Storytelling Grant Highlights

Courageous Storytelling

We believe that there is a need for compelling stories about who we are, how we should live, and our purpose on this planet. This moment of global transition requires translation. How can we imagine a new world without sharing brilliant stories about what the future could be—how it might taste, smell, sound, and feel? To us, courageous storytelling means:

  • Disrupting our understanding of the status quo, or giving voice to previously unheard narratives.
  • Using visual art, music, drama, film, writing, and creative social media to amplify critical issues and to blend personal with political, emotional with intellectual.

A description of grants we have made this year in Storytelling can be found below. Please read about what we support for more information.

2020 Grants
ACRONYM / Hopewell Fund “Dress Rehearsal” 'Dress Rehearsal' $10,000
DRESS REHEARSAL, a new documentary short from director David Modigliani, tells the messy, inspiring story of Wisconsin’s pandemic primary. When the coronavirus struck Wisconsin weeks before the primary, organizers on the ground had their best-laid canvassing plans turned upside down. As they figured out how to work remotely, an inclusive group of progressive organizers across the state embraced a wholesale pivot to online relational organizing and deepened relationships with voters in order to withstand the uncertain, rapidly changing environment. A grant will support the final touches and launch of the film short.
Center for Cultural Power General Support $225,000/3 years
A women-of-color, artist-led organization, The Center for Cultural Power (a merger of CultureStrike, Citizen Engagement Lab, and Revolutions Per Minute) inspires artists and culture makers to imagine a world where power is distributed equitably and we live in harmony with nature. Culture moves fast and can create the groundwork for shifts in the political and economic sectors. CCP focuses its efforts on creating a seismic cultural change to shift from a worldview of domination to one of interdependence and collaboration, which will transform economic and political structures. It anchors an ecosystem for artists and culture makers to thrive, with a particular focus on "Artist Disruptors." The Center for Cultural Power serves artists of color, immigrant and undocumented artists, disabled artists, queer and transgender artists, indigenous artists, and women artists from a belief that these are the artists who can shift the status quo with their stories, voices, and lived experiences.

Doc Society General Support $150,000/3 years
Doc Society is a nonprofit committed to enabling great documentary films and connecting them to audiences globally. With offices in London, New York, Amsterdam, and Sydney, Doc Society has grown to a team of 19 people. Its mission is to bring people together to unleash the transformational power of independent documentary film. Doc Society supports artist-driven film with social purpose and helps to create a more connected and sustainable media ecosystem globally. It helps build new models, aiming to innovate, share its learnings freely, and innovate again. Today Doc Society works with filmmakers and journalists in over 37 countries, while helping build the capacity of a network of peer cultural organizations from across the world.

DocSociety New Rules of Impact $15,000
Documentary film impact campaigns have always had screenings at their center, whether gathering experts and partners together for a screening and strategy conversation, organizing screenings and panels at large conferences or as part of film festivals, or coordinating grass roots community screenings held by local organizers. COVID-19 means that right now such gatherings are impossible in most countries in the world, and when they reopen it is unlikely that they can go back to normal for some time. This grant will support DocSociety’s work across the documentary film space to reinvent and reimagine film screeings and impact campaigns for the time to come.

Election SOS / American Press Institute General Support $50,000
Election SOS aims to support newsrooms in preparing for responsible coverage of the 2020 elections. In particular, Election SOS is helping newsrooms to use their power to protect the integrity of the election, including spotting voter suppression and voter access, protecting journalists from harassment, and protecting the act of voting during a pandemic; building trust and transparency with audiences through covering election security threats and tackling misinformation and disinformation; and creating engaged, voter-centric campaign coverage in which voters' concerns are centered and prioritized above politician narratives.

Fight Back Table / Demos General Support $100,000
The Fight Back Table is a strategy and coordination effort among key national progressive organizations. The Table provides organizations with the opportunity to better understand the dynamics at play in the current political landscape, learn from and engage with one another’s social change efforts, conduct scenario planning and strategy development across movements, and coordinate responses to challenging movement moments together. This grant will support movement-wide coordination on narrative strategy and messaging.
Fuller Project for International Reporting General Support $150,000/3 years
The Fuller Project is an award-winning global nonprofit newsroom dedicated to objective, groundbreaking reporting on women, to raise awareness, expose injustice and spur accountability. Women are persistently underrepresented in news, including in coverage of war, security institutions and peace negotiations. The Fuller Project’s reporting addresses this gap in coverage through investigative, explanatory, and solutions-driven reporting that is published in the world’s leading global, national and local news outlets.

Just Vision General Support $225,000/3 years
Just Vision believes that effective storytelling is essential for shaping the public norms around Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent efforts and challenging the divisions that dominate the political landscape. It disrupts the mainstream media with stories from and about the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel that are often missed. Just Vision engages discourse shapers and broad publics, ensuring that they contend with narratives about regional inequality that would otherwise be neglected. It also engages students, educators, youth, faith communities, and others who can mobilize pressure on their leaders. Finally, the team works with grassroots leaders in both societies who can make unarmed efforts sustainable over time. Through public engagement efforts, Just Vision ensures that these leaders gain traction within their own societies and on a global scale by fostering awareness, challenging commonly held assumptions, and inspiring audiences to get involved.

LigoranoReese / The Standby Program School of Good Citizenship $25,000
The School of Good Citizenship is a 6-day series of multidisciplinary art events book-ending the Republican Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This project is designed to spark a public conversation about democracy focused on those whose voices have been marginalized historically. In collaboration with local artists, cultural and educational organizations, the focus is on civic engagement through spoken word poetry, visual art exhibitions, public art, film screenings, artist workshops, and discussions. Simultaneously, a second component will commission four local artists to create temporary public art works exploring issues of voting rights, immigration, and incarceration.

Peace is Loud General Support $50,000
Peace is Loud is a nonprofit organization that utilizes storytelling to advance transformative social justice. Peace is Loud believes peace can only be achieved through representation that truly reflects the world we live in, from government and traditional halls of power, to the social movements changing the world. For this reason, the organization is committed to amplifying the stories of those whose identities intersect with systems-oppressed communities, including but not limited to people of color, Indigenous/Native peoples, LGBTQIA people, disabled people, and immigrants. Its two-pronged storytelling approach — on stage and on screen — is carried out through a speakers’ bureau of 30 women human rights leaders and through documentary film impact campaigns.

Rewire.News General Support $50,000
Rewire.News is a daily online publication devoted to intersectional and evidence-based journalism on reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice. Its goal is to provide cutting-edge reporting, analysis, and commentary that informs its politically active readership; challenges false, misleading, and stigmatizing reporting by other media outlets; corrects the record when others fail to report the facts; counters falsehoods and misinformation spread by those who seek political gain from undermining public health and human rights, irrespective of political party or belief; and adds to the body of knowledge and informed public debate by covering unreported and underreported issues. A final grant will support Rewire.News through its founder transition.

Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program $100,000/2 years
The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP) supports nonfiction filmmakers worldwide in the production of cinematic nonfiction on contemporary themes. Established in 2002, the Program serves as a vibrant, global resource for independent nonfiction storytelling, supporting filmmakers year-round through a granting fund, residential Labs, custom Fellowships, and creative and strategic mentorship. DFP focuses on three, guiding pillars: ART (investing not just in groundbreaking documentary works but also in artists and the development of their craft); REACH (as a proactive cultivator of projects and artists, prioritizing underrepresented voices and under-reported stories, centering our efforts on inclusion, discovery, and sustainability); and CHANGE (championing voices with the capacity to create cultural and social change). The Program is committed to nonfiction storytelling as an increasingly critical, impactful cultural practice and art form in the twenty-first century.

The Meteor Fund / New Ventures Fund 30 Days Til Tomorrow $40,000
The Meteor Fund is a multimedia collective of artists, storytellers, journalists, and other creatives working to lift up the political power of—and issues important to—women. In a 30-day countdown to the November election, the Meteor Fund will create and disseminate digital content to inspire women, particularly women of color, to engage in the political process, and to give them the information they need to do so safely during the pandemic.
The People Votes / Union Docs Statehouse Voter Empowerment Project $100,000
The Statehouse Voter Empowerment project is a 501(c)3 media initiative to encourage state-level voting by groups of potential voters who are under-represented at the polls. A grant will support research on effective messaging and narrative strategy for these groups, interviews with local representatives, message and content testing, and content creation and dissemination.

We Call BS / Utah Film Center $50,000
Filmmaker Kim Snyder's new documentary, "Us Kids," recently premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to standing ovations at every screening. The powerful story follows the young survivors-turned-activists from Parkland, Florida, who catalyzed the March For Our Lives movement. The film is now the cornerstone of an impact campaign that will align with the film's global release this spring and summer. The campaign will primarily take the form of townhalls across the country and aims to support coalition building within the movement to foster inclusion and diversity, promote intergenerational dialogue about gun violence prevention, promote policy reform for gun violence prevention on the local and federal levels, and continue to drive youth civic engagement.

Women’s Foundation of California Gender Justice Culture Change Collaborative Fund $100,000/2 years
The Culture Change Fund at the Women’s Foundation of California is focused on using culture to advance and transform gender justice by changing how the public thinks about issues including economic security, income inequality, violence against women, sexual assault, maternal health, abortion, contraception, and reproductive justice and gender justice more broadly. After a year of deep research and the creation of the Story at Scale platform, the Culture Change Fund is transitioning to the implementation phase, through strategic grantmaking in Georgia, Michigan, and California and a community of learning activities.

Working Films General Support $25,000
Working Films uses documentary films to advance social justice and environmental protection. Its theory of change centers on the unique ability of documentaries to demonstrate complexity, illuminate the intersections between people and issues, and catalyze meaningful action for an equitable future. Working Films works with advocates to curate collections of short films and put them to work through screening tours in places where there is tipping point potential for policy and regulatory change, where there is a need to reach beyond “the choir,” and where there is the potential to create a replicable model. Its film collections, Stories Beyond Borders and Revisioning Recovery, are aimed at shifting dominant narratives about immigration and climate disaster. Working Films is partnering with the School of Good Citizenship leading up to the Republican National Convention share its latest collections and offer training in its methodology for organizers and filmmakers.

2019 Grants
Alonzo King LINES Ballet Convergence $10,000
Alonzo King LINES Ballet is a contemporary ballet company led by visionary choreographer and Artistic Director Alonzo King, whose work draws on diverse cultural traditions to expand classical ballet’s expressive potential. In Fall 2020, LINES Ballet will present “Convergence” (working title), a multidisciplinary collaboration that will weave together King’s acclaimed choreography, Inuit musical traditions, and stunning visual art to investigate how climate disruption is shifting our understanding of what it means to be interconnected in this global age. Harnessing the urgency of our collective moment, King and his collaborators will translate the abstract ideas and principles that underpin climate volatility into a richly embodied, visceral experience designed to shift the way we think about our relationship to one another and to the planet, and in turn, spark individual and collective action. A one-time grant will support the creation, production, and presentation of this work.

CultureStrike / Citizen Engagement Lab General Support $100,000/2 years
CultureStrike’s work is rooted in the belief that cultural shifts are necessary to build political will for a just society. Artists and cultural leaders inspire their communities to claim a better future, keep hope, feel joy, and inspire action. As society confronts the reality of global patterns of ecological destruction and climate disasters, driven by corporate control and increasingly sanctioned by government policy, CultureStrike brings cultural strategy to address the direct and disproportionate impacts of climate disruption on migrants and communities of color. The second year of a two-year grant will support CultureStrike as it strengthens climate justice advocacy by leading with the storytelling of artists from these backgrounds, who can connect with communities at the frontlines of climate change, and lift up diverse narratives of impact, resistance, and resilience to build momentum for public action and policy change.

DocSociety General Support $50,000
DocSociety is a nonprofit committed to bringing people together to unleash the transformational power of documentary film. Since its founding in 2005, DocSociety has grown to a team of 25 people with offices in London, New York, and Amsterdam. DocSociety has one of the most experienced editorial teams in the world and in 14 years has backed over 300 award-winning projects from filmmakers in over 80 countries. DocSociety stands in solidarity with filmmakers and works to unite them with new friends and allies, building new models for film impact campaigns globally.

Fuller Project for International Reporting General Support $50,000
The Fuller Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization reporting globally and in the US on the issues that most impact women. Women are persistently underrepresented in news, especially coverage of war, security institutions and peace negotiations. The Fuller Project's reporting addresses this gap in coverage through investigative, explanatory, and solutions-driven reporting, which is published globally and locally in the world's leading news outlets.

Grist Magazine General Support $150,000/3 years
Our big planetary problems can seem insurmountable. The world keeps warming and the most vulnerable populations continue to bear the brunt of it. Grist sees a better way forward, envisioning a world full of resilient, healthy communities, powered by 100-percent clean energy. To realize this vision, the digital magazine is revamping its focus and talent around three themes: solutions, equity, and empowerment. Grist tells stories that persuade millions of people that a brighter future is possible, reveal what it takes to get there, and empower everyone from activists to policymakers to entrepreneurs to contribute. It has also launched a new initiative to connect emerging leaders, spurring collaborations and sparking change. A three-year general support grant, now in its third year, is supporting Grist to advance this organizational transition and help chart the course to a just, sustainable future.

Just Vision General Support $100,000/2 years
The popular narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian context paints the conflict as intractable. While highlighting ongoing violence and top-down political developments, it disregards the efforts of those who strive to build a future of freedom, dignity and equality. Just Vision lifts up these stories and shines a spotlight on these leaders’ power. The team uses storytelling strategies, including film, graphic novels, and news media, to change perspectives, shape public conversations and galvanize action. Its overarching goal is to contribute to fostering peace and an end to the occupation by rendering Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders more visible, valued and effective in their efforts. The second year of a two-year grant will help Just Vision to drive attention to compelling local role models in unarmed movement-building and demonstrate to journalists, community leaders and students—in the US, Israel, Palestine and beyond—what is possible when leaders at the grassroots choose to act.

Magnum Foundation General Support $150,000/3 years
Magnum Foundation expands creativity and diversity in documentary photography through programs that provide grant funds, mentorship, and innovative training to a network of social justice and human rights-focused photographers working within their own communities around the world. The Magnum Foundation's work is grounded in the belief that images are a powerful tool for engaging new audiences with important issues and ideas. Now in the third year of a three-year grant, Magnum Foundation and its network will continue to experiment with new ways to use images to transform how we see and understand the world.

Movement Generation The North Pole Impact Campaign $10,000
In its groundbreaking first season, the comedy web series the North Pole introduced audiences to Nina, Marcus, Benny, and Finn, a group of trash-talking, revolutionary characters living in Oakland and grappling with the crises of gentrification and global warming. A second season will premiere this September, with its storyline going deep into issues of immigration, deportation, and Northern California wildfires. A one-time grant to executive producer and longtime grant partner Movement Generation will support impact and engagement activities around the second season of the film.,

Natural History Museum / Not an Alternative General Support $100,000/2 years
The Natural History Museum (NHM) unleashes the power of museums and science centers to expand the public consensus for ecological development, inspire new solutions and leaders, and strengthen community-led efforts to save water, land, and the climate. As both a traveling museum and an institution-transformation project, the NHM builds collaborations with Indigenous water and land protectors, local activist groups, scientists, artists, museums, and educational centers to produce exhibitions, events, storytelling, and online media that address current environmental issues. Now in the second year of a two-year grant, NHM will continue to organize museum and science professionals to resist the influence of fossil fuel industries on cultural, public, and political institutions and help them to develop public engagement programs that support environmental justice.

Peace is Loud General Support $50,000
Peace is Loud uses storytelling to advance social justice movements, with a focus on women’s rights, peace, and security. Peace is Loud highlights the stories of women who are leading their communities in confronting violence, from acts of war to systemic injustices. They believe peace can only be achieved through representation that truly reflects the world we live in, whether during negotiations at the peace table, through the stories we consume, or in the social movements changing the world. For that reason, Peace is Loud’s programming shares the stories of those whose identities intersect with historically marginalized communities, including but not limited to people of color, Indigenous/native peoples, LGBTQIA people, disabled people, and immigrants. Its storytelling programming includes documentary film campaigns and a speakers’ bureau of 30 women human rights leaders.

Revolutions Per Minute General Support $100,000/2 years
Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) connects the most pressing issues of our time to the emotive power and broad audience reach of musicians and comedians. Founded in 2005 by musicians, managers, and advisors from bands including REM, Pearl Jam, and the Beastie Boys, RPM provides the more than 1000 performers in its network with the ongoing support and resources they need to apply their talents as storytellers to social and environmental justice efforts. RPM ensures that artists are taking action in the most strategic ways possible, amplifying existing groups and movements and contributing much-needed resources in the form of creativity, new supporters, funding, and awareness. Now in the second year of a two-year grant, RPM is scaling up its philanthropic program and providing strategic counsel and technical support to help artists make a difference.

Rewire General Support $150,000/3 years
Rewire is a daily online publication that fosters public knowledge and engagement through high-quality, evidence-based news, analysis, commentary, and investigative reporting on issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice. Rewire works to disrupt misleading media and political narratives; promote accurate reporting on its core issues across online, print, and broadcast media; and dispel falsehoods and misinformation spread by those who seek political gain from undermining public health and human rights or misrepresenting evidence. An ongoing three-year grant, now in its third year, supports this vitally important resource to the fields of reproductive rights, health, and justice.

Storyline Media Water Warriors impact campaign $30,000
Water Warriors is an award-winning short film and multimedia exhibit about a community’s successful fight to protect their water and way of life. In 2013, Texas-based SWN Resources arrived in rural New Brunswick, Canada to explore for natural gas. The region is known for its forestry, farming and fishing industries, which are both commercial and subsistence operations that rural communities depend on. In response, a small group of unlikely warriors—including members of the Mi’kmaq Elsipogtog First Nation, French-speaking Acadians, and English-speaking families—set up a series of road blockades, preventing exploration. After months of resistance, their efforts not only halted drilling, they elected a new government and won an indefinite moratorium on fracking in the province. Water Warriors demonstrates that people, united, can win against insurmountable odds. A one-time grant will support work to harness this success as a catalyst for direct action and multicultural solidarity to protect natural resources.

Sundance Institute General Support for Documentary Film Program $50,000
The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP) supports non-fiction filmmakers worldwide in the creation of cinematic documentaries on contemporary issues. Led by Tabitha Jackson, the DFP supports filmmakers year-round through a granting fund, residential Labs, custom Fellowships, and strategic and creative mentorship. The DFP focuses on three guiding principles: investing not only in groundbreaking documentary projects but also in artists and the development of their craft; prioritizing under-reported stories and underrepresented voices; and supporting stories with the capacity for creating social and cultural change.

The League / New Venture Fund General Support $50,000
The League is a collective of social change strategists and culture makers working at the intersection of pop culture and politics. Its core team is made up of organizers, writers, designers, analysts, and campaigners who are deeply rooted in the progressive movement. The League designs and deploys creative, engaging strategies and campaigns in order to create tipping points that fundamentally shift communities to be more just and equitable. The League focuses on three lines of work: running experiments to identify the best ways to use culture to shift people’s attitudes and move them to action; tapping into sophisticated marketing, political, and cultural data, using it to unpack what’s currently happening in the world and to forecast what might happen; and creating spaces and connections so that people from a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and industries can work together to address the major issues facing the US today.

Unpack Impact / Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs Activating a Beloved Economy $40,000
Activating a Beloved Economy is sparking a mainstream conversation about how and why building an American economy that works for all will require us to come together across our differences and "co-create". Grounded in the research that co-directors Joanna Cea and Jess Rimington have led since 2015 on multi-stakeholder, co-creative processes that lead to economic transformation, this initiative turns these findings into story-driven, accessible content that inspires and equips for action. Through a book, multimedia content, a national "listening tour," and more, Activating a Beloved Economy lifts up the stories of everyday people who have come together to co-create boldly different economic realities for their communities, ones that are bringing more joy, balance and prosperity. The aim of this 2-year initiative is to activate people across the US to co-create the new economic realities we long for and urgently need, in a way that passes a tipping point of change.

US Department of Arts and Culture / NEO Philanthropy General Support $80,000/2 years
The US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) is an action network of artists and cultural workers mobilizing creativity in the service of social and environmental justice. Locally, it supports individuals in leading arts-infused civic dialogues and changemaking initiatives, connecting them to training, resources, and one another. Nationally, it amplifies their impact through large-scale actions and calls for creative response, building momentum for positive social change and democratic cultural policy. In the second year of its two-year grant, the USDAC will continue to train artists and activists to lead culture shift in their communities, and to engage individuals and groups across the US in storytelling that illuminates the state of our union and invites visions of a just and sustainable future. Playfully performing the work of a people-powered department, USDAC harnesses artists’ skills to address the issues of our day, while nourishing the artist in us all.

Women's Foundation of California Culture Change Collaborative Fund $50,000
The Women's Foundation of California (WFC) sits at a unique and powerful nexus — investing grant dollars to support multi-issue movement building, training community leaders in public policy advocacy, and connecting key stakeholders across issues and sectors. Since 1979, WFC's program strategy has been rooted in a feminist, intersectional, multi-issue movement-building approach that recognizes the value of leaders coming together from a range of social justice movements to build deeper coalitions and support each other’s policy and movement agendas. The Culture Change Collaborative Fund will be a learning community of practice that will explore investments in field level research and deliver an evidence-based, community-generated narrative. It will build the connection and capacity of movement leaders and culture makers to coordinate efforts.

Grantee Facts

Sundance Institute

Project Name:
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

Amount Granted: