We’re looking for artists, organizers, makers, storytellers, and others using media and technology with participatory practices that advance social progress in ways that defy easy categorization, and who want to invest in learning with and from each other, exploring new modes of expression, and otherwise pushing their practice into unexpected places. We prioritize perspectives, voices, and issues which have been historically under-represented. Potential fellows should also be at a stage where they are able to reflect on their practice, open to new ways of working, and have the space to engage other people and work, whether planned or serendipitous.
Do I need an advanced degree or a particular experience?
No degree is required. Fellows come from different backgrounds, modes of engagement, strengths, career stages and perspectives.
Is there a *right* time and motivation to do the Fellowship?
Motivations vary widely: some may use it to step outside current involvements and to reflect and explore a new issue, media, technology or community. Others might have hit a proverbial wall in their own practice and need to reinvigorate themselves. Still others are undertaking a new effort and seeking fellow-travelers. All, however, will be eager to contribute to the field itself as we collectively develop and share a deeper understanding of Civic Media practices. These motivations (and more!) are welcome as we work together to create a program that nurtures and advances both individuals within and the field of civic media itself.
Where does the Fellowship take place?
Like the rest of the world, we’ve adapted our activities for remote engagement during the global pandemic. At this time, the Fellowship is an entirely remote experience. See next section (“What’s the Fellowship Experience Like?”) for more details. We hope to be able to gather the cohort together in the same physical space soon, and will do that as soon as it’s safe for everyone to travel and be together.
Since it’s all remote, can I join the Fellowship from anywhere?
While your physical location isn’t a restriction, we do have some expectations for participation. We run the Fellowship from Los Angeles, CA, and we expect you to be able to meet synchronously with the cohort twice a week (with some breaks in schedule built in, and allowing for the occasional conflict). With the 2022 cohort, we meet for 90 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting at 1pm PT (4pm ET), and expect a similar schedule going forward. Additionally, we expect you to make time to connect individually with your cohort-mates on your own schedules. If this is out of sync with your time zone, or internet connectivity, the program won’t be a good fit for you.
Assuming pandemic conditions improve, will the 2022/23 cohort be able to come to the USC campus?
We hope so. Currently, we’re following USC’s Phases and Guidelines for returning to campus, but we’re not in charge of those decisions (or of the pandemic!). As of January 24, 2022, most USC instruction is happening in person, however access to campus is tightly controlled and largely restricted to students, faculty and staff, with minimal guests allowed.
You had a residential cohort before – will you do that again?
This program was conceived to be – and will remain – dynamic and iterative. We certainly learned the importance of flexibility in 2020 and 2021! We’re open to different modalities for the Fellowship, committed to being responsive to what participants need and aware of what we are able to provide. Our two all-remote fellowships in 2020/21 and 2021/22 have been fantastic experiences, and will be the foundation for future cohorts. We are excited to find ways to incorporate the fellowship into the on-campus community, but as yet uncertain what form it will take.
WHAT’S THE FELLOWSHIP EXPERIENCE LIKE?
While each Fellow’s experience is singular, there are also some constants: fellows meet together multiple times a week to share their experiences, to get and give feedback on work, and to learn new skills and perspectives.
Generally, Fellows will spend their fellowship reflecting on their practice and working on public-interest and civic-oriented media, technologies and acts. Exploration and creation are encouraged and may be individual or collaborative, short term or longer, fun or serious. In getting to know each other and each other’s work deeply, Fellows form lasting bonds and work with each other and others in guiding, joining and generating projects. Enthusiasm, empathy, patience, and commitment to working through ideas together are essential virtues!
While Fellows may come together over a shared passion for their work, they often find themselves needing space to pause and attend to their own well-being and the larger picture of their life. Taking a moment to return to center, to luxuriate in learning, and travel with people of other backgrounds and disciplines on analogous paths are key components of the program. We invite fellows to challenge themselves to stick to their goals while looking deeper within, quieting the noise and amplifying their intuition. We encourage fellows to set boundaries and say no to things while also getting out of their comfort zones to have hard conversations or participate in learning activities that they might not normally engage in.
In every part of the experience, we aim to make new connections and forge new collaborations, cultivating mentorship as a give-and-get exchange. Bringing varied expertise to the space, fellows are both teacher and student, sharing and completing projects together. Our hope (and experience so far) is that Fellows become vibrant members of a greater community, and expand their networks across new practices and disciplines.
Activities have included:
- Sharing Pecha Kuchas with the cohort: stories of who you are and how your experience has helped shape your work; developing community agreements for our time together.
- Presenting and participating in fellow-led learning sessions and workshops on things like: Afrofuturist worldbuilding, speculative storymaking, how to get your writing published, video production for social media, and more.
- Regular check-in calls to share updates, blockers and plans with each other, occasionally participating in deep dives on ideas/projects.
- Small-group discussions with civic media practitioners and scholars like Cathy Cohen, Sasha Costanza-Chock, Henry Jenkins, Stephanie Dinkins, and Caty Borum Chattoo.
- Social hours of cooking and sharing recipes, group storytelling, and making together.
- “Unconference” sessions, involving the larger AnnLab community and aimed at building relationships, with topics ranging from publication strategies to ancestral connections to synaesthesia to gardening
- Year-long self-care workshop series to help re-center thinking and rejuvenate mission, and multi-part financial coaching workshop designed for social impact artists & entrepreneurs.
- Opt-in “writing collective” of current and senior fellows to share virtual co-writing space and plan group learning sessions on topics like giving and receiving feedback, publishing your work, etc.
WHAT WILL PARTICIPATION IN THE FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?
We are planning the 2022/23 program to be a fully remote experience, though we hope to add in-person activities as soon as that’s possible. When we are able to meet in person, travel and accommodation will be provided for all out-of-town participants.
What’s the time commitment?
The fellowship is a 9-month part-time commitment (approximately 10 hours per week). This time is largely spent in collaboration and exchange (2x weekly video calls, one-on-one check-ins, etc.) with fellowship peers as well as others on staff and in the community.
How will I spend my time together with the cohort?
We see your time broken up roughly into thirds:
- Together synchronously (~3-4 hours): Taking Zoom fatigue into account, we split synchronous time into two days a week, with each Zoom call lasting about 90 minutes. We expect to continue many of the remote activities described above, however programming is also emergent and based on the group’s interests and needs. We also make room for sharing individual work and feedback sessions within this weekly schedule.
- One-on-one with other members of the cohort and or staff (~3 hours)
- Your own personal time thinking/dreaming/in practice about fellowship stuff! (~3 hours)
How will the fellowship contribute to my work?
We’ve designed the fellowship structure to provide a sounding board for working through challenges and decision points in everything from daily practice to larger project initiatives and career goals, as well as an accountability structure to help realize the aims that individual Fellows set for themselves. During the fellowship, we will ask you to spend some time with us on things that probably won’t feel like they relate directly to your work. We ask that you trust us that investment will be rewarded further down the line!
Is there financial support provided with the fellowship?
Yes, our 2021/22 cohort received a monthly stipend of $2500 for the 9-month fellowship, along with up to $4000 toward project expenses. We are still finalizing our budget for the 2022/23 cohort, but expect to offer a similar level of total financial support.
Are healthcare or other benefits offered to Fellows through USC?
The Fellowship is not a faculty, staff, or student appointment and does not offer any additional benefits (healthcare, insurance, retirement, etc.) at this time.
What other USC resources are available? Can I take classes at USC as part of the fellowship?
Fellows have access to distance resources at USC (such as digital library resources).
Fellows are not able to officially enroll in classes (either for credit or for audit) as part of the program. However, many classes have welcomed fellows to “sit in” informally and participate in this way. This is entirely at the discretion of the faculty and department for each class and arranged on a case by case basis. As of January 24, 2022, most USC instruction is happening in person, however access to campus is tightly controlled and largely restricted to students, faculty and staff, with minimal guests allowed. We expect this to continue to be the case in Fall of 2022 – if access to campus becomes more open, LA-based fellows may again be able to sit in on in-person classes.
WHAT IS THE TERM?
The fellowship spans the academic year, about 9 months. Our 2022/23 cohort will run from approximately September 2022 through May 2023. After successfully completing the fellowship year, participants continue as Senior Fellows for three years (with possibility of extension) affording them a title, community, access to USC resources and the like, albeit with no ongoing financial support.
HOW MANY FELLOWS ARE THERE?
Size of the program has ranged from 9-16 fellows, and our 2021/22 cohort has 12 fellows. They are joined by our Senior Fellows, which include alumni of the fellowship program and other illustrious and engaged community members.
HOW ARE FELLOWS SELECTED?
In the first years of the program, we focused on surfacing applicants through existing networks using a nomination process. While we still rely heavily on these networks to circulate the opportunity and socialize the program, we have offered an open application process since 2020. All applicants must 1) complete the application, 2) submit contact info for two references, and 3) have one reference complete our recommendation form. The application for the 2022/23 program is open from 1/31/2022 – 2/25/2022 (a link to the recommendation form is included on the application and may be forwarded to the recommender of the applicant’s choice).
We designed the application to be a non-burdensome way for applicants to reflect on why they and the fellowship are a fit and what they hope to get from the experience (and the next chapter of their life).
Applications are reviewed by a combination of our team and a group of senior fellows, with a subset selected for the initial interview process. The interviews are treated as conversations and opportunities to begin to get to know each other and further explore how the fellowship experience could benefit the applicant. After the initial interview round is completed, finalists are selected for a second round of interviews, from which our cohort is selected. While we review applicants individually, our final decisions are informed by fit within the cohort.
WHEN WILL THE NEXT COHORT BE SELECTED?
Our current timeline for the 2022/23 Cohort is as follows:
Jan. 31 – Feb. 25 2022: Applications Accepted
March 2022: Applications Reviewed
April – May 2022: Candidate Interviews
June 2022: Cohort Selected
Late August 2022: 2022/23 Fellowship Program Begins
HOW DOES THIS PROGRAM EMBRACE DIVERSITY?
Diversity is a super-power — a resource to be leveraged, not a problem to be managed — and attention to it runs through everything we do. As part of learning with and from each other, the work and well-being of our community are profoundly strengthened by the differences among us, background, culture, lived experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, age, ability, and much more. We actively seek and welcome people from across these spectra. Recognizing that it is a work forever in progress, we are committed to harnessing—and demonstrating—the dynamism, joy and strength of an inclusive and empowered community.
We’ve learned a lot over these first few years, and are committed to continuing that journey and manifesting those lessons in program improvements. We apply an inclusive lens to every corner of the program, recognizing that there is hard work to do every day to ensure we truly and reservedly welcome the whole person into our shared space.
WHEN DID THE CIVIC MEDIA FELLOWSHIP START?
Our founding cohort began in January 2019 with four Residential Fellows, who were joined by five Remote Fellows in March 2019. You can meet the full founding cohort here.
WHY DID YOU CREATE THE CIVIC MEDIA FELLOWSHIP?
We were inspired to launch this fellowship because while there is tremendous innovation, progress and commitment among civic media practitioners, there are altogether too few supports for them to push boundaries, develop new approaches, and engage across diverse colleagues, communities, and disciplines and sectors. Their path is difficult not simply due to the subject matter, long hours or scarce resources, but because it is untrodden and their destination is emergent. They know the danger of the bleeding edge, the challenge of learning how to actually do the work well, the frustration of not fitting into existing offerings neatly, and life between the rock and hard place of great expectations and neverending need. Painfully aware that these realities are exacerbated due to the relatively few communities working in these ways, we aim to support them directly and through engagement with a participatory civic media network.
WAIT, WHAT IS CIVIC MEDIA? DO I PRACTICE CIVIC MEDIA?
While the term and the field are emergent, we hold a loose definition of civic media as the use of today’s technologies to create media that connects with communities, inspires action, and helps sustain social change efforts – that covers a lot of things, so if you’re interested in those aspects of your practice, we’d love for you to engage with us around this discussion!
The Civic Media Fellowship is designed for practitioners who don’t fit easily or completely into established boxes. People with a lot of hyphenates in their descriptors or career paths that look particularly twisty will find colleagues and collaborators here. People who are willing to blaze new paths, who appreciate rough edges, and who want to learn surprising new things – about themselves, others and the world – will find the program exciting and rewarding.
WHAT’S THE NETWORK BEHIND THIS?
Founding sponsorship and support of this program come from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with inspiration, knowledge and camaraderie shared by a tremendous network of MacArthur’s grantees and other collaborating organizations, our Senior Fellows and other leaders, the USC steering committee and the AnnLab team.
HOW CAN I ASK MORE QUESTIONS?
During the application period (Jan 31 – Feb 25, 2022) you can schedule a 20-minute, one-on-one Zoom session with us for application questions here.
We continue to amend and expand the FAQ thanks to your questions and our learning, so feel free to check back periodically and or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org