Last year Ford Foundation and Mozilla came together to launch the Open Web Fellows Program, an international leadership initiative that brings together the best emerging technology talent and civil society organizations to advance and protect the open Web. This came at a critical point for the evolution and health of the Web, which Mark Surman, Executive Director of Mozilla Foundation, and Darren Walker, President of Ford Foundation wrote about here:
“The Internet remains a contested space. Far too often, we see its core ethos – a medium where anyone can make anything and share it with anyone – undermined by forces that wish to make it less free and open. In a world in which the future health of the Internet is vital to democratic discourse and a free flow of ideas, we need a band of dedicated individuals standing ready to protect it.”
As part of the NetGain initiative, the program provides an ecosystem for the next generation of open Web advocates to make an early impact while growing into the capable leaders we need as threats to digital freedom proliferate.
Looking towards 2016, we’ve opened the call for applications for host organizations (closing Sept. 12, 2015).
Year Two will include 8-9 host organizations and Open Web Fellows who will work together to keep the Internet a global public resource by focusing on salient issues like privacy, access, and online rights.
Specifically, the goals of the Open Web Fellows program are:
- Produce better technical understanding among civil society and government policy-making bodies
- Increase public awareness and understanding of Internet policy issues
- Provide talented individuals with the opportunities to create a healthier, more trustworthy Web
- Provide civil society organizations with the capacity and capabilities to expand their work into new horizons
- Contribute to building a community of public interest technologists
Host organizations are involved in the recruitment and selection process of the candidates. Other responsibilities include:
- Collaboration: Host organizations will work with Mozilla to provide a learning environment through mentorship, networking, and conferences.
- Fellowship Projects: Host organizations and their selected fellows will identify projects that build on the skills of the fellows. Host organizations and fellows will ensure that these projects do not entail any lobbying activities.
In turn, Mozilla will provide:
- Thought Leadership: Mozilla will provide support and training throughout the fellowship, as the new leaders learn more about Internet policy and advocacy.
- Program Management: Mozilla will manage the host organization and fellow selection processes, coordinate Mozilla-organized events for fellows, and disburse grant funding.
- Mentorship: Mozilla staff will collaborate with fellows to transfer vital skills in open source, project management and professional development.
Each year, fellows spend 10 months embedded at leading advocacy organizations to lend their expertise to the field. They receive a stipend of $60,000, plus a number of supplemental benefits to help with relocation, housing, childcare, and equipment acquisition. We will also cover the cost of certain Mozilla-organized trips, but ask the host organizations to cover trips they deem required. Mozilla strives to make this a global program, and as such provides visa assistance where necessary.
To better understand the type of organizations with which the Open Web Fellows Program is looking to partner, please see our “Spotlight” series on our 2015 host organizations:
American Civil Liberties Union, Massachusetts
New America’s Open Technology Institute
[Note: Association for Progressive Communications is also a 2015 host organization, but were recruited at a later date.]
Q: How should host organizations be”advancing the open Web”?
A: “Open Web” needn’t be specifically about net neutrality and access; open practices, research, privacy, surveillance, and promoting the web as a public resource all fit within the focus of the program.
Q: How technical are the fellows?
A: It depends on the needs of the host organization. Generally, they are quite technical (full-stack engineers), and some have specialities. To get a sense of they types of people this program attracts, meet our 2015 cohort of Open Web Fellows.
Q: How involved are host organizations in the selection process?
A: First pass is done by a core Mozilla team. The host organizations will then be given a list of about 100 candidates (depending on how many apply) from which they first choose who Mozilla should interview, and later who they want to interview. The final decision is made in negotiation with Mozilla and the host organization. Read more about the 2015 Fellows selection process.
Q: What if we don’t have a physical office space?
A: Fellows are generally encouraged to work in the office space of the host organization to better understand the culture of civil society organizations and the public sector. If an organization doesn’t have a physical space, arrangements for remote working can be made. However, this requires more oversight and involvement from the host organization.
Q: What sorts of projects do fellows work on?
A: Host organizations and fellows “ship” a tangible outcome over the course of the project. Initial projects range from content productions, campaign sites, mobile apps, mashups of open data sets, and tooling for activist organizations.