Announcing our new Fellowship Programme

We are excited to announce the launch of the Yoti Fellowship Programme, one of the signature activities from our new Social Impact Strategy. From today we will be inviting applications from individuals interested in helping unlock the potential of digital identities with a particular focus on local, grassroots issues. In return, Fellows will be offered generous financial and logistical support, expenses and a chance to have their findings shared with the wider world.

See our Head of Social Impact Ken Banks chatting about the Fellowship Programme here.

Yoti Fellows: Filling the knowledge deficit

The majority of the digital identity sector tends to focus on the design, adoption and use of large-scale digital identity systems, and how users interact with them. This includes national efforts, such as the Aadhaar ID system in India. Most of this research begins with the technology and works its way down to the people who use it, an approach which has given us something of a knowledge deficit.

What we’re missing is an understanding of why people might want a digital identity, what they know about digital identity, their concerns and what tools and approaches might be missing in their local context. Without a fuller understanding of these bottom-up issues we have little chance of developing the most useful and appropriate identity solutions.

We need to dive deeper and find out more if we want to increase our chances of adopting the right kind of identity – a Good Identity – in our sector. That’s why the prime objective of our new Fellows Programme is to support the local researchers, innovators, change agents and individuals closest to these issues.

Tim Unwin, the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and one of the judges on the selection panel for the Fellowship Programme, agreed with this approach.

“This is a great opportunity to work with an innovative team on issues that really matter. Rather than beginning with the technology, these Fellowships offer an opportunity to begin with people – identifying why they might want a digital identity, and how such identities can be designed most appropriately to serve their needs.”

The process

From today we’re announcing a call for three Fellowship positions. We invite proposals for research, media or policy development, or solutions development. These proposals need to be based on three or four key themes related to identity or digital identity which merit further exposure, discussion, development or research. Outputs from the Fellow’s activities can be anything from a technical platform, a report, a website, a book, a policy paper, a film or any other medium relevant to the proposal.

Applicants may be based anywhere, although preference will be given to those from the developing world. A short concept note will be required along with a current CV and the names of at least one referee. This is so we can be confident that the Fellow is qualified and able to deliver on their proposal.

A selection panel made up of digital identity, technology, social scientists, activists and other experts will decide on the successful applicants. Details of the panel are available in the application pack.

Erik Hersman, a technologist who specialises on the impact of technology in Africa, is just one of the experts to join the selection panel.

“The future of everything is about being digitally connected, and the way we handle identity matters. I’m excited to help with selection on the Yoti Fellows Program as they think through who makes up that future, and why a bottom-up approach to thinking about digital identities matters so much for people in frontier markets,” he said.

Fellows will be supported with a generous payment of £30,000 (approximately US$38,000) paid in equal installments over the course of the year, and receive logistical and technical support from Yoti. A small budget for project travel and other expenses up to a maximum of £5,000 will also be available. All work produced will be made publicly and freely available on completion of the Fellowship.

Thematic areas

We are primarily interested in issues, challenges and opportunities for digital identity in a local context. More specifically, we invite applications which focus on any of the following thematic areas.

  • Unlocking the challenges of providing and managing identity solutions among refugee, migrant, marginalised or economically exploited communities or individuals.
  • Studying the difficulties experienced by indigenous communities in establishing and proving identity, as well as claiming any state benefits they may be eligible for.
  • Unpicking what ‘digital identity’ and identity more broadly means to communities in developing countries (including those living in or close to the last mile) and the NGOs and local organisations providing services to them.
  • Any other issues which warrant investigation which are not yet part of the wider digital identity debate.

Applications can be submitted between now and 15 June, 2019. Applicants will be notified of the outcome on a rolling basis but no later than 15 July, 2019. The three successful applicants will be able to start their Fellowships shortly after the closing date. You can find the full terms and conditions and other Programme details in our application pack here. You can send any questions to the team at social.impact@yoti.com with the subject ‘Yoti Fellowship Programme’.

Best of luck!


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