Why did School of Data’s fellowship adopt a thematic focus?

February 10, 2016 in Announcement, Fellowship

The field of data literacy training is a vast one. All around the world, organisations such as School of Data are working to empower citizens and journalists to use data effectively to make change, from sanitation statistics to election data, numbers on government spending to measuring refugee figures.

Given the size of this topic, it can be hard for our fellows to choose where to focus the attention of their learning. That’s why the 2016 School of Data Fellowship is taking a thematic approach. What do we mean by this? Basically, we will be prioritising those candidates who can demonstrate experience in, and enthusiasm for, a specific area of data literacy training. We will also give preference to those individuals demonstrating links with an organisation practising in this defined area and/or links with an established network operating in the field. We hope such individuals will already have knowledge of their topic, that they will already be reflecting on the challenges they may face in their chosen area, for instance. In this way, a fellow beginning their placement has a head start; already they are well on the way to achieving the very most from their time with School of Data.

We hope that having these thematic focuses will not only focus the learning of our fellows, but allow us to support them in their work more effectively: with a clear direction in mind, we can quickly tap into our network of partner organisations and find local support for the fellows’ placement. We have come to know, through previous fellowship cycles, that fellows do best given this type of support; we want to formalise this dynamic in our 2016 round.

It’s not only a fellow that benefits from this relationship; it is through the fellow and the local, partner organisation working alongside each other that we can really magnify the impact of our work, cross-pollinating knowledge across different programmes and different countries.

Let’s take a look at each theme:

Choose your own thematic focus

  • Partner organisation: Fellows & School of Data work together
  • Positions: 4

Fellows can choose their own thematic focus during the application process. We are looking for individuals with strong experience or knowledge working with data in any number of sectors and who have identified data literacy obstacles within the field that they are are passionate about working with us to try to overcome them.

If you have expertise in anything from Election Monitoring to Disaster Risk Reduction to Fiscal Transparency or Health Service Provision, we invite you to share your experience working in the field, describe the data literacy challenges that you have identified and explain your vision for improving data literacy within the proposed thematic area.

Be creative and daring but we also encourage you to think local, we are looking for individuals who want to have a long term impact in their regions and communities.

Now, before you apply for a thematic focus of your own, take a look at the categories below. If you have experience working within one of those areas, we encourage you to apply for one of them. The advantage is that we already contacted partner organisations that are ready to support your fellowship experience, providing you with guidance, mentorship and expertise in their own domains.

Data Journalism Fellow

Partner organisation





Positions: 3

There are three positions in this track. Two of them will be held by Central American candidates in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras. School of Data and Internews are seeking for fellows to support the launch of a regional data journalism initiative. The fellows will be contributing to three major activities: the development of a data journalism curriculum to be delivered to journalists from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; working on projects with one of three digital investigative journalism outlets (El Faro in El Salvador, Plaza Publica in Guatemala and Revistazo in Honduras) and helping teams with the data component of selected cross-border reporting projects funded by Internews.

The fellows will be integral to the successful launch of this regional data journalism program and will produce much of the content that will be utilized throughout the period.

We have one more position for the Data Journalism thematic focus that is not necessarily associated with the other two. We encourage candidates from any country to suggest their own data journalism approaches to the fellowship.

Responsible Data, Privacy & Data Ethics Fellow

Partner organisation






  • Position: 1

The thematic fellowship on Responsible Data can be focused on any number of issues related to responsible data. ‘Responsible data’ refers to something broader than digital or information security — it is about thinking through the duty to ensure people’s rights to consent, privacy, security and ownership of their personal information throughout all of the stages of the data life cycle.

Studying, exploring and responding to these issues is essential because the use of technology and data is increasingly prominent in contemporary social change strategies, and because the speed at which technology and data evolves means the dangers they pose are growing in unexpected and alarming ways. Because the challenges civil society faces in carrying out work are amorphous and complex, it can be next to impossible for an organization to determine how best to use data responsibly without specialist guidance.

We hope that this fellowship will provide an opportunity for a deep-dive into a specific responsible data issue (through a project lens, for example on the use of satellite footage, opened data sets, data sharing practices, data visualization, etc) in order to contribute to this developing specialised guidance.

Extractives Data Fellow

Partner organisation





  • Position: 1

An ideal extractives data fellow would already have at least a basic understanding of the extractives sector or at least a strong desire to learn. Some familiarity with extractive contract terms and payment structures would be very useful, as well as knowledge on how to find and utilize extractives data that already exists (Open Oil Database, EITI reports, etc). A candidate with a strong desire to harness the information already available and use it to push for greater transparency and accountability, as well as knowledge sharing, would fit well with this fellowship position

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