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How does MAC evaluate grant applications?

By Akoulina Connell

MAC uses the peer assessment process to award most grants. That means that qualified artists and arts professionals make the funding decisions.

If you are a professional artist in Manitoba you can participate in this process. It’s a great way to serve the community and to get an inside perspective on how awards are made.

 

Who is eligible to assess?

MAC maintains an extensive database of potential jurors from Manitoba and across Canada. All professional Manitoba artists are eligible for inclusion in this database. If you’ve been awarded a MAC grant, you are already in our database and automatically eligible to be a peer assessor.

If you aren’t already in our database, you can apply online through our website by filling out a Peer Assessor Registration Form and submitting a CV.

 

Peer Assessor selection and critical diversity

For every grant application deadline, Program Consultants are responsible for proposing a list of potential assessors for approval by management. They review all submitted applications and compile a long-list of potential assessors. This list is made up of individuals with expertise in the various genres and disciplines reflected in the applications that also takes into consideration conflicts of interest.

In addition, MAC is committed to critical diversity, to ensure that there is more than one perspective on excellence in the decision-making process. We work hard to ensure there is diversity of representation by balancing:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Region
  • Official languages
  • Indigenous
  • Culturally diverse
  • Deaf and disability
  • LGBT2Q*

Once management approves the long-list of potential assessors for a given program, a confidential email is sent to the entire list inquiring after their interest and availability to participate. The assessors who are selected in the end are those that are available and balance all the needs of the applications. Peer assessors are paid honoraria and reading fees.

If you have been a peer assessor on a MAC jury, you cannot be asked again for 2 years. This ensures that bias is removed as much as possible from the granting process.

Each jury’s composition is a unique grouping of people making decisions on what projects get supported. No two juries will yield the same results – so apply often and don’t get discouraged if your proposal isn’t supported the first time.

 

Evaluation

Once the assessors are convened, the Consultant gives the Charge to the Jury which outlines the expectations of the jurors and assessment process. The Consultant then reviews the program criteria and distributes evaluation sheets.

Conflicts of interest are declared before proceeding, so that if anyone in the jury room, has a conflict of interest with any of the files, that individual must leave the jury room for deliberations around that file. This way, all remaining jurors can express themselves freely and personal bias is not at play.

If MAC staff declares a conflict of interest with a file they do not participate on any part of the jury or evaluation process and another MAC staff member is assigned to that jury.

Once deliberations begin, the Consultant plays a neutral role: they are present to facilitate the decision-making process, not to interfere with outcomes. The main criterion for determining awards is the artistic merit of the application.

At the end of deliberations, the peer assessors sign off on the results. The results of every peer assessment process are vetted by management before notifications are sent out. In the case of grants to operating clients, the results are subjected to an additional layer of scrutiny, and are vetted by the full Council.

 

Notification Process

There are three categories of possible outcome for a grant application:

  • Approved – a grant is made to the applicant.
  • Merit – the project scored within the range for grant allocations, but there were insufficient funds to make a grant.
  • Declined – the project did not achieve a high enough score to be considered for a grant.

Notifications of the outcomes are sent to the grant applicants. When a grant is awarded, successful applicants submit a signed funding agreement to access payment.

 

Feedback

Program Consultants are committed to helping you increase their grant-writing skills, whether you’re a first-time applicant or an established artist.

If your application is not successful, you are encouraged to come in for a consultation prior to submitting your next grant application. By booking consultations early, our Program Consultants are better able to provide advice on how to strengthen the core elements of a proposal.

 

Benefits

Entrusting peers with granting decisions allows MAC to involve the arts community directly in its operations, while making decisions at arm’s length from government and from the competing interests of the applicants.

In addition to ensuring that decisions are made by experts in the arts, and that bias is removed from the process, the peer assessment process is one of the few places where professional artists and arts administrators convene to discuss the merit of work and exciting developments in artistic practice.

This opportunity is unique – it builds the capacities of new assessors, offers community members from across Manitoba an opportunity to meet (often for the first time), provides a networking opportunity, and exposes participants to divergent perspectives and new developments in the Manitoba arts-ecosystem.

 

Previous posts:

I Submitted My Manitoba Arts Council Grant Application… Now What!? by Diana Sefa

Stand and Be Counted: Why Completing MAC’s Voluntary Self-Identification Form is so Important by Akoulina Connell

 

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