Urban Citizen Fellowship
Together with the Municipality of Amsterdam the Urban Citizen Fellowship is set up to stimulate the use of advanced research in political deliberation and public policy making for the city of Amsterdam. From 2022 onwards, the programme focusses on the topic of digital urban citizenship.
About the Urban Citizen Fellowship
This unique fellowship offers researchers the opportunity to carry out research projects on issues with regards to living in a city and feeling like a citizen. It combines the benefits of working in the interdisciplinary environment of an Institute for Advanced Study with the advantages of doing a project with high societal impact and concrete results.
Based on the research findings, an important aspect of the Urban Citizen Fellowship is to provide insights and advice for policy-making for the Municipality of Amsterdam. Each fellow teams up with a relevant contact person at the municipality in order to stimulate intellectual exchange and practical collaboration. The urban citizen fellows also work together, with each fellow building upon the work of previous fellows. The fellowship is concluded with an essay written for a general audience, as well as a lecture or presentation to the Municipality.
About the Topic of Digital Urban Citizenship
The digital revolution has provided us with a great set of tools, limitless opportunities and an unprecedented access to data and knowledge. While digitalisation has been replacing more traditional, already existing systems for a few decades, e.g. sending email instead of letters, it is now changing our society in a more fundamental way. Citizens organize themselves via platforms, access to the government is getting more and more digital (only), and platforms are getting dominant in traditional public sectors such as health, education or mobility.
The digital era is also changing the way how we define and organize our society and even democracy. Digital tools can shape the way we find solutions or make decisions in collaboration with other citizens and officials. For government it means they need to change its way of working, change its processes and probably it means to reinvent itself.
Digital Citizenship provides a range of possibilities, but there will be challenges as well. How can we make sure everybody has equal chances to join? How can we make sure the technology is transparent? How will it impact current structures of participation? How can we make sure that trust in the government will be growing instead of declining? A range of questions that need to be addressed and where we need to make the right choices.
Within the “Open stad”-programme Amsterdam has developed several tools to involve Amsterdammers (over 500.000 participants within the last years), which has given the municipality tons of data that can be used in learning what works for whom. In the context of this fellowship, the municipality would like to gather knowledge that will help us to create a framework that fosters inclusivity and transparency. More specifically, we would like to focus on several groups of citizens that have different skills, background or education.
The research will take place during three years, respectively dealing with:
- Transparent government (2022/23; call closed)
Governments offer their services to residents, visitors and companies in their territories more and more in digital fashions. This offers, on the one hand, new opportunities for openness and sharing knowledge; on the other hand, it also allows for more opaque processes when social networks, media and algorithms are not transparent while generating lots of facts upon which politicians base their policies. Which openness is fundamental to liberal social democracies and which elements should not be open at all? To which standards should open source and open content comply with for contributing to transparency of government? How can tracking and tracing help to create safe environments while privacy is at stake? When City Hall is turning into a website, can we still feel ‘at home’ with our government? How does branding affect belonging?
- Merging realities (2023/24, call extended until 17 April 2023)
On- and offline, local and translocal realities merge in the experience of people. Over 180 nationalities live in Amsterdam. Many people live in Amsterdam while being part of communities elsewhere as well. Is it possible for a local digital architecture to facilitate safe and secure interaction between people, who come from different places and who all share the physical environment of Amsterdam? Which policies and measures can a local government implement to enhance the sense of local citizenship when online international and offline local experiences merge? How can bicultural backgrounds or multicultural communities enhance the sense of local digital citizenship? How is digital citizenship different for specific generations? What are design requirements that a local government can embrace to facilitate an intergeneration and inclusive concept of digital citizenship? What should a government not do to enhance digital citizenship?
- Digital Divide (2024/25, date of open call tba)
Not every citizen has the same access to digital tools nor the same savviness to use them, while more and more societal processes are dependent on these digital skills and access. Moreover, these tools and skills change rapidly all the time, which makes it even harder to design inclusive strategies for organisations and governments. Social and economic class affects people’s agency profoundly, also in the digital domain. How can a government develop inclusive strategies for its residents and annihilate the digital divide? What are design requirements for public governmental digital architectures for making sure all residents on both sides of the digital divide can access and contribute to local governance? Public libraries have a historical role in making sure the whole population has access to culture and information. How can public libraries play a role in developing digital citizenship and crossing the digital divide?
Project proposals should relate to the topics above (each academic year focusses on a specific topic). Applicants can formulate one’s own research questions but addressing one of the concrete concerns laid out in the text above, is recommended.
- The Urban Citizen Fellowship is granted for a period of 10 months. In exceptional cases, fellowships of 5 months (Sept- Jan or Feb – June) are possible.
- In the coming years, 6 fellowships are offered (Sept – June 2022/23, Sept – June 2023/24, Sept-June 2024/25)
- Fellows are provided with an office, research facilities, lunch, participation in the NIAS community and daily commuting travel expenses or subsidised accommodation in Amsterdam. Fellows receive a stipend of 2.500 euro per month, or in the case of fellows with an affiliation to a Dutch university – a Dutch University Grant of 2.500 euro per month (paid directly to the university).
Who can apply?
- Scholars with expertise on topics surrounding urban citizenship and/or digitalisation
- At least three years of post-Ph.D. academic experience
- Willingness to work towards concrete results in cooperation with the Municipality of Amsterdam
- The project proposal should be no more than a maximum of fifteen hundred words including footnotes, excluding bibliography.
For an overview of all formal requirements, please see here.
How to apply
To apply for the fellowship, candidates must submit a fully completed application form through the online application module.
Applications are evaluated on the basis of a) scientific quality and originality of the project proposal; b) relevance to public policy making for the city of Amsterdam; 3) the candidate’s academic achievements.
- 17 April 2023 (12 noon CET) for a fellowship in the academic year 2023/24 (topic: merging realities).
- to be announced (12 noon CET) for a fellowship in the academic year 2024/25 (topic: digital divide).
About the Municipality of Amsterdam and this partnership
The Urban Citizen Fellowship was initiated in 2020, by NIAS director Jan Willem Duyvendak and Caroline Nevejan. Nevejan is the Chief Science Officer with the City of Amsterdam and professor by special appointment of Designing Urban Experience at the University of Amsterdam.
The first three rounds of this fellowship programme focussed on research projects on Inclusivity (2020), Democratization and Representation (2021) and Citizenship and Education (2022).
Read more about Amsterdam’s policies here.