Non-Resident Fellowships – Digital Civil Society Lab

About the fellowship

The digital age has expanded the potential for civil society participation and presented new challenges and threats. Our dependencies on digital software and infrastructure that are commercially built and government surveilled require new insights into how these digital systems work and how we can safely and ethically engage them for civil society’s purposes.
The Digital Civil Society Lab’s Non-Resident Fellowship supports social sector leaders to dedicate some of their time working on ideas that apply to broad swaths of civil society. It allows working people to dedicate a portion of their time to advancing an idea or project that doesn’t quite fit into their “day job.” The goal is to provide enough time, space, expertise, and financial support to help turn ideas into prototypes or action. Previous fellows have built online tools for understanding privacy regulations, drafted new data governance mechanisms, and incubated a digital security exchange. Learn about the 2017-18 cohort of Non-Resident Fellows. 
Fellows will be selected to receive a stipend, travel support, and additional support and guidance as they undertake a yearlong project in one or more of four areas:
  • Social norms and practices that promote safe and ethical data collection, generation, and use
  • Software and hardware designed for the values and interest of civil society actors
  • Organizational practices that align with civil society missions and protect institutional independence from markets or governments
  • Legal practices and regulatory frames that protect the building blocks of civil society, including free association, speech, and privacy

Fellowship projects should be designed to:


  • address a challenge of safe, ethical, and effective digital data governance or practice that is common to nonprofits and civic associations globally
  • produce a prototype, draft or complete product in one year
  • benefit from access to scholarship and researchers
  • have a plausible plan for post-fellowship implementation and support
  • be shareable and open for discussion, adaptation, promotion and reuse during and after the fellowship period

Fellows will receive:
  • A $20,000 stipend, paid at the beginning of the fellowship, to support work on a year-long project.
  • A weeklong in-person convening of the cohort on the Stanford campus, the week of January 28 – February 1, 2019. 
  • Travel support up to $5,000 over the course of the year-long fellowship to support travel to the January 2019 weeklong cohort convening, as well as additional campus visits, conference presentations, or other project-related trips as appropriate.
  • Access to the Digital Civil Society Lab’s network of partners.
  • Promotion of the project via the Lab’s public-facing communications channels, including Digital Impact.
  • Mentorship from Lab directors and access to Fellowship alumni from previous cohorts.

For the 2019 Fellowship year we are recruiting a cohort of three to five fellows. Within this cohort, we are recruiting one fellow to work specifically on a project designed by the Lab to focus on digital policy issues and civil society infrastructure. We refer to this as the “Policy Fellow” and specific requirements for this Fellowship are outlined below. All other applicants are responsible for designing, proposing, and implementing projects of their choice.

Policy Fellow
The Digital Civil Society Lab is expanding its efforts to strengthen the connections and knowledge sharing about policy issues that shape digital civil society. These include, but are not limited to, telecommunications law, intellectual property, consumer rights, data rights, algorithmic governance, and policies that govern expressive and associational rights. There is considerable practical and scholarly expertise about these digital issues and about civil society, but  the domains are not well connected, either in research or in practice. The lab seeks to better understand and inform the research and advocacy work on issues at the intersection of digital law and civil society policy. Read more about this project here. 
We have allocated one of the spots in this cohort for a fellow who will focus specifically on this digital policy work with the senior leadership of the Lab, in addition to participating in the regular convenings and activities of the full fellowship cohort. If you would like to apply for this policy-focused fellowship, please check the appropriate box at the beginning of the online application form.

Each fellow, except the Policy Fellow, will pursue a project or set of activities of their own design over the course of the fellowship. Applicants pursuing projects that are already in progress, as well as projects that may not be fully completed within one year, are eligible to apply.
Fellows are expected to engage as a cohort with the other Non-Resident Fellows as well as with the Lab’s postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and student researchers. Beyond this core team, Fellows will also have opportunities to connect with the broader Stanford research community as well as with fellowship alumni. 
While we welcome applications from outside the United States, we are currently unable to support the acquisition of visas. If you are applying from outside the United States and are accepted, you will need to secure your own visa.

How to apply

Interested applicants should complete the online application during the application window. 
During the application process you will be asked to submit:
  • cover letter
  • resume or CV
  • project summary (maximum of approximately 200 words) and brief proposal (maximum of approximately 1000 words)
  • names and email addresses of two references
Timeline: 2019 cohort
August 27: Application period opens
September 28: Application period closes
October: Judging process and interviews of short-listed candidates
November: Fellowship recipients announced
January 2019: Cohort begins with weeklong convening at Stanford University
Eligibility and Criteria
The Non-Resident Fellowship at the Digital Civil Society Lab is open to applicants 18 years of age or older who meet the following conditions:
  1. Meet all submission deadlines and submit the application in English;
  1. Commit to spend twelve months undertaking a project addressing one or more of the Four Codes of Digital Civil Society outlined above;
  1. Commit to contribute a final written report, video or audio interview, and at least two submissions to the Lab’s public-facing content channels including the Digital Impact blog, virtual roundtable series, public event series, or resource toolkit;
  1. Commit to attend a week-long convening of the fellowship cohort at Stanford University in January 2019; This week involves an introduction to the Lab and its research goals and activities, opportunities to meet other communities on campus, independent time to interact with scholars and research institutes on campus and in the area, and the development of individual year-long work plans. Fellows are encouraged to engage with and imagine/identify additional collective activities for their cohort.
  1. Your initiative can not involve a political campaign or legislative lobbying efforts.
Selection Criteria
The selection process will take into consideration the following criteria:

Potential impact

  • Does the project address a question or challenge that is broadly relevant across civil society?
  • Will the project contribute significant new knowledge or create substantial positive change?
  • Does the Fellow demonstrate a deep understanding of the issue their project addresses?
  • Will the Fellow and the project benefit from engagement with an academic research community?

Quality of project proposal

  • Is the project plan thoughtful and well-articulated?
  • Have potential risks and challenges received adequate consideration?
  • Are goals, timelines, and deliverables realistic?
  • Has the applicant identified potential partnerships that will catalyze the project?
Inquiries may be directed to Laura SeamanAssociate Director of the Digital Civil Society Lab.