Deadline extended until May 27, 2019!




Democracy has always required the free flow of ideas. In the modern age, this means a free, open internet where all citizens can freely voice their opinions, share, and debate. Access to an open internet for all is necessary to strengthen democratic engagement and governance, enable equal participation in the market economy, and promote social accountability.

The Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program – a collaboration between the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) – is an eight-month non-resident leadership program that empowers emerging leaders from across the globe to build their advocacy and organizing skills to protect internet freedom.

Open Internet for Democracy Leaders are a unique cohort of global advocates from civic organizations, media, and the private sector who are passionate about protecting and promoting an open internet.

The program aims to:

  1. Empower emerging open internet advocates to advance internet policy discussions and organize for change in their country and region.
  2. Strengthen the Open Internet for Democracy Community by connecting emerging open internet advocates with their global peers.


In the past few years a number of countries have begun to promote an internet governance model based on the concept of network sovereignty. Network sovereignty holds that governments should have total control of the internet within their borders. This model differs from the current multistakeholder model of internet governance in which governments, civil society, and the technical community are considered equal partners in ensuring that the internet remains one, interoperable, global network. In practice, network sovereignty affords governments the ability to monitor the flow of information online, control the type of content that is accessible, and access user data stored within their jurisdictions. This unfettered control is typically not constrained by democratic processes and the rule of law, which makes it all the more concerning for advocates of freedom of expression and democracy.

Network sovereignty’s biggest backers are often authoritarian and non-democratic regimes. They contend that the capacity to control and monitor the flow of information on the internet is necessary for law enforcement and to ensure social cohesion. But even some democratic countries are adopting policies inspired by the network sovereignty model in an attempt to regulate the online space. Democracy activists and human rights defenders, however, believe that the network sovereignty model of internet governance endangers the rights of citizens by enabling government censorship and surveillance.

This year, the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative is seeking applicants interested in exploring how, where, and with what effect policies inspired by network sovereignty are impacting the development of an open internet and what ramifications this has for democracy at the local, regional, and global level. In particular, we are looking for individuals with an interest on the impact of network sovereignty policies on news media, civil society groups, and the private sector.


8 Months (June 2019 – January 2020)


Expectations of selected Leaders include:

  • National or regional advocacy

    Implement an in-country activity that directly contributes to a national or regional conversation on internet freedom. In particular, this year’s work will focus on the dangers that network sovereignty policies pose to an open internet and democracy. Examples of what projects might entail include:

    • An advocacy campaign aimed at equipping national policymakers with information about the pitfalls of network sovereignty policies
    • A report/research project that examines the impact of network sovereignty policies on access to news and information.
    • A mapping of national and/or regional network sovereignty policy proposals and their potential consequences.
    • A training module/video that explains the implications of network sovereignty policies for civil society, media, and/or the private sector.
  • Communications and Outreach

    • Produce at least 2 blog posts or articles for .
    • Actively engage in conversations on open internet issues, such as on Twitter with the program’s @OpenNetGlobal account.
    • Map the network of in-country and regional groups and individuals in the open internet community;
    • Identify potential areas for collaboration among local and regional open internet advocates/groups, and develop strategies for engagement and collective action.
  • Thought Leadership

    • Participate at the 2019 Internet Governance Forum as well as one regional internet governance or digital rights forum.
    • Contribute to knowledge and awareness of Open Internet for Democracy Community about local/regional/national threats to an open internet through participation in relevant events and ongoing information sharing.


  • Demonstrated interest or experience working on open internet issues, with preference given to those focused on media, private sector/entrepreneurship or civic/political participation
  • Experience in one or more of the following areas: policy, activism, research, or technical expertise
  • Ability to work independently with minimum supervision in collaboration with colleagues across different time zones
  • Strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills
  • Strong social media skills
  • Fluency in written and spoken English
  • Strong presentation skills
  • Must be able to travel to one international conference and one event/forum related to open internet or internet freedom in your home region (locations TBD; costs covered)
  • Preference given to individuals from non-OECD countries


The selected applicants will be a part of a larger international network where they can learn from peers and share their work. Open Internet Leaders will receive an honorarium of $1000 USD for completing their required activities, as well as travel and per diem covered for trips to one regional forum/conference and the 2019 Internet Governance Forum to be held in Berlin, Germany, November 25-29, 2019.


The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is an affiliate of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Chamber of Commerce. CIPE works with private sector organizations to increase support for and understanding of freedoms/rights essential for market-oriented democracies, including freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization that works with its local partners to establish and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world by building political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections, and promoting citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) is a media development think tank housed within the NED. CIMA works to improve the effectiveness of existing media development efforts by conducting research and bringing together a broad range of experts to share their experiences. CIMA’s mission is based on the conviction that free and independent media play an indispensable role in developing sustainable democracies around the world.


Contact Morgan Frost at mfrost [at] cipe [dot] org.