Skip to:



Draper Hills Summer Fellows converse with CDDRL faculty during lunch.

About    |   Curriculum    |    Alumni    |    Faculty   |    Funding



Launched in 2005, the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship on Democracy and Development Program (DHSFDD) is a three-week academic training program that is hosted annually at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. The program brings together a group of 25 to 30 mid-career practitioners in law, politics, government, private enterprise, civil society, and international development from transitioning countries. This training program provides a unique forum for emerging leaders to connect, exchange experiences, and receive academic training to enrich their knowledge and advance their work.

For three weeks during the summer, fellows participate in academic seminars that expose them to the theory and practice of democracy, development, and the rule of law. Delivered by leading Stanford faculty from the Stanford Law School, the Graduate School of Business, and the departments of economics and political science, these seminars allow emerging leaders to explore new institutional models and frameworks to enhance their ability to promote democratic change in their home countries.

Guest speakers from private foundations, think tanks, government, and the justice system provide a practitioners viewpoint on such pressing issues in the field. Past program speakers have included: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California Honorable Tino Cuéllar; Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy; Stacy Donohue, director of investments at the Omidyar Network; Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google; and Judge Lucy Koh, judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Summer Fellows also visit Silicon Valley technology firms such as Benetech, TechSoup, Google and Twitter to explore how technology tools and social media platforms are being used to catalyze democratic practices on a global scale.

Alumni of the DHSFDD become part of the Omidyar Network Leadership Forum, an alumni program that strives to build a global community of democracy activists. Fellows continue to strengthen their connection to Stanford and with members of the network through regional workshops, reunions and capacity-building opportunities around the world.

The program is funded by generous support from Bill and Phyllis Draper and Ingrid von Mangoldt Hills.

View the latest program agenda and read the 2016 class bios.




Our program curriculum combines five different session styles, which include:

1.     Academic sessions provide a framework and theory to understand democratic development taught by interdisciplinary faculty from across Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Sessions examine political development, democratic transitions, the relationship of law to economic development, public administration, administrative law, transitional justice, food security, and global health policy, among others. Lectures are accompanied by a set of academic readings drawn from books and journals that participants are asked to complete before each lecture. Please reference our 2016 program agenda to learn more about our academic sessions.

2.     Case study workshops are rooted in real-world stories and scenarios of specific policy reforms that have taken place in developing countries. Rather than serve as examples of “best practices” or “how-to” guides, the cases are designed to encourage participants to think critically about the key decisions that have led to policy reforms. They are written from the perspective of decision-makers who have designed or executed specific policies and they demonstrate how effective public officials think and act strategically. They show how these leaders address technical obstacles while simultaneously taking into careful consideration the political, cultural and social constraints to reforms. The cases we use for teaching can be found in our case study library.

3.     Ted-style talks allow fellows to tell their story to the group to uncover more about their work, personal life, and struggles to overcome injustice and advance democracy. These talks begin in the first week of the program and conclude by the second week, allowing fellows a chance to connect on a personal level and develop peer connections early in the program. Fellows are asked to begin preparing their Ted-style talk in advance of the fellowship program. You can watch select Ted-style talks from our 2015 fellows here.

4.     Guest lectures feature prominent figures in public service, the technology industry, and the philanthropic community who provide a practitioner’s perspective for our fellows, and allows them to make strategic connections to these organizations.

5.     Site visits to leading technology firms, such as Google and Twitter, allow fellows to get an inside perspective on Silicon Valley’s leading tech giants and how their platforms can help support democracy leaders.




The Draper Hills Summer Fellows alumni network includes 298 alumni from 78 developing democracies worldwide. Their professional backgrounds are as diverse as the problems they confront in their home countries, but the one common feature is their commitment to building sound structures of democracy and development. The regions of Eurasia, which includes the former Soviet Union and Central Asia, along with Africa constitute almost half of our alumni network. Women represent 46 percent of the network and the program is always looking to identify strong female leaders working to advance change in their local communities.

Previous Draper Hills Summer Fellows have served as presidential advisors, senators, attorneys general, lawyers, journalists, civic activists, entrepreneurs, judges, think-tank directors, and influential members of the international development community. The program is highly selective and receives hundreds of applications each year.

Please see the "alumni" section on our website for a complete listing of program alumni and to read their bios. Click here to view alumni interviews and to watch them present their work in TED-style talks.

Fellows Spotlight: Sakena Yacoobi (Afghanistan '08), Founder and CEO, Afghan Institute for Learning



The program's interdisciplinary faculty includes leading political scientists, lawyers, and economists pioneering innovative research and analysis in the fields of democracy, development and the rule of law. Faculty engage the fellows to test their theories, exchange ideas and learn first-hand about the challenges activists face in places where democracy is at threat. CDDRL Draper Hills Summer Fellows core faculty includes: Francis Fukuyama, Larry Diamond, Kathryn Stoner, Erik Jensen, Stephen Krasner, and Michael McFaul. ­



Stanford asks all applicants to be prepared to contribute towards the cost of their participation in the fellowship, if they are selected. Typically this comes in the form of a fellow covering round-trip airfare to the Program. Stanford will pay for accommodations, meals, and transportation costs during the duration of the Program. In the past, some fellows have asked their employers to subsidize their travel to Stanford based on the benefits that the training will contribute towards their professional and organizational advancement. They may also choose to fundraise for these costs after selection decisions are issued in April 2017.

A small travel fund is available for fellows who under no circumstances can support their travel or need to apply for a partial subsidy. Priority for accessing the travel fund will be given based on need, and destinations where airline fares to California are exorbitant. 


Share this Page