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. But 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, and many other threats. The public needs to be represented in Washington, to promote better policies in everyone’s interest. That is why we are working to train 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 Public Knowledge’s 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 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 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 Posses?

  • 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.

In addition to mentoring and on-the-job learning, Public Knowledge hosts speakers to talk with the fellows, interns, and staff.  In the fall of 2015, we heard from a professor and communications lawyer on the congressional lawmaking process, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Public Policy on the intersection of public interest and private enterprise on advocacy, and Public Knowledge’s President on the skills needed to be an effective public interest advocate. In 2016, we hosted a former FTC Chairman on his experience with advocacy and law making in the public interest. In addition, Public Knowledge staff shares their knowledge, expertise, and issue areas, and there are 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, we launched a new public interest legal fellowship program in conjunction with George Washington University Law School. We welcomed Dallas Harris and John Gasparini, who graduated from GW law school in May of 2015, for two-year fellowships, funded by GW. Each year, two additional two-year fellows will join Public Knowledge in this ongoing program. In the fall of 2016, we welcomed the second pair, Sara Kamal and Yosef Getachew. The partnership between Public Knowledge and George Washington Law School also provides for four law students to intern at Public Knowledge each summer beginning in 2016.

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. During her fellowship she shared her expertise with our staff and expanded her own work in the Washington policy arena. She will collaborate with us on an ongoing basis.

In the fall semesters beginning in 2014, 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.

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 associate government affairs counsel. Edyael is a second-year law student at University of Colorado, focusing on communications law. During her first summer break, she returned to Washington to serve a legal internship at the Federal Communications Commission.

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 law graduate Kerry Maeve Sheehan won a public interest fellowship from BU with a joint application from Public Knowledge. She served a one-year fellowship in 2015, funded through Boston University School of Law, and Cahill, Gordon, and Reindel LLP. After her Fellowship, Kerry worked for the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a Policy Strategist. 

Courtney Duffy was a two-year fellow who brought an arts perspective to technology policy. Public Knowledge hosted this fellowship through 2017, which was a partnership between arts group Fractured Atlas and the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. Courtney will be a student at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College beginning in Fall 2017. 

After her time as an inagural GWU Fellow at Public Knowledge, Dallas Harris took on a new role as an Administrative Attorney in the General Counsel's Office of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. 


Public Knowledge Advocacy Training Primer

Public Knowledge Advocacy Training Toolkit

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


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