Call for Applications: Tech-Enhanced Engagement Journalism Grants for Educators

Call for Applicants

The journalism community is simultaneously navigating the rapid adoption and growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools alongside an election cycle that will bring to light the issues that matter most to communities across the country. 

We’re introducing a new way for journalists to better understand and listen to their communities. We’ve built a technology-enhanced model for engagement journalism where journalists and journalists-in-training can collect, understand, and share nuanced stories from underheard community members at scale. 

Thanks to support from the Knight Foundation, we’re inviting a cohort of 8 – 10 journalism educators to pioneer these new tools through real reporting projects, which will in turn support a process of active listening that increases trust and understanding between journalists-in-training and their community members. 

In addition to early access to these cutting-edge AI-supported tools and connected training, selected journalism educators will receive $10,000 for their time and participation.

Cortico’s platform and methods – developed in collaboration with MIT’s Center for Constructive Communication – offer a new way to collect, understand, and share small-group conversations. Program participants will record conversations with members of underheard communities in the context of the 2024 election, then test newly developed AI tools to help analyze those conversations. 

Our innovative approach combines:

  • Recorded small-group conversations focused on personal experiences
  • Advanced digital tools that make it easier to analyze and elevate real voices
  • A community-powered & AI-supported approach to making sense of qualitative data

Over the course of this program, journalism educators will learn this new set of tools, and then organize a team of students at their institutions to bring the tools into engagement journalism projects. Moreover, this program will provide participants an opportunity to imagine how to integrate these tools and methods into future courses. Although the value of these projects will be distinctly local, the stories collected across locations will provide a unique opportunity to compare perspectives on this election from a diverse set of communities. 

We have worked with many journalism schools in the past (see examples with the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Madison), and are excited to partner with educators from across the country to support the creation of journalistic content that addresses the topics that matter most to communities in this election year. 

Together, we will uncover and document what issues matter most to communities in this important year as well as establish a sustainable model for tech-enhanced engagement journalism practices that will endure beyond the pilot. This project is about listening to citizens and equipping journalism educators and the next generation of journalists with tools to build their capacity to listen.

Our Ask:

We’re inviting 8-10 journalism educators from academic institutions around the country to learn and deploy (with their students) Cortico’s human-centered process for story collection and understanding alongside technologies for analyzing and sharing conversations – including the Fora platform and new AI tools. 

Participating educators will learn together in a cohort, and in the spirit of this pilot, learnings will be collated to build a model for future use and broader adoption.

In addition to local channels, conversations will be shared broadly by Cortico and the Knight Foundation to give community voices from around the country a better chance of creating real impact.


Selected journalism educators will receive $10,000 for their time and effort, as well as to cover any (minimal) project-specific costs.  

Interested applicants:Read this Call for Applications below and submit your application using this simple application form. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout May in the lead-up to the program’s launch in early June.

Application link: Click here

Candidates will be notified of their application status within 4 business days of their submission. All eligible partners will then have a 30-minute follow-up call with a member of the Cortico team to discuss next steps.

Selection criteria include:

  • Being a journalism educator at a university or college with access to a group of students to pilot the tools and methods covered in this program
  • Experience organizing community conversations and/or conducting/teaching engagement journalism practices
  • Interest in shaping the future integration of AI tools into journalism 

Key Dates and Deliverables:

Early June: Virtual project launch meeting

June: Learning & Design

  • Educators will be required to attend an intensive virtual summer workshop series (approximately six 1.5 -2 hour sessions with 2-3 co-work sessions over the course of three weeks) in order to learn Cortico’s methodology, as well as how to use Cortico’s platform and new AI-supported conversation analysis tools.
    • Part of this workshop series will be dedicated to project design with support from the Cortico team in imagining how to bring tools to students in the fall.

August – November: Local Pilots

  • In the fall, educators will then introduce a project of their design at their institution based on Cortico’s three-step process:
    • Listening: With students,host 6-8 recorded, small-group conversations with 4-6 community participants each in early fall, using a lightly structured conversation guide to lead conversations.
      • All cohort members will be asked to use one shared question to connect conversations from across all conversations in this project. 
    • Sensemaking: Upload and analyze recorded conversations using Fora Voices and Insights platforms and newly developed AI sensemaking tools alongside Cortico’s sensemaking methodology
    • Sharing: Contribute to written narrative summarizing lessons learned from community conversations for an interactive portal website (see an example portal from Durham, NC)
  • To evaluate the efficacy of these methods and tools, cohort members will conduct pre/post-conversation surveys with conversation participants 
  • To help Cortico tell the story of the project, cohort members will provide periodic project updates (i.e., what you’re hearing in community conversations, published content using conversation highlights)
  • To showcase and celebrate the cohort’s work, participants will be invited to a virtual launch event for the project portal (interactive website highlighting community voices) in October

December – February: Debrief & Imagining Next Steps

  • Provide feedback to help improve Fora platform, AI sensemaking, and workshops
    • Surveys, 1-hour debrief conversation
  • Help scale this approach
    • Contribute to development of curriculum materials to teach future journalists how to apply these methods and tools
    • Cohort members will be invited to share the Fora platform with their institutions for organizational adoption; each institution will be provided a trial license beyond the project period to begin to imagine other applications
  • Attend an end-of-project showcase event in spring 2025, sharing work across locations with support from MIT Center for Constructive Communication (TBD virtual/in-person at MIT campus)


Please reach out to Ethan Walker, Manager of Programs and Partnerships at 
Selected partners will be working closely with the non-profit Cortico

This initiative is funded by The Knight Foundation

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Cortico is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization led by a multidisciplinary team of experts in community engagement, technology and non-profit management. We strive to meld two elements not typically found in one space: technological innovation and community-centered advocacy. We'd love to keep you up to date on what we're doing!