How do we want to shape digital society? That is the question being addressed by the trailblazers behind the 12 projects selected as fellows for The New New, the recently launched Europe-wide fellowship program. Each of the fellows will receive a stipend of €1,000 per month for six months, along with professional training, to drive their innovative ideas forward. Their projects take highly diverse approaches to realizing visions of a digital society that does more to consider the attitudes and needs of groups which are underrepresented. The goal is to use digital change to promote opportunities for participating and for advancing the common good. The program’s initiators are the Ethics of Algorithms project at the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the nonprofit Superrr Lab in cooperation with the Allianz Kulturstiftung and the Goethe-Institut. The newly selected fellows come from nine European countries: Germany, the UK, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania and Switzerland.
The New New fellowship wants to open up the discussion on shaping digital change to new perspectives, a discussion that has been dominated until now by economic considerations. The Bertelsmann Stiftung, Superrr Lab and the Advisory Board therefore focused on diversity criteria and an inclusive character when selecting the civil society projects. As a result, many of the chosen projects engage with social groups – such as BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), refugees and LGBTQ+ – whose concerns usually receive little attention in the digital discourse.
Wide range of issues and media
The selected fellows thus address a wide variety of issues, technology and media – ranging from virtual assistants with synthetic voices, to a feminist online radio station that focuses on user participation, to a digital platform offering help to victims of domestic violence, to a card game that takes a critical look at the excesses of tech capitalism. From the end of November 2020, when the call for applications was announced, until the deadline for submissions at the beginning of January 2021, some 300 entries were received from more than 30 European countries. Given the large number of high-quality projects that applied, the organizers doubled the number of fellowships from the originally planned six.
Over the next six months, the fellows will take part in coaching sessions and workshops, detailing the progress they make in monthly video conferences with the Bertelsmann Stiftung and Superrr Lab. Interim outcomes from the projects will be communicated on social media – under the hashtag #TheNewNew – and on other channels, such as thenewnew.space. Thanks to support from the Allianz Kulturstiftung, a magazine will be published following the fellowships to profile the projects and the people involved. An analogue or digital event is also planned for the end of the fellowship program which will allow the projects to present their results.