Public Squared Annual Challenge Grant

Have we lost the ability to talk to each other? When so many of our nation’s problems require the give-and-take of conversation, we decreasingly interact in social space with people who differ from us. What do we lose if we lose the “public square” – not just a place and opportunity to talk across differences of all kinds, but a place where we have to? Mass Humanities’ annual Public Squared Challenge Grant (up to $25,000) will fund a collaboration of two (or more) organizations that seek to build open discussion in response to our thematic initiative, Negotiating the Social Contract, and in so doing, multiply the impact of conversation on our collective culture. Square it, if you will.

One grant will be awarded each year. Past Recipients – Roots of Liberty: The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War (2013); James Baldwin Transmedia Project (2014)

Eligible projects will:

  • be participatory and include provisions for face-to-face conversation or discussion;
  • be a collaboration of two or more organizations;
  • pro-actively Engage New Audiences (ENA) for the humanities in response to our ENA initiative;
  • be designed specifically in response to the Mass Humanities thematic initiative, Negotiating the Social Contract.


  • $15,000 in outright funds, to be matched 1:1 by the applicant according to the guidelines;
  • Up to $10,000 in challenge funds, to be matched 2:1 by one or more third parties

Need some examples of past projects that are dialogue-based? Check out the following:

  • Civility and American Democracy Forum and public conversation
  • Imagining Robert: a documentary film accompanied by facilitated dialogues for service providers, clients, and family members coping with mental illness
  • (Un)Civil Action: a series of events held around the state that paired screenings of the film John Brown’s Holy War with local history programs and community dialogue on political violence
  • New York Council for the Humanities Community Conversations
  • Facing History and Ourselves Community Conversations
  • Walaalo! Somali Women’s Project: discussion and storytelling about political turmoil in Somalia and how those affected have adjusted to life in Western Massachusetts
  • Race and Place: a dialogue and workshop series held in the suburbs of Boston that used the documentary RACE—the Power of an Illusion to facilitate conversation. The project coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

Essentials for Applicants

  • Mass Humanities online application process has three steps. See deadlines chart for specific deadlines for each part of the application process.
    1. Submit online Inquiry form (LOI) at least six weeks prior to the application deadline (LOI form preview). (This initiates a conversation with program staff.)
    2. If LOI is approved, submit a draft about three weeks before the final application is due.
    3. Submit full application by deadline.
  • Download and read the public squared grant guidelines document before submitting an LOI. Full instructions on how to apply can be found on page 9.
  • A public humanities project must be substantively rooted in one or more of the humanities disciplines.
  • Humanities scholars participate in all Mass Humanities funded projects.
  • Eligible: Any non-profit organization, whether or not it has 501(c)(3) status.


See grant deadlines page.

Grant Publicity Requirements, click here.