Digital Integrity Fellowship

The Digital Integrity Fellowship Program (DIFP) provides fixed monthly stipends to individuals capable of addressing short-term and long-term threats to freedom of expression online. Fellows provide organizations and communities most affected by Internet freedom violations comprehensive internal support with their digital security expertise. For short-term needs, the program serves as a mechanism of support to individuals working to mitigate urgent digital threats to vulnerable groups like journalists, human rights defenders, NGOs, activists, bloggers, and others. For long-term needs, the program strives to build digital security expertise inside organization's, within the local communities they are apart of, and the global networks that connect them.
Next deadline: 
Closed

Setting the stage

The Internet, computer and mobile devices have made it easier and faster to communicate, connect and access information. On the other hand they have made activists and organizations more vulnerable and exposed to problems like monitoring, censorship and manipulation by governments and other malicious actors. This online landscape is changing non-stop, creating an increasingly difficult challenge for small and medium sized organizations to maintain up-to-date digital security strategies and policies (if they have them in place at all). More, the lack of this capacity for on-the-ground internet freedom defenders makes it difficult for the internet freedom technology developer community to fully grasp the challenges individuals in the field face on a daily basis. Worse, while authoritarian regimes are quickly expanding their repression toolkits and utilizing more sophisticated multi-tiered tactics, we’re finding more and more smaller countries entering as oppressors, often deploying outmoded versions first seen in those advanced repressive nations.

DIFP aims to fill these missing on-the-ground digital security capacity needs for both local and international organizations promoting human rights, focusing on those fighting to increase free expression and Internet Freedom. As defenders, we need a deeper and richer base of expertise to gather in-field real-time data and forensics to allow for faster, more effective and a more comprehensive set of solutions. DIFP aims to fill these gaps and others often unaddressed by common digital security training and capacity building initiatives, which can fail to increase long-term expertise within organizations and locally or fail to influence research and technical development.

To do so, this program seeks individuals with deep experience and passion in at least one of these roles:

  • Develop an organization’s readiness at early-stages, ensuring all baselines are in place required to begin and sustain a digital security initiative;
  • Enhance the capacity of locally-based digital security professionals as a partner to increase their knowledge and capacity;
  • Implement, maintain, and scale up the day-to-day digital security best-practices from within that enable an organization’s digital assets to defend against common “threats-of-the-day”;
  • Respond to digital emergencies (as a rapid responder) and targeted attacks utilizing incident response best-practices;
  • Conduct highly-specialized digital forensics such as identifying and documenting malware and other vulnerabilities used in targeted attacks against human rights defenders; and/or,
  • Provide support to this program’s fellows as a Mentor to the fellows who will work within these organizations.

The OTF Digital Integrity Fellowship Program is structured in the following ways:

  • Support of Local and International Organizations: OTF is seeking host organizations engaged in both local and international support of human rights defenders, social justice activists, online and offline journalists, minorities, or other groups whose internet freedom is being repressed regularly. Host organizations will work directly with their fellow to determine a fellow’s work plan, receive a digital security assessment, including short and longer term recommendations, as well as addressing the assessment’s concerns and recommendations, and provide a brief monthly report on the fellow’s progress. Host organizations will also have access to small fund to cover costs associated with implementing any recommendations that emerge from the digital security assessment and recommendations.

  • Organizations listed with a fellowship candidate in mind should encourage this individual to apply here for the Digital Integrity Fellowship Program.

  • Organizations not listed with a fellowship candidate in mind can email [email protected] for consideration as a listed host organization, and/or apply to our Internet Freedom Fund for consideration as a project.
  • Potential fellows who wish to apply for an organization not listed, should apply and list the organization with the “Other” option.

  • Support of Individual Fellowships: OTF is seeking digital security professionals from all walks of life ideally willing to work locally, in-house, full-time, for 12 to 24 months within organizations affected by Internet freedom repression. Ideal applicants have experience working within digital security teams with a holistic security mindset who are willing to work with diverse sets of at-risk individuals. Generally, a fellow’s work may be to conduct the initial digital security assessments, understand and document the host organization’s adversary as well as the organization’s culture, vision, and what they need to succeed in the face of their digital threats. Successful applicants will be recognized as an OTF Digital Integrity Fellow and receive a monthly stipend directly from OTF.

  • Support of the Digital Integrity Mentors: OTF is seeking a specific kind of digital security professional to be the vanguard of OTF’s Digital Integrity Initiative, to be a part of the Digital Integrity Fellowship Mentors team. This is a team of trusted individuals supported directly by OTF whose role is to assist and oversee and support the work being done by Digital Integrity Fellows in their work with host organizations. They will coordinate with OTF, the fellows, and the host organizations. They will also serve as a resource, mentor, and advisor to the fellows and other host organizations.

You can stay up to date on all OTF submission deadlines and open submissions windows for other potential funders by joining the OTF-announce mailing list. To join, please send a message via this page with subscribe in the subject line.

Regions

Thought starters

The Digital Integrity Fellowship Program aims to provide both short-term and longer-term, sustainable digital security assistance for human rights and journalistic organizations in environments where targeted censorship and surveillance puts their work at risk. This fellowship program also aims to support existing networks, communities, and organizations with interested individuals who all have deep and relevant digital security experience. Below are a selection of possible objectives considered good and bad ideas. This is not an exhaustive list, just some examples.

Good ideas
  • Developing an digital security plan for a human rights organization as a whole or a specific program;
  • Working to implement a step-by-step set of actions to improve and organizations in-office and staff security practices;
  • Working within a human rights organization’s leadership to move internal and external digital security initiatives forward;
  • Working with pre-existing digital security training networks to map and/or improve how they mainstream best practices and apply those practices to other groups in need of this assistance;
  • Providing needed advice and knowledge-sharing to existing on-the-ground digital security professionals;
  • Accomplishing the day-to-day work of responding, remediating, or working to mitigate technical attacks against at-risk individuals at an organization or with their supporting community;
  • Engaging in short to long-term campaigns employing multiple techniques such as conducting dynamic or static malware analysis and other research to identify and remediate targeted attacks.
Bad ideas
  • Trainings or “trainings of trainers” that are limited or one-off in scope;
  • Trainings or assistance that do not incorporate or reflect digital security realities on the ground;
  • Other trainings or workshops that are not focused on advancing the digital security practices of a specific organization or local community

Review and selection process

Before applying, ideal fellowship candidates should initiative a strategic conversation with their preferred host organization. The goal would be for the fellow and host organization to agree they are a good match, that the fellows capabilities align with the host organization’s overall digital security needs and interest, that the fellow is a means of achieving them, and that host organization’s leadership believes in the organizational change expected to occur. These conversations should also identify areas of particular concern for the organizations, including but not limited to: the types of threats they face to their work by adversaries, previous digital security issues experienced, anticipated escalations in threats to their work, etc. Ultimately, these conversations should determine the fellows scope of work laid out in the application.

This public call lists selection criteria for the following partner and/or applicant types:

  1. Host Organizations: those who would be receiving the benefits of a Fellows digital safety and security expertise;
  2. Fellows: those who would be engaging with the host organizations to design and implement effective digital safety and security strategies and receive advice from Mentors; and,
  3. Mentors: those with broader experience working with human rights organizations who are available to provide extra knowledge or capacity building to fellows on any challenges that they may experience.

For additional perspective and due diligence, ideal applications will be evaluated by a Digital Integrity Initiative review panel, independent individuals who are a part of OTF’s Advisory Council.

Final determinations are made by OTF and will include consultation with previous Fellows, Mentors, Host Organizations, and other OTF partners as we see fit.

OTF’s assessment will likely directly affect and modify the proposed Scope of Work (SOW) from the fellow, which will be reviewed by the Advisory Council, Mentors, the Host Organization, and OTF. Each SOW will include goals, objectives, activities, and deliverables for the fellowship. Each approved fellow with have an SOW agreed upon by the host organization, will sign a performance-based contract directly with OTF for the SOW, be required to report a monthly status to their host organization, OTF, other fellows, and mentors.

Mentors are expected to demonstrate their expertise in providing broad ranging digital security assistance and experience in supervising or assisting other digital security professionals. Ideal Mentor applicants will be expected to mentor at least two to three fellows, which will be reflected in a Mentor SOW. These groupings between mentor and fellows will be decided in consultation between OTF and the mentors, based on criteria including: scopes of work of fellows that complement specific areas of expertise held by mentors, geographic or cultural areas of expertise shared by mentors and fellows, etc. Mentors will be expected to list the specific areas where they will provide advice and assistance to these selected fellows.

Review panel

Award information

Awarded fellows are given a stipend of 5,000 USD per month. Mentors are given a stipend of 3,500 USD per month, and organizational support stipends of 5,000 USD will also be allotted to each organization.

Application requirements, submission, and deadlines

OTF will evaluate applications submitted under this request via the remit of this fellowship program outlined in the “Setting the Stage” and “Thought Starters” sections, as well as the “Application Requirements, Submission, and Deadlines” outlined below.

Unless directed otherwise by the applicant, OTF may refer other applications for possible consideration in other related funding opportunities. OTF will only share applications for the purpose of consideration for funding and will not share applications with anyone outside those stated on this page without the applicant’s permission.

Any questions should be deferred [email protected]

Eligibility
  • Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, residency, creed, gender, or other factors, with the exception that OTF is not able to support applicants within countries that the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC);
  • Individuals who demonstrate skill and ability to perform the relevant digital security tasks;
  • Individuals who demonstrate a desire to grow their knowledge through mentorship and cross-discipline collaboration; and,
  • Individuals who demonstrate a commitment to advance internet freedom globally;

All payments will be made in U.S. dollars (USD) and will comply with local laws, regulations and ethics rules. Each applicant is responsible for the tax consequences of any support they receive, as determined by the laws of their country.

It is each fellow’s sole responsibility to comply with any policies any pre-existing employer may have that would affect their eligibility to participate in the fellowship.

Any questions should be deferred [email protected]

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