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RE: REQUEST FOR PROPHECIES AND QUEST FUNDING APPLICATION GUIDELINES
This week, discover why the wording in a certain Request For Proposal is exactly that specific, with this story from Sara Ryan ~ Julian and Fran, July 23, 2023
RE: REQUEST FOR PROPHECIES AND QUEST FUNDING APPLICATION GUIDELINES
by Sara Ryan
The Foundation’s mission is to nurture and promote the economic development and social change opportunities provided by Quests. The Foundation’s priority is to support Quests that positively impact adventurers’ personal growth while simultaneously inspiring, innovating, and transforming communities. (NB: The Foundation’s definition of “transforming” is inclusive of magical and non-magical transformations, e.g., both curse removals and systems of government.) Foundation support is intended to supplement, but not supplant, treasure obtained in the course of the adventure.
Describe all Quest Personnel and identify roles, e.g., Quest Lead/Hero, Mentor, Allies/Companions, Bard. A full CV (Charismatic Vision) is required from both Hero and Mentor, as well as brief verses regarding all Allies/Companions, including descriptions of qualifications and any special skills pertaining to Quest activities. A release of liability from Mentor is also required, as Mentor’s injury or death during the course of a Quest is a well-established best practice in the field.
Hi, Bob. We know you’re the one reading this. We know it’s your job to read through all the Quest funding applications and pick out the ones you think the funders will go for. They really don’t pay you enough.
As you know, Bob, Adventurers United (AU) is a nonhierarchical collective. We use consensus-based decision-making. We refuse to confine any individual AU member to a single role over the course of an adventure. And we don’t have a Charismatic Vision. We have a Collective Vision: a fair Quest’s pay for a fair Quest’s work.
Describe past experience with Foundation-funded Quests; e.g., a Mentor may have previously received Foundation support as a Hero. Given that Quests are an iterative process, please cite Quest Final Reports (QFRs, also known as Ballads) regarding any previous fruitless Quests that the proposed Quest Personnel have undertaken, whether or not the fruitless Quests were Foundation-funded.
Bob! You know us, you love us. Or anyway, you said you loved us when we were selected for the Fostering Latent Adventurers, Yielding Equity and Diversity (FLAYED) Quest Cohort. You remember: “for diverse and underrepresented species and those who will be the first in their families to adventure.”
And when we realized what your bosses actually wanted us to do and we walked out, you told us you respected our perspective but your hands were tied.
Identify anticipated Quest Adversaries. Please note that past adventurers have on occasion found that over the course of the Quest, an Adversary has taken on an Ally/Companion role, and, in certain cases, an Ally/Companion has modified their Quest role to Adversary. The Foundation recognizes that these potential shifts in Quest roles are an expected element of the adventuring process, and will not penalize Foundation-supported Quests in which they occur, as long as any role shifts are fully documented by Bard in the QFR.
Okay, Bob, we know what your bosses want us to say here. We’re supposed to say that our Adversaries are the dragons. And yeah, they are damaging crops and raiding livestock in our community, and it’s a giant pain in the ass. And we’re supposed to tell your bosses that we have a detailed plan for how we’re going to slay the dragons. A detailed plan that’ll play out like every other freaking Quest the Foundation has ever funded. We’ve listened to so many dragon QFRs. They all sound the same! They’re all literally in the same key. Don’t your bosses ever get tired of C major? And they’re all about straight-up murder!
So, we’re not doing that. We’re going to talk to the dragons and find out what their deal is. Here, we’ll say it in your language: Rather than further escalating hostilities, AU seeks to investigate and address the systemic failures that have resulted in current conditions.
Provide an Outline of Quest Activities.
We can’t, Bob. Not the way your bosses want us to, anyway. We’ll explain below.
Attach appropriate supporting documentation; e.g.:
Travel itineraries through time and space, including each world in the instance of transport through a multiverse; and Maps of any treacherous wastes, haunted caves, and/or underworlds in which applicants propose to adventure.
The dragons are already in our community, Bob. If they invite us to visit one of their cities, we’ll let you know.
Transcriptions or recordings of oracular pronouncements pertinent to the Quest. The Foundation is solely interested in pronouncements from prominent and well-respected oracles, such as those providing forecasts to monarchs, commanders, pontiffs, and other widely recognized leaders. Pronouncements from community-based scryers and soothsayers are not acceptable.
Come on, Bob, you have to know this one’s just a racket. All the Foundation-approved oracles charge too much. And their pronouncements are so vague! It doesn’t matter what happens; they’re gonna say it was foretold.
Budget estimate spreadsheet in accordance with the current year’s per dragon rates.
Well, Bob, we went into the spreadsheet and tried to delete the budget line items for weapons procurement and maintenance so we could put in our estimated expenses for translators and negotiators of dragon experience. But it turns out your bosses’ spreadsheet expense categories can only be modified by Foundation wizards.
Attach signed waivers from all Quest Personnel in the event that Quest activities result in any violations of local laws. Should the Quest be funded, adventurers are expected to provide documentation of all expenses. The Foundation is unable to reimburse adventurers for expenses related to violations of the law, e.g., bribes and bail, unless cost estimates for such have been included in the budget.
Bob, we’re not gonna provide waivers. We don’t talk to cops. Bribes and bail presuppose complicity with broken systems.
Describe Quest Outputs: the intangible and tangible products of the Quest.
Intangible Quest Outputs (IQOs) most often fall under the category of Spells. Somewhat more rarely, IQOs may include new Oracular Pronouncements that give rise to future adventures. (Should the Quest result in any prophetic IQOs, please note that new applications will be required in order to receive additional Foundation support for any further adventures. Past support is not a guarantee of future funding.)
Tangible Quest Outputs (TQOs) may include but are not limited to:
Talismans, e.g., Jewels;
Weapons and Articles of Defense, e.g., Swords, Shields, Armor, etc.;
Recovered Individuals, e.g., Kidnapped Princesses, Lost Heirs, etc.;
Dispatched and/or Converted Adversaries
Bob, this is just the same nonsense as the expense categories in the budget estimate spreadsheet. All the types of outputs listed above are based on problematic assumptions about how a Quest is gonna go.
If our talks with the dragons go well, sure, maybe we’ll get some spells out of it. Maybe, once we establish trade relations, we’ll even get some cool shiny objects that your bosses would call talismans.
But we already told you, Bob: we’re not in the business of dispatching. And AU has no interest in converting, either. We aren’t about forcing anyone to adopt a belief system contrary to their traditions.
Quest Outcomes are defined as the difference that Quest activities make, both for Quest Personnel themselves and for external entities affected as a result of Quest activities.
For example, if TQOs include Weapons and Articles of Defense, a Quest Outcome might be a measurable increase in the Realm’s emergency preparedness.
Conversely, if the Quest includes Dispatched and/or Converted Adversaries among its TQOs, a Quest Outcome might be that peace is restored to the Realm.
The Foundation recognizes that not all Quests are pursued with the intention of resulting in Realm-wide Outcomes. However, Quests in which Quest Outcomes are primarily associated solely with the Hero/Quest Lead—e.g., Quest Lead obtains Talisman and Talisman enables said Quest Lead to advance their business interests—are of less interest to funders than Quests with replicable and scalable Outcomes. (NB: “scalable” here refers to the Quest’s potential for Realm-wide expansion, and is not to be confused with “scalable” in the sense that it may appear in a description of proposed Quest activities, e.g.: “the glass castle has heretofore been considered impervious to attack, but Quest Personnel believe its walls to be scalable.”)
Quest Leads are strongly encouraged to meet with all Quest Personnel in advance of submitting the application, to identify and intentionally plan for potential Realm-wide Outcomes of the proposed adventure. Some past applicants have raised concerns regarding the Foundation’s preference for Realm-wide Outcomes on the grounds that planning for Quest replicability and scalability to Realm-wide Outcomes involves labor beyond a commonly understood Quest Scope of Work. It has even been suggested by certain past unsuccessful applicants that the Quest Funding Application (QFA) process is needlessly complex and replete with barriers, and that the Foundation’s true mission is “to hoard wealth.” The Foundation wishes to remind all such disaffected failed applicants that Quests, by definition, entail lengthy and arduous effort, and thus any challenges experienced during the QFA process should, in fact, be viewed as worthwhile and beneficial preparation for the Quest itself.
Bob, you’ve outdone yourself. Way to spin, buddy!
We can do it, too:
From AU’s perspective, every Quest is unique, and therefore neither replicable nor scalable. Quest outcomes will be defined by and based upon the relationships and accords developed between Quest personnel and the entities the application reductively characterizes as Adversaries.
You might even say the real adventure is the friends we make along the way.
We don’t actually think your bosses are going to give us any money.
We’re really writing this for you, Bob. We saw the look in your eyes when we refused to play your bosses’ games and walked out of that ridiculous, performative FLAYED Quest Cohort. Like you couldn’t believe we were actually doing it. Like you wanted to follow us.
Bob, you’re on the inside. Your bosses, they trust you. Respect you, even. You could go to them and advocate for the kind of real change the Foundation claims to want but fails to fund.
Or you could do more than that, Bob. We know you know how to access their vault.
Either way, this is an invitation. Join us, Bob.
Untie your hands.
Thank you for joining our journey this week.
Sara Ryan writes for teens and others, and is a faculty member in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
“RE: REQUEST FOR PROPHECIES AND QUEST FUNDING APPLICATION GUIDELINES,” © Sara Ryan, 2023.
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