Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program 2020 ($1000 Stipend and Fully Funded)

Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program
Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program

The Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program – a collaboration between the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) – is a ten-month non-resident leadership program that empowers emerging leaders from across the globe to build their advocacy and organizing skills to protect internet freedom.

Open Internet for Democracy Leaders are a unique cohort of global advocates from civic organizations, media, and the private sector who are passionate about protecting and promoting an open internet.

The program aims to:

  1. Empower emerging open internet advocates to advance internet policy discussions and organize for change in their country and region.
  2. Strengthen the Open Internet for Democracy Community by connecting emerging open internet advocates with their global peers.

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Ensuring that the internet is a trusted digital space governed in a way that protects human rights and fosters civic participation is essential for democracy to survive in the digital era. Yet, over the past decade, there has been a global decline in internet freedom, and actions by governments and non-state actors to close the space for an open internet have become even more advanced and easier to deploy. Indeed, the rise of digital authoritarianism is a direct threat to open and democratic values everywhere. 

As people around the globe rely more heavily on the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments, particularly across the Global South, have violated digital rights in the name of public health. This included infringing on individual privacy rights through new surveillance technologies, increasing censorship of content, and intentionally disrupting digital connectivity through shutdowns and internet throttling. Moreover, in recent years, governments around the globe have also implemented policies with unintended consequences that curb digital rights. Overall, this negative trend represents a step backward in terms of fostering a democratically-governed, global public sphere.

This year, the Open Internet for Democracy Leaders program will be looking for applicants who pinpoint a particular digital rights issue occurring in their country or region that, if left unaddressed, poses a direct threat to democracy and civic participation. They will then develop an advocacy/research project to raise awareness about the issue. It may be an emerging issue that few have looked at before, or it may be an existing one, but which the applicant has a novel approach to tackling. In particular, we will be looking for applicants who are interested in building connections with other stakeholders to address the problem. Furthermore, a plan as to how to highlight the issue at regional and global forums is expected as a key element of this program is to help connect and network open internet advocates at the regional and global levels to champion positive change.

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The selected applicants will be a part of a larger international network where they can learn from peers and share their work. Open Internet Leaders will receive an honorarium of $1000 USD for completing their required activities, as well as travel and per diem covered for international trips (Note: Travel opportunities may change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If for any reason travel is not possible, CIPE, NDI, and CIMA, will explore ways for the Open Internet Leaders to participate in international fora through virtual conferencing platforms.)

DURATION: September 2020 – June 2021


Core responsibilities: 

  • National or regional advocacy/research 
    • Implement an in-country activity that directly contributes to a local, national or regional conversation on internet freedom. In particular, this year’s work will focus on coalition-building for effective advocacy against government policies or practices (in place or proposed) that threaten the digital and/or human rights of citizens. Examples of what projects might entail include:
      • Organizing an advocacy campaign to raise awareness aimed at equipping policymakers with information about the pitfalls of policies inspired by digital authoritarianism. 
      • Producing research that examines the impact of digital authoritarianism  on access to news and information.
      • Mapping national and/or regional policies or proposals and their potential consequences.
      • Developing a training module/video that explains the implications of digital authoritarianism for civil society, media, and/or the private sector. 
      • Conducting multi-stakeholder workshops or roundtable discussions to develop a platform or position on a proposed government action that threatens digital or human rights.
  • Communications/Outreach
    • Produce at least 2 blog posts or articles for  
    • Actively engage in conversations on open internet issues, such as on Twitter with the program’s @OpenNetGlobal account.
    • Map the network of in-country and regional groups and individuals in the open internet community. 
    • Identify potential areas for collaboration among local and regional open internet advocates/groups, and develop strategies for engagement and collective action. 
  • Thought Leadership
    • Participate at the 2020 Internet Governance Forum (virtually or in-person), and potentially one additional internet rights focused conference or forum. 
    • Contribute to knowledge and awareness of the Open Internet for Democracy Community about local/regional/national threats to an open internet through participation in relevant events and ongoing information sharing.

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To Apply

Click here to apply

Deadline: June 30, 2020


  • Demonstrated interest or experience working on open internet issues, with preference given to those focused on media, private sector/entrepreneurship or civic/political participation
  • Experience in one or more of the following areas: policy, activism, research, or technical expertise
  • Ability to work independently with minimum supervision in collaboration with colleagues across different time zones 
  • Strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills
  • Strong social media skills 
  • Fluency in written and spoken English  
  • Strong presentation skills
  • Ability to travel to two potential international conferences (locations TBD; costs covered; In-person participation in such events is contingent on health considerations related to the COVID-19 pandemic)
  • Access to reliable internet connection that will enable participation in video or virtual workshops or conferences. 
  • Preference given to individuals from non-OECD countries

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The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is an affiliate of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Chamber of Commerce. CIPE works with private sector organizations to increase support for and understanding of freedoms/rights essential for market-oriented democracies, including freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization that works with its local partners to establish and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world by building political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections, and promoting citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) is a media development think tank housed within the NED. CIMA works to improve the effectiveness of existing media development efforts by conducting research and bringing together a broad range of experts to share their experiences. CIMA’s mission is based on the conviction that free and independent media play an indispensable role in developing sustainable democracies around the world.


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Read more on Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program 2020 website