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 (like journalists, human rights defenders, NGOs, activists, bloggers, and others) support for their digital security needs. Simultaneously, Fellows will educate the broader internet freedom field about the threats and vulnerabilities experienced, to ensure that emerging and existing technologies best meet the needs of at-risk communities.
Setting the stage
DIFP aims to fill missing digital security capacity needs for on-the-ground organizations promoting human rights, focusing on those fighting to increase free expression and internet freedom. The internet freedom community needs a deeper and richer base of expertise to gather in-field real-time data about the twin challenges for small and medium sized organizations to maintain up-to-date digital security strategies and policies and for the internet freedom technology developer community to fully grasp the challenges individuals in the field face on a daily basis. 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.
Typically, DIFP fellows have experience working within digital security teams with a holistic security mindset who are willing to work with diverse sets of at-risk individuals, and have contributed to digital security technology projects to make them more suitable for users or raised awareness about digital security needs for at-risk communities. Generally, a fellow’s work may be to conduct the initial digital security assessments, understand and document the organization’s adversary as well as the organization’s culture, vision, and what they need to succeed in the face of their digital threats.
Who are the fellows?
Where do fellows work?
DIFP fellows embed with a host organization or organizations for the duration of their fellowship. When applying, applicants can specify any organization of their choosing, as long as sufficient demonstration of the relevance of the organization(s) needs for digital security assistance and support from relevant staff at the organizations has been met in the application.
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Criteria and the application process
Before applying, ideal fellowship candidates should initiative a strategic conversation with the organization(s) and network(s) that they intend to assist and work with for their fellowship duration. Further, fellowship candidates should ensure:
- They and the organization(s) agree they are a good match
- Their capabilities align with the organization’s overall digital security needs and interest and have the means of achieving them,
- The 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.
- The fellowship candidate will work with the organizations’ leadership and OTF to share concrete feedback to the internet freedom community about specific usage of digital security / internet freedom technologies.
Ultimately, these components should determine the fellows scope of work laid out in the application. OTF’s assessment will likely directly affect and modify the proposed Scope of Work (SOW) from the fellow, which will then be reviewed by the Advisory Council for additional perspective and due diligence. Each SOW will include goals, objectives, activities, and deliverables for the fellowship. Final determinations are made by OTF and may include consultation with previous Fellows, Mentors, Steering Committee, Organizations, and other OTF partners as we see fit.
Potential areas of focus
- Enhancing the capacity of locally-based digital security professionals as a partner to increase their knowledge and capacity;
- Implementing, maintaining, and scaling 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”;
- Responding to digital emergencies and targeted attacks utilizing incident response best-practices to inform further protection measures;
- Explore and create solutions for common digital safety challenges faced by front-line organizations;
- Piloting of community-benefiting products that improve implementation of digital safety improvements; and/or,
- Conducting highly-specialized digital forensics such as identifying and documenting malware and other vulnerabilities used in targeted attacks against human rights defenders.
Things to avoid
- A focus on countries and organizations with minimal digital security threats
- No inclusion of feedback loops or information-sharing with the internet freedom technology community
- One-off trainings or training of trainers as an effort’s primary focus
- Significant risks or other safety implications that might endanger a fellow or the organization’s staff
- Projects better suited for the Information Controls Fellowship Program
- Projects should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the mission of promoting freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable with activities and milestones listed monthly. The overall project goals should extend beyond traditional audiences.
- For the duration of fellowships, the fellow will be expected to work full time with their host organization(s).
- Before completing a submission, we strongly encourage you to review our Terms of Service.
If you have any questions regarding DIFP or the 2019 application process, please feel free to add your question to this public spreadsheet where OTF will provide a prompt answer. If your question is not appropriate for a public forum, please email us at [email protected]
Frerieke van Bree
Program Manager Digital Defenders Partnership, Hivos
Programme Officer, Digital Defenders Partnership at Hivos
Tactical Technologist at Amnesty International, Research Fellow with Citizen Lab
Each approved fellow will sign a performance-based contract directly with OTF for the SOW, be required to report a monthly status to their organization, OTF, and other fellows. Awarded fellows are given a stipend of 5,000 USD per month for a maximum of 12 months. Awarded fellows will also be allotted an “organizational support stipend” of 5,000 USD total to cover equipment and subscription costs that will maintain security protections for organizations receiving digital security assistance from the fellow.
Application requirements, submission, and deadlines
OTF will evaluate applications submitted under this request via the remit of this fellowship program outlined above, as well as through the requirements outlined here.
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.
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.