information futures lab
The Information Futures Fellowship is a novel opportunity for practitioners in public health, healthcare, community organizations, media, policy, design and other fields who are actively working on responses to the ongoing information crisis. The six-month fellowship provides these practitioners with the resources, time, research partners, training and peer network to develop new ideas, evaluate existing programs or design and test novel interventions.
Why an Information Futures Fellowship?
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront how misinformation poisons public discourse, disrupts efforts to respond effectively in a crisis, and interferes with people’s ability to live healthy lives. As earlier work on elections has shown, however, misinformation is just one part of the challenge. Technological advances and designs have enabled rapidly changing information ecosystems that are vulnerable to misuse and abuse — and ill understood by most people who rely on these information ecosystems every day to engage with friends, colleagues, constituencies and communities. The result is an erosion of trust in institutions and others in society, and many downstream effects such as a lack of trust in vaccines or elections, leading to preventable deaths and suffering, and political instability.
The Information Futures Fellowship is built to empower practitioners who lead investigations into any aspect of these intersecting information challenges and how they can be addressed — to start building a better future for our information spaces, habits, institutions and culture. As leaders in their fields and communities, those on the front lines are most familiar with concrete information challenges and closest to potential solutions. The Fellowship provides access to skill sets and research expertise of other disciplines and industries (in the form of partnerships and mentorship) as well as the resources and freedom to innovate.
Building the future
Fellows and their projects will be selected based on their proximity to real-world settings, creativity, multidisciplinarity, fit for the six-month rapid-piloting model, and potential to fill gaps in our understanding of effective solutions. The first cohort of Information Futures Fellows will start in January 2023. Program alumni will return to their work with new competencies and skills in information challenges, intervention design and evaluation; they will join a growing, global community of practice of Information Futures fellows.
Are you an IF Fellow?
The Information Futures fellowship is designed for practitioners with at least 5-10 years of experience and a proven track record in areas including, but not limited to: policy making, public health, libraries, education, communications, design, fact checking, journalism, healthcare, community leadership, research or government. We are particularly interested in applicants working with communities that are underrepresented in efforts to improve information. We also prioritize applicants who, without this fellowship, might not be able to dedicate space and resources to design and implement a program with their community in mind.
During their fellowship, IF Fellows will develop, implement and evaluate pilots quickly, as they iterate with an urgency that matches the magnitude of the challenge. Proposed projects should be innovative, evidence-based and designed to push forward our understanding of what successful approaches should be replicated and scaled. Topic areas of interest for 2023 include but are not limited to pandemics and epidemics, climate change and gun violence. Applicants can propose entirely new projects, or those that are already under way but need new insights, iteration and evaluation. Examples of a fellow and their project could be:
A community leader who has been trying new approaches to reaching marginalized populations with health information, and would like to try a new approach or iterate on a pilot, and formally evaluate it
Working on legislative pathways to mitigate harmful information directed at teenagers online and would like to connect with other policy makers globally who are thinking about these issues to evaluate existing policies and generate a policy framework
Experimenting with new forms of journalism to build health literacy and need a deep dive on the latest research to design and execute an evidence-based pilot
Public Health Messenger
A public health officer who is developing a new model for coordination on communications across state agencies and collaboration with communities on messaging, and needs the time and network insights to iterate
An engineer or designer at a social media company who is seeking to connect with others to create a universal set of evidence-based design principles for labels.
IF fellows may already have thought partners from other industries or research fields, or seek such a partnership — either way, working collaboratively is a key part of this fellowship.
Selected candidates may take a leave of absence from their work, or use the fellowship to execute a pilot as part of their work and travel to Brown for required programming weeks.
What Fellows can expect
IFL Fellows are part of the Brown University Information Futures Lab, and over the course of the fellowship will connect with a broad network of global researchers, technologists, community leaders, journalists, policy makers, librarians and educators.
Fellows will participate in the Information Futures Academy, which will provide unique training in cutting-edge tools and techniques such as information monitoring, misinformation mitigation, effective communication, community listening, intervention and research design, and program evaluation. Fellows will also participate in at least one Sandpit, a three- to four-day design sprint during which a diverse group of problem solvers works on one or more ideas to address an information challenge.
Throughout the fellowship, fellows will share their expertise and learn alongside others as they network with and take inspiration from some of the most impactful change-makers in the field.
Whether they are in residence at Brown or working remotely from within their community, fellows will connect weekly with their cohort to share project updates and solicit and provide feedback. Fellows will also have access to Brown University libraries and other shared resources.
Fellows will use the training, resources and network to refine and execute their pilots.
What Fellows will contribute
IFL Fellows can choose a six-month self-funded Brown residency or stay within the community in which the work will take place. Regardless of residency status, most activities throughout the fellowship are remote and in-person attendance is required at the Fellowship Academy and Sandpit, and Fellowship Wrap, which will run for one week each at the beginning of the fellowship and toward the end on Brown University’s campus in Providence.
Fellows are also expected to produce deliverables that are relevant to practice (for example, tools for replication or scaling, creative reporting of the work and lessons learned, or white papers) and relevant to research, where applicable and in partnership with thought partners (for example, articles for submission to peer-reviewed journals or presentations at conferences.)
These are some of the ways fellows will share their work and build connections within and beyond the IFL community:
Fellows connect weekly with IFL leadership to share updates and discuss projects (in person or virtually, based on residency status). Experts across the field will be brought in to share relevant knowledge and experience in response to specific projects and questions.
Fellows will contribute at least two blog posts to be published through the IFL website and newsletter, discussing the information challenge they are tackling and reflecting on the process and progress of the pilot.
Near the end of the fellowship, fellows will share key insights in person with the Brown community during an event that we call the IFL StandUp. In your StandUp, you will tell the story of the information challenge you addressed, reflect on what you learned, and demonstrate how others can carry the work forward. The talk will be recorded and added to our collection of online resources available to our global community of practice.
At the end of the fellowship, fellows will share a brief summary that describes their unique experience as a fellow. Some things will have gone well, others not so much. This is a chance for fellows to tell the story of their creativity, where it led them, what impact the project had — and what they’ll do next.
Fellowships are offered once a year to coincide with the Spring semester. A typical timeline is below.
July: Applications open, Fellowship information session (virtual)
August: Applications due
September: Application review, finalist interviews (virtual)
October: Fellowship offers made, announcement of cohort
January: Fellowship begins; IFL Academy and Sandpit in Providence
February-May: Fellowship activities & pilot work
June: StandUp presentation and Sandpit in Providence; summary report due
How to apply
Applications for the Spring 2023 IFL Fellowship are now closed. Please check back for information about the next cohort.
Our fellowship addresses information spaces across the globe and applicants from outside of the U.S. are welcome. All races, ethnicities and national origins are encouraged to apply.
To apply, complete the application form and submit contact information for your recommendations. While we welcome projects that work with communities speak any language, all applications materials must be submitted in English. Required elements of the application include:
A PDF upload or link to your CV or a link to your LinkedIn profile
Four short answer questions about your pilot idea and execution
Please answer the following questions in 250-400 words each:
- The information challenge you have identified, and why it should be addressed quickly. Be specific about the current impact you see, its main mechanisms, and who is affected.
- Your idea for addressing the challenge. Why are you choosing this approach, what experiences or research is it based on, have you tried something similar before, how would it broaden the toolkit — yours, your organization’s, your field’s — if it were to work.
- Why you are the right person to build and run this pilot, what you will bring to the fellowship, and what supports you are seeking to run the pilot well. Explain how you plan to implement the pilot while on the fellowship.
- If a partner is identified, please explain how you will work with them and what they will need to contribute in order for the project to be successful.
Two confidential letters of recommendation
You will be asked to provide contact information for two references who will be asked to upload a letter of recommendation.
- One person who knows you and can speak to your ability to do impactful work. This could be a colleague, past collaborator or a contact who is an expert in your area of interest.
- A current or recent supervisor who can describe your qualifications and speak to the need for your pilot project and, if applicable, how your organization will support the work.
A salary of $35,000 for the six-month fellowship period is available for fellows. If an employer keeps the fellow on salary during the fellowship because the project benefits the organization, a fellowship stipend will not be provided; That unused stipend will then be extended to an additional fellow who will join the cohort.
All fellows are eligible for project/program support of up to $10,000 and travel expenses of up to $2,000 (domestic) and $5,000 (international). In addition, projects are eligible for an honorarium of up to $5,000 to compensate thought partners and collaborators.
A selection committee of researchers and practitioners across disciplines and professions will review each application. Finalists will be invited to a virtual interview.
The first cohort of fellows will be announced in October 2022. Deferrals are not possible at this point in time. If a selected applicant is no longer able to participate in the cohort for which they applied, they must reapply for a later session.
join us for an information session
Many questions are answered in the recording of our July 14 information session and in the FAQ section below.
Q: Am I expected to relocate to Providence for my fellowship?
A: The fellowship is a fully remote program and IFL Fellows will participate in regular virtual activities throughout the six-months. Relocation to Providence is neither expected nor funded. While Fellows may choose to make Providence their home at their own expense, the School of Public Health is not able to offer dedicated work space for Fellows. Regardless of residency status, in-person attendance is required at the Fellowship Academy and Sandpit, and Fellowship Wrap, which will run for one week each at the beginning of the fellowship and toward the end on Brown University’s campus in Providence. Virtual presence is required at weekly check-ins and occasional seminars.
Q: I need a visa to enter the United States. Can Brown help me with that?
A: Yes. In order for you to attend the two required events at Brown, you may be required to obtain a B-2 (tourist) visa or Visa Waiver (WT.) Successful applicants will receive an offer letter that outlines the purpose, scope, and dates of the fellowship; This letter can be used in most applications for a B-2 visa or WT. If you are already in the U.S. holding an F-1 or J-1 visa, you may need to obtain a letter approving reimbursement from Brown University from the International/Visa Office of your home institutions PRIOR to travel. There is no guarantee that the U.S. government will grant you the appropriate visa. Additionally, funding is not available to cover costs associated with visas for family members.
Q: What, exactly, is a “thought partner?"
A: Your thought partner is a collaborator with relevant complementary knowledge and experience from your community, a research institution or think tank, or from a different industry. Your thought partner might collaborate with you to ensure that your community-based program is informed by the latest research, by practices from a different field, or they might help bring your research idea to life in their community. There are a number of ways this partnership can exist, but the goal is to ensure different perspectives are represented.
Q: Do I need to already have identified or gained commitment from my thought partner?
A: Thinking about your thought partner helps identify additional perspectives that will benefit your project and make it more robust. So this should be included in your application, But you don’t have to have settled on your thought partner. You may already have a collaborator, or you may want feedback on your ideas for collaborators before reaching out. We will start working with fellows on these questions of picking thought partners and settling on the pilot design as soon as the cohort has been selected.
Q: Can I work full time while participating in the fellowship program?
A: Ideally, no. The IFL Fellowship is designed for participants to spend the majority of their time on their project over the six-month program. This means that you must be at a point in your career where you can take a sabbatical or leave or are between jobs; or your employer supports the program and you will be able to spend your work time on the fellowship pilot. However, we would consider a well-made case for being able to continue working while also spending full-time attention to the fellowship.
Q: Can I audit courses at Brown?
A: Potentially. The purpose of this fellowship is to design and implement a pilot, connect with a community of diverse peers, and participate in IFL training and design sprint activities. It is possible that a course offered at Brown is highly relevant to your project and that it would be beneficial to your work if you were to audit, but in general this is not a fellowship to take courses at Brown. Permissions will be granted on an individual basis, based on fit, availability and permission from the course’s lead faculty.
Q: I want to run my project/thought partner options by someone. Is there anyone I can speak to before applying to make sure I’m on track?
A: Yes! We host an information session twice a year to review application requirements and program details as well as answer as many specific questions as possible. Attending one of these sessions is a great first step and you can sign up using the form above to receive an email about the next session.
Do I need a project in mind to apply?
A: Yes. While you don’t have to have every detail figured out, you should be able to articulate an idea for a viable project as part of your application.
Can I email or upload letters of recommendation myself?
No. The application system will ask you to submit contact information for each of the people who will provide a letter of recommendation. The system will contact them automatically and request that they submit the letter on your behelf — it will even send them a reminder!
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