The Internet Society Empowers Young Professionals as Internet Champions.
If you are reading this right now, thank a teacher—and the Internet! In the 21st century, many of us would be lost without the internet connections we use to study, work, stay connected with loved ones, stay current on the news, and participate in global conversations.
But we may not always realize how important it is to actively champion what makes the Internet a force of good in the world. The Internet Society is a nonprofit leader in the Internet space, dedicated to keeping the Internet open, fair, and accessible for the benefit of its billions of users worldwide.
As part of their mission, The Internet Society cultivates Internet advocates through leadership development programs. After soliciting detailed community feedback about their youth programming, however, they realized there was a critical gap in their offer.
Internet Society Members wanted a fellowship that would empower young professionals to bridge the gap between technology and policy in order to “advocate for the open, globally connected, secure and trustworthy Internet.” If done successfully, it would be the first of its kind on the world stage.
The Internet Society’s vision for the fellowship included a global reach, a holistic program that combined leadership, communications, advocacy, and project management training, as well as the ability to support Fellows with an undergraduate degree and/or 2-4 years of experience working in an Internet-related field.
With the help of program design, implementation, and strategic consultation from VEGA Partners, the Early Career Fellowship Program launched in June 2021 with an inaugural cohort that represents the entire globe. We brought together Internet Society staff, curriculum developers, and various other stakeholders to lead strategic design workshops that created a foundation of support for the next generation of Internet champions, and developed materials for executive and board-level presentations to help the Program take off.
We even took part in the exciting program launch of the Internet Society community at-large.
The Internet Society now offers the world-class Early Career Fellowship Program twice a year to cohorts of 15 Fellows each. During the intensive, 24-week program, Fellows develop their knowledge and skills through seminars, events, courses, discussion sessions, and project work, culminating in a final project presentation by each Fellow at a closing symposium. Fellows also have access to direct mentorship and networking opportunities to support their professional development and enhance their impact.
So far, The Internet Society has trained X Fellows and looks forward to continuing the program for many years to come. Though we often hear about challenges to a free and open Internet, like censorship and privacy issues, the future is bright thanks to a diverse new cohort of youth who take it seriously.