People's Liberty launching reimagined Haile Fellowship application as "civic sabbatical"

If you visited the People’s Liberty website in December, you might have encountered a message that began “Dear Cincinnati: It’s not you, it’s us.” The philanthropic lab was in the process of reworking its application for the Haile Fellowship.
The fellowship is People’s Liberty’s “marquee grant” and worth its headliner status, with two grants per year worth $100,000 each given to an individual along with the challenge to “research, plan, implement and present the results of a big idea that could change our community’s future” during the grant period.
After a successful first year of the fellowship program, People’s Liberty was actually partway through the application process for the second year when the staff decided it needed to change.
“As a philanthropic lab, we are constantly learning, tweaking things, and everything we do is changing all the time,” explains CEO Eric Avner. “This one was pretty prominent because we were in the middle of the application process.”
Avner explains that the catalyst for the change was a forum the organization hosted of funders from all over the country who provide grants to individuals. During the day and a half of conversations, People’s Liberty heard from other grantmakers that what was really important wasn’t necessarily the work grantees accomplished during their fellowship window but the longer-term results over the following three to five years.
“What we quickly realized was that we were treating the Haile Foundation Grant like a $100,000 project grant,” Avner says.
So the People’s Liberty team stopped the process to rethink the questions they were asking applicants. The goal changed to focus not just on the nuts and bolts of the proposed project but on the individual applying. This way, People’s Liberty hopes to grow strong local leaders and create an impact that lasts beyond the fellowship year.
The redesigned application opens Jan. 13 at 9 a.m., followed by an information session at the People’s Liberty office in Over-the-Rhine at 6 p.m. Interested applicants can arrange 20-minute meetings with the People’s Liberty staff over the next few weeks. Applications close Jan. 29, with the two 2016 winners announced in late February.
Avner is happy with the new version of the application.
“This is a unique opportunity (for grantees) to take a civic-based sabbatical,” he says. “I encourage people to take on this opportunity to change the city and change themselves in the process.”
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