Call for Proposals: Community Conversations in Boston

Applications close at 11:59pm (ET) on March 18, 2024

Are you interested in hosting conversations with members of your local community in Boston to surface their hopes and concerns and connect with others across the city? Level up your facilitation skills, gain access to methods and technology designed by the MIT Center for Constructive Communication, and receive up to $3,000 in financial support for your organization. Applications close at 11:59pm (ET) on March 18, 2024!

TYPE: opportunity
WHEN: Applications close at 11:59pm (ET) on March 18, 2024
WHERE: Boston (Various Neighborhoods)

Overview

An opportunity to create a thriving ecosystem for community listening

We invite members of community-based organizations, media, local municipal agencies, and educational/youth organizations to join us as a cohort in building a new civic infrastructure for community-powered understanding. 

The MIT Center for Constructive Communication, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will design, launch, and help grow a network of local key stakeholders that will invite members of their diverse communities to engage in public conversations, share their experiences, and develop a shared understanding as a way of building up our civic muscles of democracy.    

What’s in it for you?

  • Training and certification in constructive communication skills, including conversation design, facilitation, and sensemaking
  • Access to technology and prototype tools designed by the MIT Center for Constructive Communication 
  • Local networking opportunities
  • Front-page visibility in audio-rich, interactive, and publicly accessible portals that will serve as living and growing repositories of your hosted community dialogues
  • Up to $3,000 of financial support for your organization

Eligibility & To-Do List:

  • Be affiliated with a community-based organization, media, educational/youth organization, or a local municipal agency that is able to organize and host conversations and is able to accept funds
  • Only 10 organizations will be chosen!
  • Commit one staff member for up to 40 hours of training-related activities in April and May 2024
  • Host up to five small-group conversations, each with 4-6 participants
  • Record and share your conversations on the Fora platform developed by Cortico
  • Analyze your facilitated conversations and surface themes and patterns that emerge

FAQs

Who can apply?

Anyone affiliated with a community-based organization, a media, an educational/youth organization (including but not limited to schools), or a local municipal agency. You are expected to have prior experience or active interest in community engagement and have the ability to form trusted relationships with community members in local neighborhoods.

Do I have to be attached to an organization to apply?

Yes. Although we will work with individual applicants, you need to be affiliated with a community-based organization, a media organization, an educational/youth organization, or a local municipal agency that is able to organize and host conversations and is able to accept funds.

Does the organization need to be based in Boston?

Yes. For this first round, we will work with organizations that are based in the city of Boston. Depending on future funding and interest, we may expand our work beyond Boston. 

How many organizations will be included?

We are planning to provide financial support to up to 10 organizations in 2024. Depending on additional funding and interest, we may be able to offer additional support in the future.

What does the application process look like?

The application is online and can be completed in as little as 20 minutes. You will explain how you intend to use the funds, but you don’t need to submit a formal budget. As a part of this application, we require a letter of support from your organization and a letter of recommendation from a community member to show that you are known and currently active in your community. 

What are the mentorship and professional development components of the program?

You’ll be invited to join two full-day workshops at MIT to learn and practice how to use our tools and methods to advance and deepen your work with communities. We will explore together how to work as a team, facilitate and make sense of conversations, and understand how to use insights from these conversations in your change work. Our goal is to learn with and from each other! 

You’ll also have many opportunities to meet and chat with MIT CCC faculty, researchers, students, and staff. We will also create an environment for participants to organize skill shares with other members of this cohort and MIT CCC team members. 

At the end of the program, you’ll receive a certification recognizing the skills you have acquired in organizing, hosting, and analyzing conversations and the impact you have demonstrated in your local community. 

What am I expected to do if my application is accepted?

Apart from the workshops you are expected to join as described above, you are expected to host up to five small-group recorded one-hour conversations with 4–6 people in your communities to explore their hopes and concerns about living in their neighborhood and analyze these conversations. Read and watch more about our technology here.  

What is the time commitment for the program?

You should allocate up to 20 hours for the duration of the program for onboarding, training, and meeting needs, up to 10 hours for organizing and facilitating conversations, and up to 10 hours for analyzing the conversations you hosted. 

What do constructive conversations look like?

Our framework supports conversations that invite people to share their life experiences, create a shared understanding among participants, and encourage authentic and deep listening. Conversations will be hosted using a conversation guide that you’ll design together with the other workshop participants and in collaboration with MIT CCC team members. Conversations with community members are expected to be around one hour each. 

What kind of expenses does the financial support cover?

The financial support from MIT CCC will cover your community outreach efforts, organizing and facilitating conversations, and analyzing them using our technology. You’ll have the flexibility to allocate a part of the financial support to compensate community members who will join the conversations in any way you see fit, such as offering a free meal, organizing a community gathering, or covering expenses of participants’ travel/childcare.

How do I apply and what’s the deadline?

Completed applications with recommendations must be submitted by March 18, 2024 using this link

What happens after I submit my application?

MIT CCC will review and select individuals to receive the financial support. You will be notified of the status of your application by March 30. In the meantime, please check our website to stay connected, hear about our upcoming events, and learn about our ongoing projects. 

What is the timeline for this effort?

We’ll do our best to accommodate different schedules and time commitments but you can find a tentative timeline below:

  • March 30: Notification of Awardees 
  • April-May: Training/workshops part 1
  • May-June: Facilitated conversations
  • June-July: Training/workshops part 2
  • July-September: Sensemaking & narrative development

What if my application is not accepted?

Anyone who applies or is simply interested can still join as a conversation participant and help us grow our network of conversations across the city. 

Have additional questions?

Contact Marina Rakhilin, Program Manager, MIT Center for Constructive Communication at mrna@media.mit.edu

Support for this program was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.