Grants available to cover elections and democracy from a different lens

Up to $4,000 available from Solutions Journalism Network

With the 2020 election approaching, the scene is familiar: Dozens of candidates have entered the presidential fray, and many more have launched candidacies for Congress and state-level jobs. Already, many of their campaigns – and the news coverage about them – frame politics in ways that are simplistic and divisive.

The Solutions Journalism Network thinks there’s a better way. We believe that journalism can examine politics through a solutions-focused lens that offers a fuller and more useful view of civic life.

So we’re looking to support high-quality reporting that examines innovations in elections and citizenship that have the potential to yield better campaigns and a stronger democracy.

What emerging strategies, for example, promise to improve the accuracy of our vote counts? What are reasonable alternatives to gerrymandering? Who and what is working to bring sanity and equity to the way political campaigns are financed? What approaches will likely increase voter turnout on Election Day?

And how are citizens driving change in their communities, belying the widely held view that people are cut off from power? How are people working together across political divides to take on issues of shared urgency?

If you are a journalist interested in exploring these or similar questions, we have grants to help. At the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), we support in-depth reporting into what’s going right as a way to strengthen and complement coverage of what’s going wrong.

We’ve already helped the Miami Herald tell stories about how Florida officials are working to speed up recounts and improve accuracy. Mississippi Today explained how a nonprofit is using geofencing to get more college students to vote. We’ve also backed stories about bottom-up change, like WBEZ’s coverage of San Francisco’s Financial Justice project.

We know there are many more stories to tell about ranked-choice voting, candidate recruitment, campaign finance, and other efforts to improve our political system — and countless stories, too, about grassroots efforts that are reshaping neighborhoods and strengthening civic life. These are stories that could inform the coming election — and many elections after that.

Applications are now open for grants of up to $4,000 (with a very select few more than that). The proposed stories must relate to:

  • How the machinery of democracy works — initiatives to address voting, electoral and political reforms. Ranked-choice voting would fit here, for example.
  • Civic agency and mobilization — bottom-up community efforts that are changing the status quo or overcoming social, political or economic conflicts.

Let us know your ideas. If you’ve got a great story but aren’t sure it fits into the categories above, try us. We’ll try to make it work.

You can spend the grant money on travel or reader engagement or data analysis — just about anything but salary. We welcome shorter pieces as well as longer take-outs from any type of media. We love collaborative efforts.

The APPLICATION deadline for the next round of grants is Aug. 31.

Ideal proposals will show how the stories will incorporate the main elements of solutions journalism:

  • What response to a problem will be examined.
  • What data and/or research will show the effort is making a difference. (Evidence can be qualitative as well as quantitative.)
  • What insights the story could offer citizens and communities.
  • The limitations as well as the strengths of the effort being examined.

If we decide to support your project, and if you haven’t worked with SJN before, you must participate in an online webinar or in-person solutions journalism workshop. 

We also encourage news organizations to present a strategy for measuring the story or stories’ impact and to consider engagement activities that connect their reporting to constructive public discourse.

See the online application for more information, or contact Linda Shaw,, or Delaney Butler,

Applications will be reviewed within two weeks of when they’re submitted. Grantees have up to six months from the date of the award to publish their work.

Upon publication of their stories, award winners must submit a financial report and a 600-word narrative about their experience reporting from a solutions-journalism frame — a blog post that other journalists and news organizations can learn from.

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