Our Work

Offering Fellowships

Applications for the 2020 Voqal Fellowship are closed. Thanks to everyone who applied! We are currently reviewing this year’s applications.

Voqal knows that taking risks with innovative, progressive ideas is necessary to advance social change. The Voqal Fellowship is an investment in people as individuals and budding entrepreneurs; a talent accelerator aimed at giving those often overlooked by traditional funders a chance to enact their visions at center stage.

Voqal seeks social justice-oriented leaders, thinkers, doers and believers who have a big idea for a new way to organize communities — for a new way to bring about equitable social change. Any progressive idea is allowed, so long as it addresses a specific issue and the applicant can explain how the idea will address the issue through an equity lens.

Voqal Fellowship Perks

  • Be one of eight social changemakers embarking on a personal and professional learning journey.
  • Receive a $30,000 stipend so you can dedicate six months to think through your idea for social change and put it into motion.
  • Attend two in-person convenings, the first to get to know your cohort and the second to present your growth at the annual Netroots Nation conference.
  • Access monthly one-on-one and group coaching sessions.
  • Get exclusive resources and networks for starting and growing a social enterprise.
  • Get personal guidance through an exclusive and unique curriculum.

Voqal Fellowship Curriculum

Voqal centers the Fellowship learning around multiple levels of storytelling. This approach allows each Fellow the opportunity to connect with any audience of any size and to showcase why they, as an individual, have the experience and knowledge to enact their vision for a better future.

Voqal provides professional guidance for moving through each level, working with Fellows as they take on emotional and technical challenges throughout the six months. This curriculum includes:

  • Story of Self: Explore your personal journey to this point and how your idea developed. Receive personalized insights into your personal and professional habits.
  • Story of Venture: Connect with experts on starting a social enterprise. Explore how your venture’s story is a community’s story.
  • Story of Future: Determine how to sustainably grow and adapt your idea. Realize how to shift to a futurism mindset.

Voqal Fellowship Criteria

  • Idea Stage: Funding should be used to develop a great idea that has not yet been tried or produced by the applicant. Fellows will use the fellowship to develop a business plan, business model, working prototype and/or to network and fundraise.
  • Organizing: The project should engage a certain constituency in identifying a problem and mobilizing them to act to apply a solution. The final product should integrate information and service with a way for the community to organize itself.
  • Media or Technology: Funding should be used to develop a new media or technology product, system, or structure including but not limited to television, radio, music, movies, magazines, comics, websites, apps, social media and gaming.
  • Progressive: The project should increase equity and advance progressive, social justice values, including but not limited to a more representative government, social rights and civil liberties, media democracy, fair laws and courts, and civic engagement.
  • Disruptive: The project should attempt to dismantle the policies and practices that perpetuate oppression within society’s structures and systems. The project should work to build political power with and in communities that have traditionally had power used against them.
  • Innovative: Funding should be used for an original idea or product that proposes new ways to achieve social justice. If the final product is similar to other existing products, the market shouldn’t be saturated and/or there must be a plan for the product to stand out.
  • Representative: Strong, intelligent, creative and resilient people who have lived experiences with social inequities often face significant difficulty when seeking funding. We aim to intentionally fund LGBTQIA individuals, women, indigenous people and people of color.

Be Bold

A lot of smart and ambitious people with great ideas may not apply after reading the Fellowship criteria because they and their project do not meet all of the characteristics. Voqal encourages you to err on the side of boldness! If you believe you are a good match for the Fellowship but don’t fit absolutely all of the characteristics listed above, you should absolutely apply. Just recognize the difference between being almost there and not even close.

Featured Fellows

Allister Chang

Allister Chang works to expand access to reliable information. Besides being a past Voqal Fellow, Chang is an Affiliate at Harvard University’s Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society.

As Executive Director of Libraries Without Borders from 2014-2019, Chang developed the Ideas Box program, a pop-up multi-media center that won the Google Impact Challenge in 2015.

Chang’s project, Civic Suds seeks to expand digital access and supports digital literacy development for families in the United States living below 200 percent of the poverty line by installing public access computers and facilitating digital literacy trainings inside coin laundries.

Shira Frank

Shira Frank brings over 15 years of work in politics, social change, women’s philanthropy and fundraising to her role as co-founder of Maiden.

Frank spent seven years as a deputy director for J Street — the single-largest pro-Israel PAC in the United States — working to transform the way Congress and the Executive Branch engage in the Middle East and to promote the creation of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Frank’s project, Maiden, created a more intelligent economy by diversifying the leaders, makers and culture of blockchain technology.

DeShuna Spencer

DeShuna Spencer is CEO of kweliTV, a video streaming network dedicated to the stories and culture of the global black community, and radio host of emPower Hour on DCʼs 89.3 FM WPFW.

Spencer’s project, kweliTV is an interactive, on-demand and live streaming video network dedicated to the stories, issues and culture of the global black community. It offers indie films, web shows, documentaries and news programming of the entire African diaspora. Its mission is to change the perception of how black people are portrayed in media.