Public Interest Technology Fellowships

Media Democracy Fund manages two different programs that match technologists with social justice organizations: the Technology Exchange Matching Fund and the PhDX Fellowship Program.

Ford/MDF Technology Exchange Matching Fund

Launched in 2015, the Ford/MDF Technology Exchange Matching Fund (TX) creates opportunities for emerging technology leaders around the world to gain experience working with civil society organizations on public interest tech issues.

Supplemented by a matching grant from Ford/MDF, each selected host site creates a full-time staff position that lasts at least 12 months and provides participants with a salary, benefits, and professional development opportunities. We hope that, in some cases, these will become permanent staff positions.

The TX staffers work on a range of substantive projects at the leading edge of technology, policy, and social justice. Some examples include:


  • An analysis of the algorithm-based pre-trial assessment tools used by an increasing number of police and court jurisdictions in the US. These computer models generate “scores” for the accused, but the inputs that affect scores are largely hidden from the public.
  • An assessment of the data being collected by national and state-based agencies about violence against women in Brazil. This analysis is also mapping out how closely the Brazilian datasets adhere to developing international standards for open public data.
  • Advocating for broadband privacy issues in the US by attending congressional meetings and events, conducting policy research, and raising public awareness through videos explaining consumer privacy, broadband policy and net neutrality.


While TX staffers and host site supervisors organize the projects independently, MDF supports the Tech Exchange cohort through monthly conference calls and a dedicated staffer-only Slack channel. TX staffers use these networks to talk about their projects, solicit ideas, arrange meetings with each other, promote events and post job listings. MDF also organizes in-person convenings at at least one internet freedom-related conference a year, giving TX staffers a chance to meet each other face to face. Other opportunities to connect and convene TX staff with other PIT Fellows are pursued throughout the year, as funding and staff availability permit.


2021-2022 host sites

  • ccHub (Lagos, Nigeria)
  • CIPESA (Uganda)
  • Consumers International (global)
  • Dejusticia (Bogota, Colombia)
  • Feminist.AI (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Fundación Acceso (Costa Rica)
  • International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (global)
  • NUPEF (Brazil)
  • Simply Secure (US)
  • Social Media Exchange (Beirut, Lebanon)


2019-2021 host sites (extended for 12 months because of COVID-19)

  • Arab American Institute (Washington, DC)
  • Color of Change (New York, NY)
  • Dejusticia (Bogota, Colombia)
  • Libraries Without Borders (Baltimore, MD)
  • National Digital Inclusion Alliance (Columbus, OH/Phoenix, AZ)
  • Research ICT Africa (Cape Town, South Africa)
  • Social Media Exchange (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • United For Respect (Brooklyn, NY)

2018-19 host sites

  • Article 12 (Mexico City, MX)
  • Dejusticia (Bogota, Colombia)
  • Center for Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law (Washington, DC)
  • Color of Change (New York, NY)
  • Internet Lab (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
  • NYCLU (New York, NY)
  • Open MIC (New York, NY)
  • MPower Change (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Research ICT Africa (Cape Town, South Africa)
  • Enoch Pratt Public Library (Baltimore, MD)
  • Libraries Without Borders (Baltimore, MD)


2017-18 host sites

  • Center for Media Justice (Oakland, CA)
  • Color of Change (San Francisco, CA)
  • (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Demand Progress (Washington, DC)
  • Fight for the Future 
  • Internet Lab (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
  • Media Mobilizing Project (Philadelphia, PA)
  • NYCLU (New York, NY)
  • NYC Commission on Human Rights (New York, NY)
  • Open MIC (New York, NY)
  • Tor Project

2016-17 host sites

  • ACLU of Massachusetts (Cambridge, MA)
  • Artigo 19 (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
  • Center for Democracy and Technology (Washington, DC)
  • Demand Progress (Washington, DC)
  • Global Voices (Bangalore, India)
  • Media Mobilizing Project (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Open Technology Institute (New York)
  • Public Knowledge (Washington, DC)
  • Tor Project (Barcelona, Spain)

2015-16 host sites

  • Berkman Center (Cambridge, MA)
  • Center for Democracy and Technology (Washington, DC)
  • Common Cause (Washington, DC)
  • Demand Progress (Washington, DC)
  • Derechos Digitales (Santiago, Chile)
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
  • Fight for the Future (Northampton, MA)
  • Global Voices (Bangalore, India)

Does your organization want to apply to be a host site?

In June, MDF invites about 20 organizations to submit letters of interest for 10 host site spots for the next cohort. MDF selects host sites in August/September, and the organizations search for applicants in November/December. Most staffers begin their year-long positions between December and January of any given year.

Contact Media Democracy Fund to learn more about the host site selection process.



PhDX: Talent for the 21st Century

In 2017, Media Democracy Fund launched a pilot for PhDX, a fellowship program designed to pair graduate or PhD level university students with a background in technology with DC-based public interest technology policy organizations for an immersive fellowship experience over two consecutive summers. This pilot project was made possible with support from Open Society Foundations as part of the NetGain initiative.

  • In 2017, MDF matched two PhD students from the University of Florida with two MDF grantees based in Washington, DC: Free Press and Upturn.
  • In 2018, the program included three PhD-track students from the University of Florida’s Computer Science department and three DC-based organizations: Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Public Knowledge and National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC).
  • In 2019, two PhD-track students from University of Florida were placed at two DC-based organizations: Arab American Institute and the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights.
  • In 2020, we had three PhD-track students from University of Florida who participated in remote fellowships because of COVID, with the DC-based staff of the Brennan Center for Justice, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights.

Through this program, the students enrich their graduate level computer science and tech policy interests by learning from and contributing to organizations working on the front lines of technology, policy and social justice.