Public Interest Advocacy Training at Public Knowledge

Why Does America Need Public Interest Advocates?

Access to an open internet is critical to participation in a democratic society. Today, the public faces increasing challenges to fair and open access to the internet, from corporate consolidation and control of internet access, to overbroad application of copyright law, to many other threats.  The public needs to be represented in Washington to promote better policies in everyone’s interest. That is why we are training a new cadre of smart and savvy public interest advocates -- to balance corporate power by forcefully representing the public for years to come.

How Does Public Knowledge Train Advocates?

Public Knowledge trains public interest fellows with a learn-by-doing approach at our location in Washington DC. Graduate fellows are immersed in internet, communications, and intellectual property policy making, including taking a leading role on an issue or issues, planning strategy, participating in educational meetings on Capitol Hill, agencies, and with other public interest groups and allies, engaging with the public through press and social media, culminating in an understanding and facility to advocate for the public interest that will position the fellow to be a leader in the public interest community. Public Knowledge also hosts summer interns who assist on the same projects.

What are the Essential Responsibilities of a Fellow?

  • Provide input, strategy advice, and advocacy to shape laws and regulations that support open internet policy, communications competition, and balanced intellectual property law.  Serve as lead author on advocacy documents that support public interest positions.
  • Partner with government relations and communications staff to develop and execute strategy on Capitol Hill, at the Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies, working in coalitions including other public interest groups, and engaging with the press.
  • Design and deliver presentations at meetings with policy makers, the press, internal staff, and other public interest groups.
  • Develop expertise in a select set of global, national, and where appropriate, state-based internet technology or related policy issues.

What Qualifications are Needed to be a Public Interest Fellow?

  • Ability to digest and understand underlying legal or policy documents as a prerequisite to strategic and policy planning. Ability to conduct research and analyze data.
  • Strong analytical skills, including the ability to think quickly and help devise legislative and political strategies to attain a projected outcome.
  • Substantive knowledge of relevant law and policy issues.

What Attributes Do Most Public Interest Fellows Possess?

  • Demonstrated dedication to the fight for civil liberties, human rights, and a more open and competitive communications environment.
  • Excellent communications skills, including the ability to translate complex ideas into understandable written and oral statements and messages to persuade, influence, or inform others, including public opinion leaders and the media.

How Can Someone Apply for a Fellowship or Other Opportunity?

  • Public Knowledge posts open fellowships and internships on its website, along with the application process for each position. Law, public policy or other students who wish to inquire about fellowships or internships may contact us by email or phone at or 202-861-0020.

What Kind of Mentoring and Learning Opportunities are Provided to Fellows?

Fellows are provided with mentoring and substantive advice from two sources: the director of the fellowship program, and a staff advocate in the subject area where they are working. Each mentor meets with the fellow regularly to help develop projects and skills, balance priorities, and develop professionally. Public Knowledge hosts outside speakers to talk with the fellows, interns, and staff, and we convene staff dialogues on emerging issues and how they relate to Public Knowledge’s work and the public interest.

What Fellowships and Other Programs Has Public Knowledge Hosted?

Current Fellows

In 2015, Public Knowledge launched a new public interest legal policy fellowship program in conjunction with George Washington University Law School. Each year, two GW Law graduates join us to serve two-year fellowships. In the fall of 2017, we welcomed our third class, Arian Attar and Daiquiri Ryan. They will join Sara Kamal and Yosef Getachew, who are beginning their second year. Please see a video featuring the GW fellows here.

Also in 2017, we welcomed GW Law graduates Katrina Worsham as a Technology and Policy Law Fellow sponsored by the Ford-MDF Technology Exchange Matching Fund and Dylan Gilbert as a Policy Fellow.

Other Programs

In the fall semesters, Public Knowledge hosts Georgetown Law Center externs as part of a practicum course where they attend lectures on communications policy making at the Law Center and gain practical experience at Public Knowledge. During the summers, PK hosts four legal interns from GW Law. Public Knowledge has also hosted fellows, externs, and interns from McGill University, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, Howard University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, and others.

Former Fellows

In 2014, Public Knowledge launched its fellowship training program with two Internet Rights Fellows funded by Media Democracy Fund/New Venture Fund: Kate Forscey focused on internet rights and the net neutrality debate, and Edyael Casaperalta brought a rural perspective to broadband and technology transition issues. Kate has now joined PK’s staff as government affairs counsel. Edyael is a third-year law student at University of Colorado, focusing on communications law. During her summer breaks, she has returned to Washington to serve internships at the Federal Communications Commission and at an international communications consultancy.

In 2015, we hosted a Ford-Mozilla open web fellow, Tennyson Holloway, who brought computer programming know-how to the policy debate to improve understanding of the architecture of the internet and how that can inform policy. Boston University School of Law graduate Kerry Maeve Sheehan won a public interest fellowship with a joint application from Public Knowledge. She served a one-year fellowship in 2015, funded through BU and Cahill, Gordon, and Reindel LLP.

In 2015, we welcomed our first class of GW Law fellows, Dallas Harris and John Gasparini. After completing their fellowships, Dallas returned to her home state of Nevada to work in the General Counsel’s office of the state PUC, and John joined a communications law firm in DC. Also in 2015, we brought together an arts and technology fellowship with Fractured Atlas and the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, hosting Courtney Duffy who brought an arts perspective to technology policy. Courtney is now earning an MBA at Dartmouth with an eye toward non-profit management.

Professor Annemarie Bridy joined us for the fall of 2016 as a visiting senior fellow from the University of Idaho College of Law where she teaches intellectual property and technology law courses. She collaborates with us on an ongoing basis.


Public Knowledge Advocacy Training Primer

Public Knowledge Advocacy Training Toolkit

Check out our latest video of the Fellows discussing their experiences at Public Knowledge: 


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