A new online option for Fellowships

A new online option for Fellowships

This year, for the first time, we are offering an online option for Fellowships.

Kim Reuter (CF 2020) was one of the first Fellows to take the online option, in keeping with her environmental theme.Download image

This will allow new Fellows to carry out their international research entirely online from the UK, or via a mixture of online and travelling, should they wish. Meanwhile the traditional option of undertaking all your research through travel will still be available.

Fellowship Director Sian Herschel explains: “The new online option will open up the Fellowship opportunity to many people for whom travel is not feasible. It will also widen the range of countries that Fellows can ‘visit’ online. Crucially, it will help to reduce the environmental impact of the Fellowship. At the same time, those who prefer to travel for some or all of their research can still choose to do so.”

The online option is being offered to this year’s applicants for 2023 Fellowships. They will be asked whether they wish to do their research phase via travel, online or a hybrid mixture of both travel and online. The choice will not affect their chances of success.

Those choosing to do this will carry out their international research online, meeting and interviewing their chosen overseas contacts remotely, while staying in the UK. Their grant will fund them to spend up to two months doing their research, covering the cost of self-contained accommodation or workspaces plus living expenses, to allow time and space away from their daily routine so they can focus on the research.

This new option has arisen from our experience during the recent global lockdown, when we developed an option for existing Fellows to undertake some or all of their research online. Several took up the opportunity, to great success, and we have used this as a pilot to develop a permanent option for future Fellows.

One Fellow who took part in the online pilot last year was Kim Reuter (CF 2020). Reflecting on her experience of this, she said, “As a working mum, I knew when I applied for a Churchill Fellowship that it was going to be a challenge to fit it into my life, but I wanted to do it so badly that I was desperate to make it work. A silver lining of the pandemic made people see that doing something virtually could be as enriching as doing it in person, so when the Churchill Fellowship offered the online option I jumped at the chance. It allowed me to be my whole self: a mum, a friend, a partner, whilst at the same time fully immersing myself in my Fellowship research.”

Kim carried out all of her Fellowship research online, over the course of a three-month period. She hired Airbnb accommodation for 10 days and rented a shared workspace for the rest of the time, so she could focus on her project. In that time, she spoke with 34 organisations across 12 countries.

She said, “I was originally going to shadow five organisations in five different countries, but through the online option I was able to make many more connections and gather a far greater breadth of knowledge and insight than if I had done the Fellowship in person. I found that the people I met completely opened up to me online. There was no virtual barrier. I asked challenging questions and they gave me honest answers.”

Kim’s Fellowship explored best practice in governance for multi-stakeholder organisations tackling the environmental crisis. During this time, she continued to do her day job in the mornings, which involves environmental policy at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, whilst working on her Fellowship research in the afternoons. “This meant my Fellowship journey evolved over time, as there was a constant dialogue between my work and my research,” said Kim. “As I gathered insight from my Fellowship, I was able to feed this into my work right away. Similarly, questions would come up at work that I was then able to feed back into my Fellowship research, allowing me to make the most of it.”

Asked if she would recommend the online option to others, Kim said, “Absolutely. If you have demands on your time that would make extended travel difficult, but still want to immerse yourself in your subject, then I would very much recommend the online option.”