Digital Civil Society Lab

Practitioner Fellowship

About the fellowship

Applications for the 2022 Practitioner Fellowship will open on October 1, 2021 with a submission deadline of November 5, 2021 at 5:00pm pacific time. 

The Practitioner Fellowships at the Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL) and the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) support social sector leaders so that they can have time to develop ideas to benefit civil society. These might include: designing tools to protect civil society actors and advance racial justice, developing policy frameworks to govern the use of data, or prototyping tools to mitigate bias in emerging technologies. The program aims to catalyze and support a broad range of projects envisioned and led by the selected fellows. The fellowship provides time, space, expertise, and financial support to help turn ideas into prototypes or action, and fellows become part of a cohort that thrives with access to an intellectual community.

Fellowships are supported by the Institute for Human Centered Artificial Intelligence and The Schmidt Family Foundation’s 11th Hour Project.

All fellows will receive:

  • A $25,000 stipend, paid at the beginning of the fellowship, to support work on an 18-month project
  • Time to present as part of a “kick off” session where they can develop their project plan with members of both the 2020 and 2021 cohorts
  • A week-long convening of the 2021 and 2022 cohorts (which may be virtual or in-person at the Stanford campus, depending on COVID-related restrictions), to be scheduled in the spring of 2022
  • Mentorship from fellowship directors and access to fellowship alumni from previous cohorts
  • Access to research staff to develop and extend their projects.
  • Access to Stanford faculty, students, and staff to develop their projects and develop their network
  • Opportunities to participate in other programming at DCSL, CCSRE, and other Stanford centers throughout the fellowship

What this fellowship is NOT:

  • An opportunity to perform primarily academic research
  • A residential, full-time fellowship


Each 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 18 months, are eligible to apply.

Fellows are expected to engage as a cohort with the other Practitioner Fellows as well as with Stanford postdoctoral fellows, faculty, staff, and student researchers.

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 for any travel to Stanford.

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?
    • Does the Fellow actively participate in networks and partnerships that will support the success of the project? Is there a clear sense of the intended users or beneficiaries and how they will be able to apply the project’s outcomes?
  • 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 partnerships and resources that will catalyze the project?

Timeline: 2022 cohort

  • October 1, 2021: Application period opens
  • November 5, 2021: Application period closes
  • November 2021: Selection process and interviews of short-listed candidates
  • December 2021: Fellowship recipients announced


All applicants are responsible for designing, proposing, and implementing projects of their own choosing within the purview of one of two fellowship tracks:

Track 1: Digital Civil Society

Fellows will be primarily affiliated with the Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL) at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. DCSL fellows will join CCSRE fellows for virtual sessions in January 2022 and will work closely together as part of the same cohort throughout the yearlong fellowship term.

The digital age has expanded the potential for civil society while presenting new challenges and threats to its healthy operation. 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 equitably engage them for civil society’s purposes. We are interested in applicants from across the many domains in which civil society is active, including the arts, community engagement, education, the environment, healthcare, justice and so on, as long as projects are geared toward domain or sector level change. In addition, for 2022, we are actively seeking applicants from Africa focused on digital issues related to strengthening African food and agriculture systems through agroecological approaches that promote African food sovereignty.

Previous DCSL fellows have built online tools for understanding privacy regulations, drafted new data governance mechanisms, and incubated a digital security exchange. Learn about the current and former cohorts of DCSL Non-Resident Fellows.

DCSL fellowship projects should be designed to:

  • address a challenge of safe, equitable, 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

This year, we are particularly interested in individuals and projects that will address issues related to:

  • Governance of data and artificial intelligence (from perspective of civil society)
  • Racial equity and technology
  • Technological approaches to protecting civil society actors or institutions
  • Public policies that influence digital civil society
  • The rights to assembly and association in digital interactions
  • Digital public infrastructure
  • Digital civil society in Africa and Latin America
  • Digital issues related to agroecology in African contexts

Track 2: Technology and Racial Equity

Fellows will be affiliated primarily with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity in partnership with DCSL and the Stanford Institute of Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Up to five fellowships will support fellows working on a challenge related to racial equity or racial justice. These fellows will join DCSL fellows for virtual sessions in January 2022 and will work closely with them as part of the same cohort for the duration of the fellowship term.

As part of their fellowship, Technology and Racial Equity Practitioner fellows will have the opportunity to work with undergraduate interns on a part-time (March-June) or full-time basis (June-August) to support their project.

Previous fellows’ projects have included: Designing policy in Minneapolis to ensure the city’s use of tech advances racial equity, mapping bias in AI systems to produce a civil society advocacy tool that attempts to mitigate racial bias in lending, developing digital advocacy tools for youth of color in education.

Technology and Racial Equity Fellows projects should be designed to:

  • address a challenge of racial equity or racial justice in the development and/or deployment of new technologies
  • 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

This year, we are interested especially in projects that address technology and

  • Intersections of race, gender, and sexuality
  • Indigeneity and Indigenous communities
  • Blackness and combatting anti-Black racism


The Non-Resident Fellowship is open to applicants 18 years of age or older who meet the following conditions:

  • Meet all submission deadlines and submit the application in English;
  • Commit to spend 18 months undertaking a project addressing one of two topical tracks: Digital Civil Society, or Technology and Racial Equity;
  • Commit to contribute a final written report, video or audio interview;
  • Commit to attend a week-long convening of the fellowship cohort, to be scheduled in the spring of 2022 (may be virtual or in-person at Stanford depending on COVID restrictions). This week involves presentations by fellows on their project progress, and opportunities to meet other communities at Stanford. Fellows are encouraged to engage with and imagine/identify additional collective activities for their cohort.
  • Please note that your initiative cannot involve a partisan political campaign or legislative lobbying efforts.

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
  • brief project proposal
  • contact information for two professional references

Stanford University is deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We provide equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals and we do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, marital status, veteran status, pregnancy, parental status, genetic information or characteristics (or those of a family member) or any other basis prohibited by applicable law. BIPOC, women, gender non-conforming individuals, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals from other historically marginalized communities are strongly encouraged to apply.


Inquiries may be directed to Rebecca Lapeña, Program Manager of the Digital Civil Society Lab:

Current Practitioner Fellows

Past Fellows