Partners in Action

Sanctuaries, part of the 2018-2019 Partners in Action cohort, leads a workshop at ROOTS Weekend: Jacksonville. Photo: Toni Smailagic


After five cycles of Partners in Action, we are pausing in 2020 to reflect and understand how the program has been beneficial and how it can make a deeper impact.

Launched in 2013 as a reimagining of the 20+ year old Community/Artists Partnership Program, ROOTS members, friends, consultants, and the partner cohorts themselves have been an integral part in shaping the program. Thank you to everyone who joined us on this journey to build the Partners in Action program!

During this year-long hiatus, we will gather all the past recipients and key support for a Partners in Action Reunion at Highlander Research & Education Center in New Market, TN this June.

Also, 2020 will see the launch of our Partners for Change program that is seeded by and shares the values and organizing principles of Partners in Action. For more information about Partners for Change, please see our website.


What Is Partners In Action?

Program Region

The Benefit Of Being In A ROOTS Partnership

Who And What Kinds Of Projects Are Eligible?

ROOTS Partners In Action Policy Statement

Why ROOTS Values Partnership



Partners in Action is a program that allows ROOTS the opportunity to be a supportive partner working with progressive activist artists from all artistic disciplines. PIA funds social justice partnerships in grassroots communities throughout ROOTS’ fourteen state region* in the U.S. South. Artist(s)-led partnerships may include social services organizations, arts and cultural presenting organizations, a group of teachers, neighborhood and community associations, an extended family, or a group organized around an issue, cause, or concern. Our goal is to support proposals that are culturally rooted, clear in their objectives, and creative in their approaches. Partners in Action offers support and resources needed to work with more strategy and consistency.

Our interest is in partnerships that are equitable and reciprocal. It is important that all partners together have identified specific actions, issues, challenges, activities, or opportunities that with more support, both human and material, are ready to be activated. The program seeks to illuminate the centrality of the arts and culture as major tools for grassroots organizing. Through Partners in Action, we seek to build effective multi-tiered partnerships in pursuit of individual and community transformation. This is the heart of Alternate ROOTS’ work.  

Successful applications will demonstrate a strong, committed partnership between the applicants and their partner(s), clarity of intent, and thoughtful goals and objectives. The project goals should reflect what works best for all partners, and how every partner equally shares in shaping the project outcomes. Projects may range along a spectrum of readiness but those that are in the development stage are encouraged to apply for Artistic Assistance: Project Development.

The partnership period is 18 months. You may apply for a range of support including technical assistance only (non-monetary, staff, and in-kind support), and up to $20,000 in funding in addition to technical support. Not all projects will receive direct financial support as part of a ROOTS partnership.


All projects must take place within the Alternate ROOTS service area: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Applications from artists working in these states are an organizational priority: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Texas. Preference will be given to previously unsuccessful applicants and those who have not received a Partners in Action partnership before.

Paula Larke leads participants in a drum circle at ROOTS Week 2017. Photo: Melisa Cardona


We like to share our resources, our network of artists, educators, cultural workers, administrators, activists, facilitators, and trainers. We even share staff, where appropriate. For a seat at the partnership table, we bring our collective understanding of cultural organizing, and years of knowledge and experience to support the building of equitable and reciprocal partnerships between individuals and local organizations. Reciprocity means all partners share in the work, reap some benefits, and contribute to the outcomes.

What Alternate ROOTS Brings To The Partnership:

  • We begin with a Community Visit engaging local constituents and partners to explore the development, process, and progress of their partnership as their project plans.
  • We can help with technical assistance which can include, but is not limited to, support in the areas of: press, promotion, marketing, fundraising, logistics, administration, and fiscal sponsorship. Technical assistance is tailored to the needs of each individual project and partner.
  • We can help with financial support. Not all projects will receive direct financial support as part of a partnership. Funding for selected partnerships may range from $5,000-$20,000. 
  • We invite you to come meet the ROOTS extended family. We pay for travel, lodging, and accommodations for the applicant and one other member or community partner to attend one ROOTS Weekend or ROOTS Week: Annual Meeting and Artists’ Retreat during the partnership period.*
  • We pay for travel, lodging, and accommodations to attend the 2018-2019 Partners Meeting. The meeting will include all selected 2018-2019 partners (even those who do not receive financial support). Date and location of this meeting is TBA.*

*Attendance Required at the Partners in Action Cohort meeting and at least one other ROOTS event during the partnership period.

What Applicant Brings To The Partnership:

  • Partnerships are reciprocal, so ROOTS is interested in investing where collective learning is a strength that can come back and feed the ROOTS network and southern artist-activist ecosystem.
  • ROOTS is invited into the process; we expect for the partner to invite ROOTS to work deeply with the project and partners.
  • Artistic work and learning is shared with the ROOTS community through our Member News and Field News publications, at ROOTS-sponsored learning exchanges, ROOTS Weekends and ROOTS Weeks.
  • Invest in the PIA cohort by offering programming and resource sharing with other partners in your same issue area or region.


To be eligible to apply for the Partners in Action Program, all of the following must be true for you:

  • Applicants must be a project lead and a current dues paying member, 18 years or older living within ROOTS’ service region.
  • Applicant must have been a general or voting member by November 1, 2017.
  • If you became a ROOTS member within the last 12 months, you must have at least one other ROOTS member as part of your project or on your advisory team.
  • You have not received a ROOTS grant or partnership within the last 12 months (February 1, 2017- February 1, 2018).
  • You do not have any outstanding ROOTS grant or partnership final reports due.
  • While projects may be underway before the program period begins, project activities specifically supported by Partners in Action must take place during the program period, from July 1, 2018-December 30, 2019.

Successful projects will address one or more of the following objectives:

  • Uprooting oppression around race, economics, or social justice
  • Examining practices or policies that cut across the intersections of race, ethnicity, culture, class, gender, immigration, access, ability, and/or location
  • Upholding the values of individual and community transformation
  • Engaging diverse segments of the communities in actions that strengthen the community as defined by the applicant
  • Researching or creating new artworks or collaborations with a community, an organization, an individual and/or other ROOTS members in the region
  • Developing new relationships or strengthening existing ones between artists/arts organizations and non-arts groups
  • Creating cultural exchanges between/within immigrant communities

Afro-Brazilian Dance Workshop led by Tamara Williams at ROOTS Weekend-Atlanta. Photo: Melisa Cardona


Alternate ROOTS values and is committed to the protection of the natural world and the elimination of all forms of oppression. Therefore, unlike typical funding models, ROOTS’ selection processes consider, in addition to seeking projects that reflect the aims, goals, and objectives of the program: geographic distribution, racial and ethnic diversity, LGBTQ representation, accessibility, and socio-economic diversity. To achieve these goals, the organization provides multiple formats to submit an application: written, video, audio, and large print. We strive to convene diverse peer panels reflecting the diversity we seek to achieve. The panelists review applications and recommend partners to ROOTS staff. Final decisions are made by staff to ensure that all program goals are met to the best of our ability.


ROOTS aims to transform from an organization that is a formidable network of artists and cultural workers, leveraging their creativity, talent, and training to become a significant resource for artists and local communities throughout the region.

Alternate ROOTS believes that active and engaged community partnerships that use arts and culture to illustrate, target, and leverage local assets are essential in the struggle to transform individuals and local communities. The organization wishes to support projects that highlight existing community assets, or address critical local issues in communities that are deeply impacted by social and economic injustices. The program’s objective is to put to practice the lessons learned over forty years about how to build strong partnerships and collaborations that extend or deepen the presence of artists within a community, at home or on the road. These projects may serve as a catalyst to explore the power of art as a force for social change.


To look back at past Partners in Action cohorts, click below:

Cohort 2018-2019

Cohort 2017-2018

Cohort 2015-2016


Next Page: How to Apply for a Partners in Action Grant

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.