groups, we draw from these 'maps' and approach the more detailed work of addressing the grant application requirements. For instance, an economics major may be the person who is responsible for crafting budget narrative and details while the student with significant previous time in a community setting may contribute examples of ways the grant will be enacted in a specific context.
These smaller groups keep reporting back to the whole where all ideas are reexamined and additional refinements are suggested. This conversational investigation of the grant as it develops brings everyone together and, in our experience, helps create a proposal that benefits from the strengths of all involved.
Critical to the process is the growing understanding that no one holds all of the 'keys' to such writing. Challenging, clarifying, and supporting one another's ideas, the students become more comfortable with the grant writing process and also, in my experience, are better equipped to take this process forward into communities outside the classroom context.