Common Ground Grants are currently on hold.
Please contact Alannah Glickman with any questions.

The Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs and the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, is now accepting proposals for Common Ground Grants. Common Ground Grants aim to support initiatives that increase interest in engaging in the process of democracy through nonpartisan political learning and discussion on the Washington University campus and in the St. Louis community. 

The Common Ground Grant review committee seeks applicants whose visions align with the grant criteria, adapted from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education’s Election Imperatives. These imperatives focus on expanding political discussion to be at the forefront year-round and preparing students to be active and informed agents in our democracy. Special consideration will be given to grant proposals that are designed collaboratively, focus on addressing ideological divisions, and involve transformative engagement that will have a lasting impact on the university. 

Grant Information:

Grant Criteria

Common Ground Grant applicants should aim to develop informed political thinkers on the Washington University Campus and beyond, in order to combat the polarization often characterizing political dialogue in recent years. Applications should address this in one or more of the following ways: 

  • Reflection on past elections and using the results to reimagine political learning and participation, year-round, 
  • Leverage election seasons, as well as off-election years, to advance understanding and respect among students of different ideological and cultural backgrounds, 
  • Encourage student conversation involving policy issues, social conflicts, and campus and community concerns through teaching students how to frame respectful, yet meaningful, discussions of policy and identity, 
  • Improve discussions relating to politics and policy, especially in courses and extracurricular groups across disciplines. 
  • Commit to the democratic principles of freedom of speech, equality, community, collaboration, and shared responsibility without allowing conflict into the mix, 
  • Encourage and support student-led initiative involving public issues and campus concerns; Washington University students should be excited about engaging in civil dialogue and have the power to be pioneers for productive conversation, meaning it is necessary to give them a voice in these matters. 

Addressing at least one of the bullets listed above is a requirement for receiving approval for a Common Ground Grant. 

Grant Size

We welcome proposals that range from $50 to $1,500.


Washington University undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff are eligible to apply. Community partners and local Washington University alumni may apply in collaboration with an individual, group, or department at Washington University. Student awardees must complete their projects prior to graduation. 

Grant applicants are encouraged to attend an informational meeting to learn about the proposal process. A proposal review meeting with Gephardt Institute staff person and Common Ground Grant committee chair, Colleen Smyth, is required prior to proposal submission. For proposals including a community partner, applicants must submit a signed letter of support from the community organization staff person involved with the proposal. 

Examples of Eligible Common Ground Grant Proposals
  • Special Events
  • Project or interactive activity
  • Community meetings 
  • Trainings
  • Performance or art installations
  • Movie screening and dialogue
  • Civic dialogues 
  • Materials or supplies

*Note: All projects must be remote for the Spring 2021 semester.

Funding Process

Common Ground Grant proposals must be awarded in advance of activities or projects being implemented. Grants are dispersed by the Gephardt Institute through the Civic Engagement Fund, which reimburses grantees for expenses. Grant recipients must document all purchases and expenses with itemized receipts to submit for reimbursement after completion of the proposed activity. All grantees are expected to document the outcome of the grant award through submission of a grant report form, to be submitted no more than one year from the date of the award letter. Grantees may be requested to make presentations or offer materials/testimonial to be included in electronic and print communications. 

Application Process:

Contact Information:

For more information about the Civic Engagement Fund please visit our website or email:

Apply now! Proposals reviewed on a rolling basis.