Mercatus’ Program on Pluralism & Civil Exchange Announces Fourth Cohort of Grant Recipients

Arlington, VA—The Mercatus Center’s Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange is pleased to announce its fourth cohort of micro-grant recipients. These thirteen projects are in addition to 26 projects awarded seed funding since the micro-grant project launched in January 2022. Details on the recipients and their projects are below.

Shaping citizens and communities through public learning

The Lyceum Movement led by executive director Nathan Beacom, is a revival of a great American tradition of public learning, engaging ideas together as a community. By investigating topics in philosophy, history, art, culture and more the Lyceum Movement provides a route around the defensive walls that come up in “hot-topic” discussions to become an embedded, long-term institution that can provide a common, social space for communal learning with the goal to shape citizens and communities well-formed in self-government for the common good.

A community promotion organization of digitally connected people who want to develop their digital connections into real-world ones

Vibecamp, llc is “an organically-grown, self-reinforcing network of digitally connected people who want to develop their digital connections into real-world ones,” says organizer, Scott Hansen. The team will build out new tools to develop the kinds of interpersonal networks that form the backbone of a strong society and consciously connect people not just for friendship, housing, or romance, but to work on projects that will be great products and serve as lasting, concrete evidence of the strength and resilience of the broader community that contributed to their success.

A media initiative that seeks to advance civil exchange by encouraging radical skepticism

Philip Auerswald, creator of The Nihilism Hour, says that unquestioned convictions are the enemy of better understanding and, therefore, among the primary impediments to civil exchange. The Nihilism Hour, through a podcast and TikTok Channel is about taking a break from presumed knowing to create a space for new questioning and understanding.

An online periodical to explore challenges and provide solutions to religious pluralism

Chris Stackaruk of Neighborly Faith, Inc. will expand on the early success of, an online periodical that asked scholars and practitioners to consider why America is so divided despite our best efforts to fix it. Future issues will feature essays exploring grassroots challenges to religious pluralism and offering innovative solutions. Essayists will agree to share the essays and allow quotations of their writing in a book manuscript to follow.

Seminars to develop and understanding of complex topics related to polarization

Braver Angel's Citizen Enrichment Seminars through their Braver U program will help participants develop their understanding of complex topics related to polarization through discussions with their professor and fellow students. These weekly online courses are limited to 12 Braver Angels members—six Red and six Blue participants, two of whom are college students—structured seminar-style to facilitate discussion. To facilitate college student participation, Braver Angels will solidify a partnership with BridgeUSA.

An open inquiry framework for teaching information literacy

The Open Inquiry Model for Information Literacy Programs promotes intellectual pluralism and civil discourse through workshops geared toward the 20,000 librarians in U.S. higher education who teach students how to conduct research. This framework to teaching information literacy will lay the foundation for classroom teaching, assignment design, curriculum planning, and collaborations with faculty. Led by Christina LaRose of the Mill Institute at UATX, a team will develop curricular materials and workshops based on this framework.

Expansion of a program to catalyze cross-partisan collaboration at the state and local level

The NC Leadership Forum (NCLF) at Duke University seeks to strengthen democracy and restore a culture of healthy policymaking by catalyzing cross-partisan collaboration amongst policy leaders across sectors at the state and local level. After five years of successful programs, co-founders John Hood and Leslie Winner will launch a communications project to share the lessons they have learned in designing and implementing their program with leaders across the country and the general public, to scale their efforts.

Curriculum resources for a “Christian Civility in Polarized Time” class for undergrads

The American Studies Program DC Semester, of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, is an undergraduate DC semester experience linking future leaders graduating from Christian colleges to skills and institutions that bridge policy and ideological differences, in pursuit of a productive, pluralistic, American polity. To expand their work on pluralism, the program will seek to find and match Christian college students to bridge-building internship sites and professional development resources and identify and organize curriculum resources for ASP’s “Christian Civility in Polarized Times” class.

A reality-based short-story collection to understand the human experience across racial and cultural lines

Ildiko Tillman is a photographer and storyteller working on a reality-based short story collection with stories set in Africa, contemporary Haiti and early 20th century Hungary. Through themes such as motherhood, displacement, loss and resilience it highlights the similarities in individual experience in the wider flow of human fate and will challenge the notion that understanding each other’s experiences is impossible from what are considered to be opposite sides of racial and cultural fault lines.

A book to explore the relationships between communities of care and the federal government in caring for people with disabilities

Lorraine Krall McCrary will write a book focused on communities of care for, by, and with people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, arguing that a just and stable society relies on communities of care that are supported by, rather than usurped by, the federal government. The book will explore decentralized forms of power in communities of care by/for/with people with disabilities. By interviewing participants in these communities, Lorraine will seek to understand how communities of care can develop agency and connect self-interest to the public good.

A book providing a principled defense of moderation in an immoderate and polarized world

Lauren K. Hall will build off her scholarly work on moderation and her Radical Moderate’s Guide Substack in a book that provides a principled defense of moderation for the lay reader based on years of researching and thinking about what moderation means in an increasingly immoderate and polarized world.

A unified, cross-disciplinary, non-partisan effort to understand the root of various social ills

The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University believes polarization, loneliness, deaths of despair, the crisis of stagnation have a common root, and we need a unified, cross-disciplinary, non-partisan effort to understand and address this multi-faceted problem. They will host two meetings – one in Rome and one at Harvard to bring together leading thinkers from the many disciplines that are currently tracking our various social ills and cut across partisan boundaries. Versions of the various presented papers will be published as a special issue of Hedgehog Review, and in an edited book volume.

A grassroots leadership network to bridge divides and advance collaboration across rural and urban Kentucky

Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) was founded by Kentuckians from every region of the state to celebrate Kentucky’s diverse cultural and social fabric while developing the creative capacities of its members to meaningfully collaborate across rural and urban communities. RUX host communities and alumni will use microgrants to strengthen intercultural connections and interdisciplinary innovation.

To learn more about the Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange, please visit our website. For media inquiries, please contact Matthew Boyer at 703-993-8094 [email protected].