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AFS Folklore and Public Policy Working Groups
In 2008, the American Folklore Society’s Executive Board, in order to engage the field of folklore more fully in public policy arenas where the perspectives and work of folklorists can make significant contributions, began supporting small (ca. 6-member) working groups to carry out a project at the intersection of folklore studies with an appropriate area of public policy. Three such groups have been supported so far--the first worked on folklore and health policy issues, and the second on folklore's contribution to historic preservation policy; the third, just beginning its work, will focus on folklore and museum policy and practice.

Every two years, the Executive Board invites Society members to submit proposals to form the next in this series of working groups, which over 12-24 months will produce a series of related products designed to: 1) articulate the contributions that folklorists have made to the development, implementation, and evaluation of public policy in another area; and 2) highlight specific future applications of folklorists’ perspectives and work to that area of public policy.

When we say "public policy,” we mean decision-making initiatives engaged in by government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and community-based coalitions that result in regulations, laws, actions, and other efforts to address contemporary public issues. Folklorists have contributed to public policy in many ways—through problem identification, policy critique, research, consultation with local communities, needs analysis, strategy development, direction setting, advice, policy development and writing, evaluation, and information dissemination—in a variety of areas, including but not limited to intangible cultural heritage, cultural conservation, intellectual property, health, education, labor and employment, arts administration, the environment, rural and urban development, immigration, poverty, violence, language rights, and land rights.

Potential policy areas for this initiative might include ones of larger scale, such as immigration/refugee policy, food safety, sustainable agriculture, poverty, and climate change, or of smaller scope, such as diabetes, school violence, or obesity. AFS is happy to entertain proposals for work in all policy areas, but among our review considerations will be the appropriateness or "fit” of the proposed work and products to the scope of the public policy issues involved, the feasibility of the proposed work plan, and the ability of the group members (as evidenced by past accomplishments) to complete their work in a timely and effective manner.

We expect such working groups to produce the following four products:

  • an article (or some other written deliverable that targets the attention of policy makers) meeting the two criteria listed in paragraph 2 above, submitted to an appropriate peer-reviewed journal in the selected public policy area
  • resource materials on the selected public policy area (e.g., background readings, bibliographies, webographies) for the Society’s web site
  • professional development activities and/or sessions at the Society’s annual meeting that will acquaint folklorists with the necessary approaches and tools for effective work in the selected public policy area and/or reveal advances in disciplinary understandings and contributions to the resolution of contemporary social problems
  • participation in at least one other public presentation (e.g., a policy briefing or a conference presentation) in this public policy area
The Society’s Executive Board will select one proposal from those submitted, and will provide that working group with:
  • Up to $2,000 in AFS funds to support travel, accommodations, and meal costs for a two-day meeting of the working group at the Society’s offices, or in some other more convenient location
  • Up to $3,000 in additional AFS financial support to be used for other working group activities as identified by the group
  • Program time at an AFS annual meeting for the professional development activities and/or sessions mentioned above
We are looking for groups that bring together the best expertise in the field, and include participation by both senior and younger folklorists. An AFS member with proven experience in effectively coordinating team projects must serve as head of the group. Groups may include outside experts as appropriate.

To apply for this support, please submit an application of no more than five pages to AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner (afsexec@indiana.eduby December 15.

Please submit your application in PDF format. It must:

  • Describe the area of public policy in which your group wants to undertake work
  • Summarize the relevance of the perspectives of our field—the strengths that folklorists can bring—to the social issues involved in this public policy area
  • Summarize any past and present engagement by folklorists in this public policy area
  • Describe the specific activities the group will undertake and the specific outcomes of this work
  • Provide a timeline for the group’s work
  • Describe how the group will use the $3,000 in flexible AFS funding
In an appendix (and outside the page limitation noted above), please also provide brief professional biographies for all team members that focus on their previous work in your selected area of public policy, and evidence of the leadership experience of the person who will head the group.

The Executive Board will announce its funding decision in February. The project we support can begin immediately after acceptance, and must be completed within 12-24 months.

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American Folklore SocietySister Society: SIEF
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