RFP: Community engagement capacity building and program support

Introduction: The Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC) is seeking proposals from community engagement specialists to build the capacity to practice equitable community engagement in We Are Water MN host communities.

Organization Overview: Founded in 1971, MHC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit affiliated with and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. MHC’s vision is a just society that is connected, curious, and compassionate, and its mission is to connect our past, present and future by bringing people together to increase understanding and spark change. Collaborating with individuals, organizations, and communities, it is our goal to bring transformational humanities programming into the lives of Minnesotans throughout the state.

At the core of our work is the Absent Narratives Approach, a principles-driven framework for community engagement and collaboration. These principles ask us to put relationships with people at the center of community change-making and to center voices that have been absented. The four core values are:

  • Build and Strengthen Relationships
  • Recognize the Power of Story and the Dangers of Absence
  • Learn from and With Multiple Voices
  • Amplify Community Solutions for Change

Program Overview: We Are Water MN is a traveling exhibit and community engagement program that builds relationships with and responsibilities to water. MHC is the lead partner in a cohort of seven partner organizations (State Partners) which include MHC, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, and the University of Minnesota Extension-Water Resource Center. The State Partners are working with a group of five communities, each with a lead organization (Host Site Partners) who are hosting the traveling exhibit, building community capacity to protect water in their area, and designing public activities to complement We Are Water MN. The Host Site Partners are City of Winona, Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance, Legacy of the Lakes Museum, Otter Tail County, and Dakota County. The exhibition schedule is (all dates are 2022) City of Winona, March 3-April 25; Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance, April 28-June 20; Legacy of the Lakes Museum, June 23-August 15; Otter Tail County, August 18-October 10; Dakota County, October 13-December 5.

Scope of the Project: MHC is seeking proposals from community engagement specialists who will:

  1. Facilitate the development of community engagement skills for Host Site Partners by coaching each Host Site Partner on the development of community relationships and the incorporation of Minnesota Humanities Center’s Absent Narratives Approach into Host Site Partner’s programmatic activities, until Host Site Partner’s hosting activities end.
  2. Report regularly to State Partners on Host Site Partner status, including information about current and planned for community relationships, challenges and opportunities, and opportunities for assistance from or engagement with State Partners.
  3. Support the creation of locally relevant exhibit content including drafting engaging descriptions and prompts for community stories provided by MHC.
  4. Support programmatic activities though regular relationship maintenance with Host Site Partners and by completing reports tracking Host Site Partner activities, reviewing Host Site Partner communications for consistency, accuracy, and adherence to programmatic requirements, and timely data entry of materials used for evaluation and programmatic record-keeping.

Project Deliverables

  1. Monthly coaching with each Host Site Partner to consult on community relationship development and opportunities to incorporate MHC’s Absent Narratives Approach into local programmatic activities, until Host Site Partner’s hosting activities end.
  2. Serve as first point of contact between Host Site Partners and MHC. Communicate need for additional information to MHC.
  3. Review public activities proposed by Host Site Partners and share final activity design with MHC.
  4. Collaborate on the design and facilitation of 5 remote meetings where all Host Site Partners learn from each Host Site Partner after their activities have ended (Host Site Closing Meeting). Record and share meeting notes with Host Site Partners. Provide a brief written summary for State Partners.
  5. Monthly report for each Host Site Partner that includes name of community partners, approach/relationship building efforts, challenges/opportunities, successes, advice shared, requests/opportunities for assistance/engagement from State Partners, and resolution/results, until Host Site Partner’s hosting activities end.
  6. Preparation of monthly upcoming activities report for State Partners.
  7. Monthly check-in with MHC staff, humanities officer Jennifer Tonko.
  8. Brief descriptions and visitor prompts for up to ten audio stories per Host Site Partner.
  9. Select quotes from up to thirty audio stories for inclusion in the exhibit per Host Site Partner.
  10. Reporting on and recording Host Site Partners’ programmatic activities to MHC.
  11. Review Host Site Partner public communications about their activities for consistency, accuracy, and adherence to programmatic requirements.
  12. Data entry for materials collected from visitors to the exhibit per Host Site Partner.
  13. Preparation and mailing of thank you gifts and survey incentives per Host Site Partner.

All contract activities must be completed by March 1, 2023. Given the consecutive nature of the programming, this role will interact with each of the Host Site Partners in a way appropriate to their position in the exhibition schedule.

These activities must coordinate with Host Site Partners’ and State Partners’ work schedules and will require time during regular business hours. These activities may require 10-15 hours per week.

The MHC liaison, Jennifer Tonko, will work with the Consultant to answer questions, connect Consultant with Host Site Partners, provide access to relevant documents, materials, files, and file sharing and communications systems, and provide training in the Minnesota Humanities Center’s Absent Narratives Approach.


MHC is looking for a consultant with expertise in the following areas:

Equity-centered practices

Capacity building for local government units and non-profit organizations

Coaching local government units and non-profit organizations on building and sustaining professional relationships and partnerships

Developing, executing, and reporting on community engagement plans

Co-planning and collaboration to foster equity and engagement

Socially engaging event and activity design

Project management for projects with budgets of $100,000 or more

Communicating with multiple stakeholders

Providing timely and effective reports

Written and oral communication

The following qualifications are not required but are preferred by MHC:

Experience with MHC’s Absent Narratives Approach

Proposal Submission Instructions

Please submit your complete proposal to Jennifer Tonko, Minnesota Humanities Center humanities officer, by email at jennifer@mnhum.org by May 13. Please use the subject line “We Are Water host site capacity contract.”

Your proposal submission should set forth each of the questions identified below and your response to each question. In addition to answering the questions below, please provide a cover letter addressing your capacity and ability to successfully complete the project.

  1. Please provide information on your experience, a general overview of your coaching and capacity building approach, an overview of how you engage with equity, and your project management approach.
  2. Please identify the name, mailing address, email address, and phone number of the primary contact person for your submission. (MHC will use this information to provide an update to you on the status of your proposal.)
  3. Please submit a proposed budget for the project including the anticipated number of hours and the general timeline from beginning to completion of the project. MHC does not permit subcontractors to be used to complete this project.
  4. Please provide information on two or three relevant past projects including why the prior projects are relevant.
  5. Please provide the name and contact information for three references.

All proposals received by MHC on or after May 14 will not be considered.

All individuals and organizations that submit a request for proposal will be contacted by MHC on or before May 20.

If you have any questions concerning the RFP or need accommodation to complete your proposal submission, please contact Jennifer Tonko at jennifer@mnhum.org or 651-772-4264.


RFP Release Date: April 14, 2022

Proposal Due to MHC: May 13, 2022

Consultant Selected: June 3, 2022

Project Completion: On or before March 1, 2023

This RFP does not obligate MHC to award a contract to complete the project. MHC reserves the right to unilaterally cancel this solicitation if it deems that none of the proposals submitted meet the needs of MHC.