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, 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 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. They take a leading role on an issue or issues, plan strategy, participate in educational meetings on Capitol Hill, agencies, and with other public interest groups and allies, and engage with the public through press and social media. Fellowships culminate in an understanding and facility to advocate for the public interest that will position them to be leaders 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 with 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 email@example.com 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. 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?
Public Knowledge is hosting senior policy fellow Lisa Macpherson, who works on promoting local news and targeting online misinformation, and communications law expert Al Kramer who serves as senior fellow.
2020-2021: Public Knowledge hosted Communications Justice Fellow Tsion Tesfaye, who spearheaded a technology policy diversity project from 2019-2021. Jonathan Walter served as a policy fellow in 2020, and in 2021, Montana Williams and Micheline Deeik served as policy fellows.
In 2018, PK launched a Communications Justice Fellowship and hosted Alisa Valentin as a year-long fellow. Alisa is now Special Advisor in FCC Commissioner Starks’ office.
2016 – 2018: Public Knowledge hosted GW fellows Sara Kamal, Yosef Getachew, Arian Attar, and Daiquiri Ryan. Yosef is now Director of the Media and Democracy Program at Common Cause, Sara returned to her home state of Texas to join law firm Broude Smith Jennings & McGlinchey, Arian is now a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. State Department, and Daiquiri moved on to a position as Policy Counsel at the National Hispanic Media Coalition. PK also hosted GW Law graduate Sean Davis over the winter of 2018. Sean is now Data Security and Technology Fellow at National Consumers League.
Additionally, Professor Annemarie Bridy joined us in 2016 as a visiting senior fellow from the University of Idaho College of Law where she teaches intellectual property and technology law courses. Public Knowledge also hosted Steven Pallickal and Katrina Worsham in 2017 as Technology and Policy Law Fellows sponsored by the Ford-MDF Technology Exchange Matching Fund.
2015: Public Knowledge welcomed its first class of two-year GW Law fellows, Dallas Harris and John Gasparini. After their fellowships, Dallas returned to her home state of Nevada to work in the General Counsel’s office of the state PUC, and she is now serving as a Nevada State Senator, and John joined communications law firm Best Best & Krieger in DC. Public Knowledge brought together an arts and technology fellowship with Fractured Atlas and the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, hosting Courtney Duffy, who is now earning an MBA at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business along with an MPA at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
Public Knowledge hosted a Ford-Mozilla open web fellow, Tennyson Holloway, who brought computer programming know-how to the policy debate, and Boston University School of Law graduate Kerry Maeve Sheehan. Kerry won a BU public interest fellowship at Public Knowledge, funded by Cahill, Gordon, and Reindel LLP. Kerry went on to work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Law & Policy Foundry, and the Internet Archive.
Public Knowledge also 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. Our most recent class of fellows includes Dylan Gilbert, Lindsay Stern, and Jane Lee. The video above features the GW fellows.
2013-2014: Public Knowledge launched its fellowship training program with two Internet Rights Fellows funded by Media Democracy Fund/New Venture Fund: Kate Forscey focused on net neutrality, and Edyael Casaperalta brought a rural perspective to broadband issues. Kate went on to be Senior Legislative Counsel to Rep. Anna Eshoo, a key player on communications issues. Edyael went on to the University of Colorado Law School and is now a fellow at the American Indian Law Program.
Public Knowledge has hosted 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. Public Knowledge has hosted fellows, externs, and interns from George Washington Law, University of Colorado Law, Howard Law, Georgetown Law, University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Stanford, Villanova, and others.