Digital Civil Society Lab

Practitioner Fellowship

About the fellowship

Applications for the 2024-2025 Practitioner Fellowship will open on September 11, 2023 with a submission deadline of October 13, 2023 at 5:00pm pacific time.

The Practitioner Fellowships at the Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL) welcomes applications for its 2024-2025 cohort.  The fellowship supports civil society practitioners working to address racial, gender, class/caste, sexuality, and economic inequality in relation to technology. The program aims to catalyze and support a broad range of projects led by the selected fellows that can inform and improve the vitality of digital civil society. Potential projects might include: designing tools to protect civil society actors and advance equity, developing policy frameworks to govern the use of data, prototyping tools to mitigate injustice in emerging technologies, or experimenting with new organizational structures focused on governance issues related to digital technologies. The fellowship provides time, space, expertise, and financial support to help turn ideas into prototypes or action, and fellows become part of a cohort and alumni network that thrive with access to an intellectual community.

Fellowships are supported by The Schmidt Family Foundation’s 11th Hour Project, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and other funders of the Lab.

All fellows will receive:

  • A $25,000 stipend, paid at the beginning of the fellowship, to support work on an 18-month project
  • Paid expenses to attend a week-long convening on the Stanford campus for fellows to meet and develop their project plan. Fellows will present their project plan as part of a “kick off” session. This “Fellows Week” is scheduled to take place in late February or early March 2024. 
  • 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 and other Stanford centers throughout the fellowship

What this fellowship is NOT:

  • An opportunity to perform primarily academic research;
  • A funding source for existing organizational programs; 
  • 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.

Applicants should secure approval from employers to participate in the fellowship and pursue their proposed project prior to submitting their application.

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, well-articulated, and focused?
    • 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?
    • Has the applicant considered and addressed risks and obstacles to success?

Timeline: 2024-2025 cohort

  • September 11, 2023: Application period opens
  • October 13, 2023: Application period closes
  • November 2023: Selection process and interviews of short-listed candidates
  • December 2023: Fellowship recipients announced
  • January 2024: Fellowship begins


Fellows will be affiliated with the Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL) at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society

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 2024, we are actively seeking applicants from Africa and Latin America focused on digital civil society.

Previous DCSL fellows have built online tools for understanding privacy regulations, prototyped new data governance mechanisms, informed digital rights legislation, expanded global interest in data trusts, and incubated a digital security exchange. Learn about the current and former cohorts of DCSL Practitioner 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

We are particularly interested in individuals and projects that will address issues related to address a challenge of equity or justice in the development and/or deployment of digital technologies or related policies, organizations, or associational action with selection emphasis on:

  • Digital civil society in Africa or/and Latin America
  • Governance of data and artificial intelligence (from perspective of civil society)
  • Digital issues related to agroecology in the United States or African contexts
  • Public policies that influence digital civil society
  • Data donations
  • The rights to assembly and association in digital interactions


The Practitioner 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;
  • Must be eligible to receive a stipend payment from a United States institution;
    • Fellowship recipients located in the United States must have a social security number to receive the stipend payment
  • Commit to spend 18 months undertaking their project;
  • 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 late February or early March 2024. This “Fellows 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.
  • Projects cannot involve partisan political campaigns or legislative lobbying efforts.
  • If selected, applicants must notify their employer about the fellowship, stipend payment, and project commitment and address any organizational concerns PRIOR to accepting the fellowship.

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 Abella, Program Manager at the Digital Civil Society Lab:

Past Fellows