Host "We Are Water MN"

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MHC acknowledges that competitive processes can create barriers and fatigue. You can find everything you need to apply below, but if you would rather have a conversation, give us a call. We will walk you through it. Contact Jennifer Tonko, program officer, at 651-772-4264 or

“We Are Water MN”: Program Description

Partnership: A partnership of six statewide organizations, “We Are Water MN” tells Minnesota’s water stories, bringing together personal narratives, historical content, and scientific information. Each of the partners – the Minnesota Humanities Center, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources – brings a different approach that strengthens Minnesotans’ relationships with and responsibilities to water.

Cohort: We work with host communities who see “We Are Water MN” as aligning with their own work. We orient them to the program as a cohort, hold monthly capacity-building webinars, make site visits, facilitate goal-setting meetings in their communities, and measure the quantity and depth of relationships that they build during the partnership. Host communities center and learn from absented voices during their hosting period.

Exhibit: “We Are Water MN” shares three key messages about water through a free and interactive traveling exhibit:

  1. Nobody knows water like the people who live here.
  2. We are the headwaters.
  3. People change water; what you do matters.

Visitors of all ages can contribute content and touch, manipulate, and engage with the exhibit. You can see pictures on our Flickr site. We create five exhibit sections specifically for each host community location: a map where visitors can add their stories, a collection of audio personal narratives, inspiration stories of people or organizations who protect and affect water, a story about a farmer or producer in your area, and regional water stories that share the specific conditions, geology, histories, or other characteristics of water in your area.

Stories: “We Are Water MN” also collects stories. A professional story gatherer works with each host community to collect personal narratives about the meaning of water and share them digitally.

Public programming: “We Are Water MN” host communities design public programming in partnership with other organizations and individuals in your community. Examples of past public programs include: contests; workshops; speakers; music, film, and theater festivals; companion exhibits; school partnerships; tours; and water tours or field trips.

Our work together: See what you would be responsible for and what MHC and its partners will provide.

  1. Connect: We’ll build a network of people who protect and affect water in your area.
  2. Engage: We’ll create community engagement activities and public events that build relationships and responsibilities to water and complement your community goals.
  3. Educate: We’ll share personal narratives, historical content, and scientific information about water in Minnesota and in host communities.

Host Communities Program Timeline:
Sept. 23-24, 2019: Host community orientation (Mille Lacs Indian Museum, Onamia)
Oct. 2019-March 2020: Capacity-building webinars, shared goal-setting meetings in communities, public event planning, locally-specific exhibit content gathering
April 15-16, 2020: Tour launch retreat (exact site TBD)
April 16-June 15, 2020: Host community #1
June 18-Aug. 17, 2020: Host community #2
Aug. 20-Oct. 19, 2020: Host community #3
Oct. 22-Dec. 21, 2020: Host community #4
Jan. 7-March 8, 2021: Host community #5
March 11-May 10, 2021: Host community #6

Program Goals and Core Values

MHC offers a new way to think about our future — grounded in the humanities. We collaborate with organizations and people through education, partnerships, and public programs to inspire community conversations, forge deep connections, and illuminate authentic, diverse voices across the state — especially those left out, marginalized, or otherwise absent from our education and public awareness.

We help people listen, connect, and understand each other better — because we know isolation and division are dangerous. The Humanities Center’s approach affirms we’re all in this together — using philosophy, literature, civics, history, language, and more.


  • Share state and local histories and narratives about water.
  • Build Minnesotans’ individual relationships with water by sharing multiple perspectives.
  • Build Minnesotans’ individual responsibilities to water.
  • Support the expansion of local networks within host communities.
  • Build relationships between Minnesotans through community engagement events and activities before, during, and after the exhibit.
  • Build host site capacity to practice the Minnesota Humanities Center’s Absent Narratives Approach™.

At the core of our work is the Absent Narratives Approach™, a values-driven framework for community engagement and collaboration. The four values ask us to put relationships with people at the center of community change-making and to center voices that have been absented. The four core values are:

  • Learn from and with multiple voices.
  • Build and strengthen diverse relationships.
  • Recognize the inequity (or dangers) of a single story.
  • Amplify community solutions for change.

Selection Process and Timeline

We will hold two rounds in the selection process. In the first round, MHC staff and partners will review Statements of Interest from interested and eligible applicants. MHC staff and partners will visit semifinalists as part of final selection.

11:59 p.m. June 10, 2019 – Statement of Interest deadline
June 28, 2019 – Semifinalist notification
July 8-Aug. 23, 2019 – MHC staff and partners interview semifinalists
Aug. 30, 2019 – Finalist notification

Eligibility and Funding Requirements

Who is eligible: Nonprofit organizations (with 501(c)(3) status or a fiscal sponsor that holds 501(c)(3) status), not-for-profit entities, tribal nations, and state/municipal public agencies such as K-12 schools, colleges/universities, or libraries are eligible to apply. All organizations must be based in Minnesota, in good standing with the IRS, and up to date on reporting and state requirements for any funds previously awarded by the Minnesota Humanities Center.

Note: In good standing with the IRS means that the organization has completed all reporting requirements and can therefore receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. We use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search to confirm IRS compliance.

If an organization or project does not meet all of the above requirements, we will not consider it.

How to Apply – Round One

Eligible organizations can submit Statements of Interest in any of the following formats: online form, postal mail, video, or phone message. You may also suggest an alternative method to MHC.

Statements of Interest, regardless of format, must include the following information:

  1. Organization name
  2. Organization address
  3. If applicable, organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) or fiscal sponsor information
  4. Project contact information (phone and email)
  5. What would you like us to know about your organization/community?
  6. Tell us about your general community/organizational priorities right now.
  7. What community/organizational goals would “We Are Water MN” help you meet?
  8. What’s going on with water in your community and how do you think “We Are Water MN” can help?
  9. What partners do you work with currently?
  10. Who do you want to build relationships with?
  11. Given what you know now about the program goals, how would you try to achieve the program goals in your community?
  12. Given what you know now about the Absent Narratives Approach™ and four core values, how would you try to implement the core values in your community?

Ready to submit? Respond to the questions above by one of the following methods:

  • Online form: Submit through our online form
  • Phone: Leave us a message at 651-772-4276
  • Email: Send your Statement of Interest to
  • Video: Email us a link to your video (no longer than 10 minutes) to
  • Postal mail: Mail your Statement of Interest to: (*must be postmarked by deadline)
    Minnesota Humanities Center
    C/O We Are Water MN host community applications
    987 Ivy Avenue East
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55106

If you have questions or would like to submit your Statement of Interest in a way not mentioned above, contact Laura Benson, assistant director of grants and administration: or 651-772-4244.

Round One Assessment Criteria

MHC and our partners will assess proposals on the following criteria:

Program Goals
How well will the host community meet the program goals and integrate the Absent Narratives ApproachTM practices during their hosting period?

How well will the host community integrate the work of hosting “We Are Water MN” into their greater goals and priorities?

How well will the host community learn from relationships they develop over the course of their hosting?

To what extent does the host community demonstrate the skills, interest, and capacity to add to the existing network of “We Are Water MN” host sites and the existing networks of MHC and its partners?

Clean Water Fund
What is the host community’s potential to define and make progress toward a shared community goal that will also meet the goals of the Minnesota Clean Water Fund?

In addition to the criteria above, we will give preference to organizations whose staff and board reflect the communities they serve, organizations led by indigenous people and people of color, and/or organizations in greater Minnesota.