2021 Call for Applications for Visual Storytelling Projects that Promote a Positive Vision for Appalachia’s Future

Duration of program: November 2021 – September 2022

Seeking: Six participants and two professional mentors

New Media Advocacy Project (NMAP) invites applications for a 10-month mentorship program designed to support individuals from Black, brown, indigenous, and other communities of color as well as LGBTQIA individuals living in Central Appalachia (West Virginia, Southeastern Ohio, Southern Pennsylvania, and Eastern Kentucky) in creating and distributing visual storytelling projects that advance a new narrative for the region’s future. Over the course of the program, participants will create visual stories of their choosing for distribution in their own communities. The media produced may be in any format that can be shared with the public (e.g. short-form video, web-docs, interactive or multimedia installation, AR/VR, animation, crowd-sourced community storytelling, comics, photography, dance, theater, etc.) around the theme of creating a world that nurtures the next generation of Appalachians

About NMAP
NMAP’s mission is to partner with change makers to tell stories that promote a more equitable world. Based in New York City, we work with activists and organizations all over the world to make measurable progress on complex problems where new narratives, reframing, and unconventional approaches are most needed.

NMAP envisions a world where equality and justice are embraced and where movements can effectively topple unjust power. We work with mission-aligned movements to understand the nuanced picture of beliefs, values, and behaviors that underlie entrenched and polarizing issues. We create new narratives around issues that matter with the goal of building dominant political and cultural narratives that promote a world in which everyone can thrive. We’ve established networks globally through more than 100 civil society partnerships in 40 countries over the last decade.

The Appalachia Reframed program is part of NMAP’s larger Rights Reframed Mentorship Program, which aims to improve attitudes towards social issues by experimenting with new approaches to storytelling and exploring more creative forms of audience engagement. Launched in 2018, NMAP established the Rights Reframed mentorship program for activists, artists, filmmakers, and journalists in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Southern Caucasus that were interested in using visual media to reframe tough human rights issues in their countries. Appalachia Reframed will be the first time this program has operated in the U.S.

About Appalachia Reframed

Young Appalachians will inherit the consequences of decisions made today the proposed expansion of the fossil fuel industry in the region. LGBTQIA and BIPOC Appalachians disproportionately bear the environmental and economic consequences of fossil fuel projects, and have often been excluded from economic policy discussion and mainstream environmental rights narratives. This program seeks to center these communities and the vision for a future they want to see. 

This project builds on two years of work that NMAP has done in partnership with two environmental advocacy organizations in Central Appalachia to better understand the narrative environment around the fracked gas and plastics (petrochemicals) industry in the region in order to learn more about how environmental advocates could expand their movements. 

As part of that work, we spoke with a variety of everyday people throughout the region to learn more about their hopes for the future, thoughts on community and family, and lived experiences and opinions in the context of jobs and industry. We found that there’s still a need to stop harmful industries and systems, but even more importantly, there’s a bigger need to craft a vision—a narrative—of what can come next. There’s a need to dream big and promote a narrative that bridges the region’s past, but connects it to a better future. That requires imagination, flexibility, and optimism. 

With that in mind, we worked to craft a new narrative below, which was also tested with people throughout Appalachia and received an overwhelmingly positive response. This narrative will be the jumping off point and inspiration for the stories, art, and media produced by Appalachia Reframed participants: 

Too many decades of investment in companies that come to Appalachia to pillage our land, and divestment from the people who live on that land have frayed the fabric of our families and our community. We have a long legacy of working hard for a better world, but this moment calls for creative new ways of building that better world here at home, for our kids.

Our children and grandchildren deserve to inherit an Appalachia with clear water to drink, fresh air to breathe, and meaningful work to do. Right now, too many of our young people feel that they have to leave the home and families they love to create livelihoods that give them a sense of meaning. So Appalachians of all ages are hard at work weaving together our many strengths and talents to create a tapestry of possibilities for the next generation.

Together, we’re finding ways to expand healthy options for our kids and grandkids so they can stay close to home and participate in their communities; we’re calling for greater investments in our wealth of creative people and small business owners so that they can make a living by keeping our cultural legacy vibrant; and we’re creating policies that make it possible for younger generations to put down roots on their own land so that they nurture the next generation of Appalachians.

We do not expect participants to literally incorporate this narrative into their pieces, but hope that it sparks story or art ideas that promote a positive future for each participant’s community—something achievable to hope for and work towards.  

Appalachia Reframed is open to storytellers of all kinds. If you have an idea for a visual storytelling project that will share a new image of Appalachia’s future, we want to hear it. The program is open to people from all professional or creative backgrounds, participants affiliated with environmental or human rights organizations, individual activists, media makers, artists of all practices—basically storytellers who are passionate about positively influencing their community’s attitudes towards environmental justice and sustainability, as well as the interplay between environmental, racial, economic, and gender justice. The goal of the program is to provide space to experiment with a new narrative, and storytelling approaches that go beyond traditional advocacy approaches. 

Program Details

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older by Oct. 1, 2021, live in Central Appalachia, be able to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson), and be a member of a BIPOC or the LGBTQIA community.

Over the course of the program, mentee participants will:

  • Produce and distribute one visual storytelling piece on a related issue of their choosing—this issue must reinforce the primary narrative (see below) that has already been tested with a range of Appalachian community members
  • Receive in-depth mentoring on visual storytelling advocacy and production from NMAP and regional professional mentors from culturally and artistically relevant backgrounds
  • Form focus groups to test and refine storytelling concepts
  • Participate in a weeklong introductory workshop focused on narrative change concepts, storytelling approaches, and more
  • Participate in one to two-hour remote meetings twice a month with a mentor, who will support participants in the conception, production, and distribution of their projects.
  • Receive a small grant of $2,500 to produce their projects; alternatively, applicants can apply in teams of two for a single project budget of $5,000

As mentioned, the mentorship program will begin with a week-long regional kick-off meeting in mid-November 2021, followed by a second virtual convening in May 2022 focused on reviewing first versions of each project, including screening any rough cuts or reviewing storyboards, and planning for distribution. Travel expenses to the in-person meeting will be covered by the program. Please note, we will be monitoring the COVID-19 context closely and, depending on safety, might switch to a virtual fall convening. Participants will be expected to commit an average of 10 hours per week during the program, including regular online meetings with mentors and independent production work. Production hours are flexible and may be worked around a participant’s individual schedule. No relocation is required to participate in the program.

Mentee Selection criteria

The program is seeking six participants from Central Appalachia, including West Virginia, Southeastern Ohio, and Southern Pennsylvania.

Preference will be given to maintaining a geographical and gender balance among participants as well as unique and creative project ideas. Please note, these ideas should be general and do not need to be detailed or fully fleshed out. Part of the participation process will include creative concepting and ideation that incorporates lessons and tactics from the first convening. We expect project ideas to evolve over the course of the year. 

Applicants should be able to demonstrate:

  • An awareness of the social justice and environmental rights situation in their community and the current messaging around these issues, especially as they relate to the future
  • A creative project idea that promotes an inspiring vision of a just, equitable, and sustainable future that would enable your community to thrive—these can be as imaginative or “pie in the sky” as applicants like
  • A capacity for and openness to reframing existing messaging in your community and region
  • Strong community connections
  • The program will be conducted primarily in English, but people from a range of backgrounds are encouraged to apply. We will cover the costs of translation and interpretation if needed.
Mentee Application Deadline

Please read the application and fill out all of the questions by November 12, 2021 at midnight.

Those accepted to the program will be notified by December 3, 2021.

Interested in Being a Mentor?

We’re also looking for two professional BIPOC and/or LGBT+ artists from any background (photography, film, oral history visual storytelling, etc.) from or living in Appalachia to serve as mentors throughout the duration of this project. Mentors help guide the mentees throughout the life of their project, from concepting to creation to distribution, with the goal of ensuring the mentees can successfully design and implement their vision.

Each mentor will be paired with two mentees that they will meet with regularly beginning in December, 2021, however mentors will also need to be available for the kick-off convening in November. Mentor applicants should be able to demonstrate:

  • An ability to help others bring their creative vision to life (applicants with a experience teaching welcome)
  • A capacity for and openness to working outside of one’s preferred medium
  • Roots in Central Appalachia (applicants must have either been raised there or are currently living there)
  • An understanding of narrative and storytelling for change

Mentors will be provided a monthly stipend of $1,000 for their time. Please send a cover letter detailing why you’re interested in serving as a mentor for this project, a little bit about yourself and your work, your CV or resume, and three work samples as links or attachments to apply@newmediaadvocacy.org with the subject “Appalachia Reframed Mentor Application” by November 12, 2021 at midnight.