Now Accepting 2016-2017 Magic Grant Applications

We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for 2016-17 Brown Institute Magic Grants!

At the Brown Institute, we look for innovative ideas with the potential to change the ways in which stories are produced, delivered, presented or consumed. David and Helen Gurley Brown believed that magic happens when innovative technology is combined with great content, and creative people are given the opportunity to explore their ideas and vision of the future.

Many of the Magic Grant proposals we fund start with students, faculty, and alumni and draw on expertise from across our the Columbia and Stanford campuses. Depending on the needs of your project, proposals might also include members from journalistic or other institutions. In the past, some of our Magic Grant proposals have come from our Base Camp events, while others have started as class projects or thesis work. Still others have developed independent of our events or the applicants’ courses.

The projects we have funded are varied, but they all represent an authentic collaboration between a story and some kind of novel technology.

Virtual reality documentaries. New kinds of interfaces for personal drones. An open data platform to support coverage of the Panamanian government. A toolkit that helps science reporters quickly contextualize new research studies. A detailed study of how digital information is shared in Cuba via El Paquete. A collaboration with the drag community in Bushwick and the reimagining of a social media platform that allows for richer notions of identity. Declassified documents and machine learning for understanding patterns in official secrecy. Geotagged social media and a new form of police scanner. Novel interfaces for massively collaborative creative work and a story that could draw on the contributions of thousands of people. This is the kind of work we’ve funded.

Magic Grants can support small teams for up to a year, with an overall budget of $150K for teams that are based at Columbia or Stanford alone, and $300K if the teams involve both universities. You will find specific details about the Magic Grant program and how to apply here.

Below we list the important dates during the process:

Proposal submission deadline: March 7, 2016 
Announcement of finalists: March 18, 2016
Presentations by Columbia finalists: April 18, 2016
Presentation by Stanford finalists: April 22, 2016
Announcement of winners: April 29, 2016
Projects start: September 2016 (Summer 2016 by special arrangement)

To help individuals and teams think through their ideas and best formulate their applications, the Institute will be hosting open office hours at Columbia beginning Monday, February 1. Office hours will be held Monday-Wednesday, and Friday from 2-4pm.  We reserve the Friday time slot for pre-scheduled, one-on-one meetings. Beginning February 22, we will offer more individualized time slots to help refine and finalize your ideas. You can register for the Friday sessions or the auxiliary individual sessions at

We can also put you in touch with current/previous grantees and fellows, to talk through the application process as well as what it means to be a grantee. We are happy to use whatever contacts we have to build out any technical or editorial parts of your team that might be missing. Essentially, we are here to help you with whatever you need to create the strongest application possible. The actual evaluation process will involve a committee that evaluates and ranks all the proposals we receive, judging them both on the novelty and depth of both the story being told as well as the technology angle being pursued.

Finally, be on the lookout for meet-ups and mixers that the Brown Institute will be hosting leading up to the proposal deadline. These will help you find teammates and advance your ideas.

If you have any questions contact Mark Hansen ( or Michael Krisch ( at Columbia; or Maneesh Agrawala ( or Ann Grimes ( at Stanford.