Apply Now – Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program

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Applications Now Open - Apply to the 2023 Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program

Applications close Sunday, January 15, 2023

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A program by the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law

Democracy Dreamers

Democracy Dreamers

Applications open now!

About the Fellowship Program

Launched in 2005, the Draper Hills Summer Program (DHSF) is a three-week intensive 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 all regions of the world. 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. Summer Fellows also visit Silicon Valley technology firms such as Benetech, Google and Twitter to explore how technology tools and social media platforms are being used to catalyze democratic practices on a global scale. 

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

Ibrahima Amadou Niang (Senegal '18)

Ibrahima Amadou Niang (Senegal '18)

Orginally from Senegal, Ibrahima Amadou Niang is the head of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa’s Guinea country office and a creative activist, researcher and published author.

ElsaMarie D’Silva (India, '17)

ElsaMarie D’Silva (India, '17)

ElsaMarie D’Silva is an Indian gender activist. She is the founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and the president of Red Dot Foundation Global.

Svitlana Zalischuk (Ukraine, '11)

Svitlana Zalischuk (Ukraine, '11)

Svitlana Zalischuk talks about these issues in her country from her perspective as a member of the parliament with CDDRL Mosbacher Director Francis Fukuyama.

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Application Guidelines

Deadline for applications is 5:00pm PST on January 15, 2023.

Important information:

Please read these guidelines in their entirety before applying to the program. You should also carefully review the frequently asked questions section to address any questions you may have concerning the application process. The guidelines cover all steps in the application process. We ask that you please do not reach out to the program team unless a question is not covered in the FAQ.
About Our Draper Hills Summer Fellows
  • About Our Draper Hills Summer Fellows
  • 2023 Program Dates
  • Eligibility
  • Selection Criteria
  • Faculty
  • Program Curriculum
  • Program Costs
  • Family Policy
  • Application Overview
  • How to Use the Application System
  • Resume
  • Essay Questions
  • Video Submission
  • Letters of Recommendation – For Applicants
  • Letters of Recommendation - For Referees
  • Apply Now

About Our Draper Hills Summer Fellows

The Draper Hills Summer Fellows alumni network includes 417 alumni from 84 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.

2023 Program Dates

The dates for the 2022 Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program are Sunday, July 23 – Friday, August 11, 2023. Applicants are required to participate for the entire duration of the fellowship program. They must be sure that they can be absent from their professional obligations during that time and must make a commitment to attend the full program upon acceptance.

*Please note these dates may evolve based on the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.


This program is aimed at mid-career practitioners working actively in the fields of democracy, development, and the rule of law. Applicants can be working as policy-makers, academics, legal professionals, social entrepreneurs, business entrepreneurs, and leaders of civil society organizations (such as representatives of trade unions, nongovernmental organizations, the media, business and professional associations). In their present capacity, applicants should play important and influential roles in their country's political, economic, and social development. Participants should have demonstrated professional and personal achievements in a relevant sector of democracy, development, and the rule of law.                           

Each year we strive to recruit a diverse group of 25 to 30 individuals who are at the right stage in their professional trajectory to benefit from rigorous academic training to enhance their potential to promote democratic change in their home countries. Successful applicants will have academic credentials necessary to participate and contribute to the six-hour seminars each day and tackle advanced academic readings to complement the classroom-based curriculum. Ninety-nine percent of our alumni hold a bachelor's degree at the time of their participation in the program but this is not a requirement for admission to the program.

A working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program. It is expected that each fellow has a solid command of written and spoken English to fully benefit and participate in the program. 

Selection Criteria

Due to the large volume of applications we receive each year to the fellowship program, we take our selection criteria very seriously. Please review the criteria below very carefully before submitting your application to the program. If you do not meet these criteria your application will not be reviewed.

  1. This is not an academic fellowship but is meant for practitioners only. We value practical experience over academic credentials, and we admit scholars only to the extent that they are active in government, public policy, civil society, economic development and rule of law. They should hold leadership roles in their respective sector.
  2. Applicants must be mid-career practitioners and have at least ten to 12 years of experience to qualify for the fellowship. Those with more experience are much more competitive in the selection process.
  3. Candidates must be from and currently reside in a country where democracy is not well entrenched. Candidates residing outside their home country due to war or conflict may be granted exceptions. Applicants will not be accepted from countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and member states of the European Union.
  4. Candidates must be at least 28 years of age at the start of the fellowship in July 2023. The average age of our fellows at the time of the program is 38.
  5. Candidates must be actively working in the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law. We do not accept candidates who are in the midst of full-time university degree programs.
  6. Candidates must have a solid command of written and spoken English. All program materials and sessions are in English. Participants will also be required to give 7-minute TED-style talks throughout the three-week program regarding their work and motivation. English language proficiency is very important in order to benefit and contribute to the program dialogue. 


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: 

Program Curriculum

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 the political development, democratic transitions, and 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.
  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 stories 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 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 allow them to make strategic connections to these organizations.
  5. Site visits to leading technology firms, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, allow fellows to get an inside perspective on Silicon Valley’s leading tech giants and how their platforms support and interfere with democratic change.

Program Costs

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 for 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. Fellows may also choose to fundraise for these costs after selection decisions are issued in April 2023.

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 from which airline fares to California are exorbitant. 

Family Policy

The program is unable to provide funding for families to accompany fellows to Stanford for the program or to accommodate them during the program's duration. It is against Stanford policy to house children under the age of 18 years on campus, so any fellow traveling with family would have to locate and self-fund off campus housing.

We do not recommend that families accompany fellows to the Program as it distracts participants from the bonding and network-building experience that is integral to the Program.

Application Overview

In order to apply to the Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program please create an account through our online portal. The application form is available once you log in and will be available through the deadline, January 15, 2023. Due to the volume of applications, we strongly suggest that you submit the application form as soon as possible. You will be asked to contact two references to furnish letters of recommendation to support your candidacy to the program. A complete application package will be due no later than January 15, 2023.

Applicants will be informed of their selection for the program by April 2023. Please do not email us concerning your application status before that time as the program team will be very busy processing and reviewing files.

All application materials must be submitted in English. Applicants should be sensitive to word count and not exceed any of the stated word count limits in the narrative sections of the form as you will automatically be cut off.

Please remember that you are always able to save and return to your work at any time by clicking on the "Save Draft" button. We encourage you to save your work often during the application process so you do not jeopardize losing your material.

The application contains the following sections:

  1. Applicant Information
  2. Academics & Career Information
  3. Resume/CV
  4. Essay Questions
  5. English Language Proficiency
  6. Video Submission
  7. Financial Information
  8. Letters of Recommendation
  9. Personal Certification

Sections 3, 4, 6 and 8 require the most attention from applicants. More detailed instructions are provided below.

How to Use the Application System

The Draper Hills Summer Fellows program uses the WizeHive application system to manage all incoming applications. This system is widely employed by other fellowship programs and should be easy to use. Here are some guidelines to take note of when using the application system:

  • You can save your work at any time and return to the form at your convenience. You do not need to complete the application form in one sitting. It is strongly suggested that you save your work often by clicking on the "Save Draft" button at the end of the page.
  • Once you submit your application form you can no longer return to make any changes. Please review all your work before clicking the "Submit" button at the end of the application form.
  • The system will notify you by email during the following stages in the application submission process:

1.  When your application form has been received.

2.  When letters of recommendation have been submitted on your behalf.

3.  Once your application file is complete with a minimum of two letters of recommendation.


Please prepare a resume or curriculum vitae to upload with the application form. The document should be in English and a minimum of one page and no longer than three pages in length. We will not accept CV’s longer than 3 pages or in other languages.

The document must be formatted in MS Word Document (.doc) or Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf), all other file types will not be accepted. The resume should list in order of priority the following:

1. Your professional experience with your most recent position listed first and dates of employment

2. Your educational credentials, including all degrees earned

3. Awards and honors if applicable

4. Publications if applicable (please do not include an exhaustive list)

The maximum file size is 300 MB. Please note that once you submit the application you will not be able to make any changes. We ask that you carefully review the form before submitting.

Essay Questions

We suggest that you draft your responses in a word processing document and then copy and paste into the application form. In drafting your responses, please try and avoid overly technical language and explain acronyms so that your ideas can be easily understandable to people who are not working in your field of expertise.

If appropriate, please feel free to provide some brief country-based context or historical reference so the reviewers have a sense of how your work is impacting the current state of democratic development in your country of origin.  

Our application system has a word count limit and will track your word count on the form. It is important that you be concise in answering questions. Please focus on the most important points that you want to convey.

  1. What is the current state of democracy, development, and the rule of law in your home country and how is your organization supporting democratic development? (150 words maximum)
  2. Describe your current role in your organization and your general responsibilities (please do not cut and paste from your CV here, but provide a general description of your work) (150 words maximum)
  3. How many years have you been actively working in the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law and how would you describe your impact? (150 words maximum).
  4. On a personal level, what inspires you to do the work that you do? (150 words maximum).
  5. Why are you interested in applying to our fellowship program? In other words, why is this fellowship important to you at this stage of your professional and personal development? (200 words maximum).
  6. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? How does this fellowship help you to achieve your goals? (150 words maximum).
  7. How would a friend or family member describe you? What personal characteristics or qualities would they use? (150 words maximum).
  8. Have you participated in academic or professional fellowship programs in the past? If so, which ones and how is this fellowship program different? (100 words maximum).
  9. One of the components of the DHSF Program is the presentation of a Ted-style talk. Please provide the title of the talk you would present if selected and a paragraph description of why you are selecting this topic and the major themes you would cover.

Video Submission

In 2 minutes or less (less is better than more!) please give us your “elevator pitch” for why you should be a 2022 Draper Hills Summer Fellows. Use this opportunity to think creatively about how you can stand out from among the other applicants and really shine! In other words – why you, and why now?

Using a webcam, cell phone, or video camera, please record yourself presenting your response to the questions below. Please note that we will not watch videos that are longer than 2 minutes in length, so please prepare, rehearse, and time your comments before submitting the final video product.

To Submit:

  • All videos should be titled with your full name.
  • The maximum size is 600 MB. Preferred formats are MP4 and MOV.
  • Upload the video directly to the application form.

Letters of Recommendation – For Applicants

Candidates will need to request at least two but no more than three letters of recommendation to support their application to the program. Any application with less than two letters will be judged as incomplete and not considered in the selection process.

In the main menu of the application portal you should click on the field "Letters of Recommendation." Please identify and enter two or three recommenders to complete letters of recommendation on your behalf.

At least one of the recommenders should be your current supervisor in your place of employment. If an alumni from the program has nominated you to apply, we strongly suggest that you ask them to draft a letter of recommendation on your behalf. We take nominations from our alumni very seriously and they are reviewed favorably in the selection process. Please do not ask family or friends to draft letters of recommendation, they should be from professional associates who can speak to your experience and the impact of your work in advancing democratic change.

Once you enter the names and contact information for your referees the system will automatically send them instructions for completing the letter of recommendation. The instructions will include the program criteria, guidelines on writing the letter, the recommended format, and the link for upload. You will have the option of adding a personal note to the email generated to your referees. It is your responsibility to follow up with referees to inform them that you would like them to complete the recommendation. The letters of recommendation weigh heavily in the review process so it is strongly suggested that you provide as much direction to your referees as possible so they can write a letter that relates your professional experience to the program goals. Referees will receive an email confirming their letter has been received.

All recommendation letters must be received by January 15, 2023 to be considered part of your application file. Applications with less than two letters of recommendation will be marked as incomplete and not reviewed.

Checking the Status of your Letters of Recommendation

All letters of recommendation are due by January 15, 2023. It is the applicant's responsibility to follow up on the status of your letters of recommendation. You can access the application portal at any time to inquire about the status of your letters of recommendation and follow up with your recommenders directly to remind them of the January 15 deadline. You will receive an email when your letters of recommendation have been uploaded to the system.

Within the online system, when your letter of recommendation has been uploaded and received by the system you will see the following message next to the Status field:

"Your letter of recommendation has been received from this recommender and is complete. No further action for the applicant is required at this time."

If your letter of recommendation has not been uploaded to the system you will see the following message next to the Status field:

"This person has been contacted but no letter of recommendation has been received as of today."

The program team will not answer any requests concerning the status of your letters or recommendation.

Letters of Recommendation - For Referees

The letter of recommendation is due by January 15, 2023. Referees should upload the letter via a link that will be provided to them by email.

Format for Letters of Recommendation:

  •  Letters must be submitted in English
  • Written on official organization letterhead
  • Be signed with your name, official position, and contact information
  • Be formatted in MS Word Document (.doc) or Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf), all other file types will not be accepted.
  • Uploaded as one file (please do not try to upload individual pages)

Letter of Recommendation Guidelines

  1. The length of time you have known the applicant and the context of your relationship to the applicant.
  2. Your opinion of his or her background, qualifications, accomplishments, and experiences as they relate to the field of democratic development.
  3. Reflect on the candidate's English language comprehension
  4. Your views on the suitability of the applicant for a fellowship of this academic nature.
  5. How their work has impacted the field(s) of democracy, development, and the rule of law.
  6. Any other information you feel is important to share concerning the candidate.
  7. Please indicate if you are an alumnus/alumna of this program and why you believe the candidate is a strong fit for the fellowship based on your experience.

Apply Now

CDDRL invites emerging political, civil society and business leaders from transitional countries to apply to participate in its 18th annual Draper Hills Summer Fellowship on Democracy and Development. The deadline for the application form and two letters of recommendation is 5:00 pm PST on January 15, 2023.


Join our growing community of 417 Draper Hills alumni across 84 countries

Draper Hills by the Numbers

2005 Year Founded
417 Alumni
84 Countries Represented
7 Global Workshops Convened
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If there are any questions or difficulty with the application, please do not hesitate to reach out.