2021 Calls for Grant Proposals

The Arthur W. Page Center at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State has announced its annual Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar Grant competition for the study of integrity in public communication. This year, the Center is issuing three research calls:

1. Proposals for research projects on Corporate Social Advocacy

2. Proposals for research projects on Ethics of Care

3. Proposals for curriculum development on Activism

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Call for Proposals: Corporate Social Advocacy

Senior research fellow and associate professor at the University of South Carolina Holly Overton is leading the call. If you have questions, please contact Overton at overton@sc.edu.

The Page Principle #2: Prove it with action
Public perception of an enterprise is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says. 

Publics have long expected companies to be engaged in socially responsible activities that make a contribution to communities, the environment, and society. In recent years, as public expectations have shifted, companies have begun to take a more purpose-driven approach to their efforts by taking a public stance on politically charged social-justice issues. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust in 2020, 80 percent of consumers want brands to solve society’s problems. Consumers want companies to “walk the talk” through values-driven actions to advocate for change.

With a continued increase in demand for companies to match their words with action, The Page Center seeks grant proposals to contribute to the scholarly and public understanding of how companies are engaging in corporate social advocacy (CSA) in various contexts.

Topics may include, but are not limited to the following:

► Engagement with specific audiences regarding CSA (e.g., communities, activists, employees, influencers, consumers, media, etc.)

► Best practices in CSA strategies and approaches

► Implications for corporate communication and reputation management

► Impact, benefits, or challenges of CSA for controversial sociopolitical issues

► Political, ethical, and moral perspectives and implications

► Messaging strategies for enhancing organization-public relationships with stakeholders

► The role of public relations in fostering CSA

► Theoretical or methodological innovations

All areas of CSA will be considered, and proposals focusing on corporate perspectives will be prioritized. Studies focused particularly on theory development, organizational best practices, and relevant, timely social issues are especially encouraged.

Call for Proposals: The Ethics of Care

Senior research fellow and assistant professor at Penn State Stephanie Madden is leading the call. If you have questions, please contact Madden at szm962@psu.edu.

Feminist scholar Carol Gilligan (1982) proposed ethics of care to challenge discourses in ethical theory focused on rights and legal discourses. Ethics of care focus on obligations and responsibilities, a concern for others, and feelings of compassion, whereas an ethic of rights and justice focuses on the rights of individuals through a legalistic perspective (Nunner-Winkler, 1994).

Organizations gravitate toward an ethic of justice because it is often easier and more pressing to demonstrate they followed the law and responded to a situation fairly. Ethics of care, though, requires organizations to deal with harm done to individuals at a relational level and care for the most vulnerable publics.

Public relations scholars have primarily explored an ethics of care within a crisis communication context. Tao and Kim (2017) found that an ethics of care approach was underused in organizational crisis responses as opposed to an ethic of justice.

Fraustino and Kennedy (2018) worked to bridge ethics of care theory and practice in crisis communication with their Applied Model of Care Considerations (AMCC). Yet, there are additional opportunities to apply a care-based perspective to public relations and public communication. For instance, Formentin and Bortree (2019) explored how ethics of care emerges in corporate social responsibility.

This Page Center research call seeks original research that considers how ethics of care can fundamentally reshape our current approaches to public relations and public communication, bridging theory and practice in a broad range of topics.

Topics may include, but are not limited to the following:

► Ethics of care for marginalized communities

► Diversity, inclusion, and equity and ethics of care

► Activism and ethics of care

► Ethics of care in the context of crisis communication, social media, corporate social responsibility or corporate advocacy

► Political communication and ethics of care  

► Ethics of care in relationship management

► Global perspectives on ethics of care

► Internal and/or employee communication and ethics of care

► Theory development surrounding ethics of care in public communication

All methodological approaches will be considered. Studies focused particularly on voices, experiences, and theories of Black, Indigenous, People of Color are especially encouraged.

Deadline & Notifications

► Application materials must be electronically submitted on or before Jan. 15, 2021.

► Scholars will be notified of the selection committee's decisions on March 15, 2021.

► Contracts for successful grants will be finalized by June 1, 2021.

► Final reports are due July 1, 2022.

Call for Proposals: Curriculum Development on Activism

Senior research fellow and assistant professor at Penn State Stephanie Madden is leading the call. If you have questions, please contact Madden at szm962@psu.edu.

This 2021 Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar Grants special call for curriculum aims to develop teaching modules on activism that will be shared with faculty in public relations and strategic communication. The goal of this project is to create a series of lessons that can be easily adopted into the public relations classroom. While a body of academic literature continues to grow around activism and activist public relations, there are few resources available for integrating the public relations of activism into classrooms and curriculum.

Faculty are invited to submit a grant proposal to develop one or more modules related to activism and public relations.

Topics may include, but are not limited to the following:

► Social movements and public relation history

► Ethics of activism

► Activist theories

► Parallels between public interest communication, cause communication, and activism

► Evaluation of activist/social movement success

► Social media and activism

► Brand activism

Other ideas for topics related to activism and public relations will also be accepted. Modules that center the voices and experiences of marginalized publics are especially encouraged.

The Center will offer a $2,000 honorarium for each module, half paid when the contract is signed and the other on delivery of the completed module. Honorarium payments can be shared by co-authors.