November 30, 2012, by Gianlluca Simi
It is a widely recognised feature of the contemporary academic landscape – especially in the Arts and Humanities – that there is less money than there used to be. Yet – perhaps not entirely coincidentally – things seem to cost a good deal more than they used to. That includes symposia such as ours, and if you decide to plan a similar event, it will include yours too. So, I’ll say a little here about how the Vital Theory team went about the process of securing funding, in the hope that it may be put to some use in the future.
I would like to say that the first thing we did was check all the necessary deadlines and find out who needed which pieces of paper at what point – but we didn’t. If we had, it would have saved us considerable anxiety and allowed us to leave sufficient time to check and double check the application. In the end, we were a bit confused about when we had to submit, and to whom. Obviously, this problem was easily solved.
The most important thing that we had to consider was who might be judging the application, and the fact that they may not be familiar with Critical Theory. As Vital Theory, each year, draws on the most contemporary issues in the discipline, we had to make clear what these were, in a way that would be easily understood by someone unfamiliar with them. We did this by pointing to the connections that Vital Theory had with the other activities organised by the Centre for Critical Theory, and other groups operating on campus.
We found that the easiest way to set out this information was to highlight the aims and objectives, not of the symposium as such, but of the Vital Theory collective. The Vital Theory collective aims to organise the annual symposium, which represents our take on contemporary issues in Critical Theory. Our objectives thus refer to the activities planned for the symposium, so that the event becomes the realisation of a much larger and more sustainable project.
We tried to signpost our activities by using words like sustainability, collectivity and interdisciplinary, not just because these are common ‘buzzwords’ in contemporary academia, but because they actually do express something of our intentions in organising the symposium. But, of course, using ‘buzzwords’ is never a bad thing when writing a funding application…
Our other key tactic was to provide a fully costed budget in advance of the event, to justify each penny of the money that we were applying for. With symposia like Vital Theory, costs can fluctuate depending on the number of people that register for the event. As a result, we budgeted for a maximum of 40 attendants, which we felt was not overambitious. We looked at the Nottingham University Catering menus to get information about how much a lunch and refreshments would cost, and added to this the cost of printing posters. All in all, we budgeted just over £380 for the day.