Kindling Fellowship, Summer 2022

  1. What is this?
  2. Apply
  3. FAQ

Join us this summer to do creative work with a small cohort of adults in a new fellowship.

What is this?

Powderhouse is hosting a paid, summer fellowship for adults. We’re looking for creative people who will help us design, develop, and publish the first issue of a community-driven publication from Powderhouse exploring the theme “Secrets”:

To protect a loved one. To lie to ourselves. To one-up a competitor. To avoid an uncomfortable conversation. To keep our money safe. To keep our country safe. To organize against oppressive regimes. To get away with it. To connect with someone. To keep someone at arm’s length. To surprise someone. For fun.

Whatever the reason, we keep and tell secrets from the moment we’re aware that what other people know and know about us matters. Whether cryptography and whisper campaigns or corporate surveillance and being in the closet, this issue will give us an opportunity to explore how and why we keep (and break) secrets.

This theme will offer a jumping off point, a flexible structure we hope fellows will make their own, exploring and expanding on it through personal projects. These projects will turn into the pieces which will make up the publication we release at the end of the program.

How?

Over the course of June and July, fellows will investigate the theme through hands-on projects of their own design, anything from writing personal stories about playground secrets to investigating corporate or government practices around transparency to writing computer programs to encrypt and encode information. The program will begin with open-ended explorations of the theme, establishing a shared understanding of the theme and its core ideas as we begin brainstorming and prototyping projects ideas. We’ll spend most of the program working on these projects. Only in the final weeks of the program will the focus turn to sharing our work as publishable pieces.

Throughout, we will provide structured time for planning and doing projects; workshops in computation, narrative, and design; individual advising and support developing pieces; structures for group critique and revision; and, of course, a platform for publishing and sharing our work.

How much?

Great work requires time: This is a full-time fellowship, and Powderhouse will pay fellows ~$13,000, the equivalent of an $80,000 annual salary. Healthcare, dental, vision, and retirement benefits will be provided, as will re-location support for those moving to the Boston area. Refer to the FAQ for more details.

Who?

We are looking for a small group of 3–6 people who are:

  • eager to explore computation, narrative, and design through practical work and have some experience with at least one of those domains,
  • excited to collaborate with novices and experts, know everyone has something to offer, and believe novices specifically make invaluable contributions across domains,
  • into doing interdisciplinary work/crossing disciplinary boundaries while also having a healthy respect for the depth and power of established disciplines;
  • committed to rigorous, detail-oriented work as well as the supportive, critical collaboration that requires

Because Powderhouse is running this fellowship to inform the design of future youth programming, it is also important that fellows are excited about sharing honest, critical reflections on their experience to help us learn from and improve the program.

We also think it’s important to be explicit about the social contract at the heart of the friendly, open-minded space we’re trying to create, one which encourages—rather than shuts down—expression and investigation. In this spirit, we want to share a few of the core responsibilities and expectations we see as central to the work we’ll be tackling together.

What does Powderhouse owe fellows?

  • A salary, equipment, benefits, and other individualized supports to make creatively and technically ambitious work possible
  • Curated resources and extensive, one-on-one and one-on-few support to work through these resources to develop fluency in computation, narrative, and design
  • Critical conversations about—as well as celebration of—fellows’ work and the powerful ideas at its center

What do fellows owe Powderhouse?

  • Fifty hours a week (some collective and some independent) of your best effort to create rigorous, interdisciplinary pieces as part of a collaborative media project
  • The energetic pursuit of critical feedback and a willingness to develop new skills and perspectives outside your comfort zone
  • Committed participation in and critical feedback on the systems and practices we're prototyping as part of Powderhouse’s mission

What do fellows owe each other?

  • Openness to collaboration with others with significantly different skills, backgrounds, and perspectives
  • Supportive, critical conversations seeking to deepen one another's work
  • Transparent, reliable, deadline-oriented collaboration

When?

This fellowship will run from 1 June 2022 to 29 July 2022, 10AM–5PM each weekday, excluding state and federal holidays. You’ll also spend some time (≤ 10 h/w) outside of these hours working independently—or in self-organized groups—on workshop materials, project development and revisions.

Where?

We will be based out of a small, two story workshop outside Davis Square in Somerville, MA. You’ll have 24/7 access to that space, as well as a co-working space in Kendall Square for those interested.

Why?

For Fellows, we hope this program offers:

  • an opportunity to explore the theme “Secrets” with other creative people,
  • a supportive, hands-on environment to develop some fluency in computation, narrative, and design,
  • and a chance to inform the design of a novel educational institution

…all while getting paid.

For Powderhouse, we hope this will offer us an opportunity to:

  • grow our community of creative, engaged people who care about the future of learning,
  • prototype new visions for our work with youth,
  • and develop our own skills and fluency with a new skillset central to our work: publication.

Apply

Our application process has three steps:

  1. Let us know you’re interested and tell us a bit about yourself through the form linked below.
  2. Based on those responses, we’ll follow up to schedule a 1-2 hour video interview in which we’ll get to know you a bit better, further explore some of the things you shared in your application, and answer any questions you might have about us and the program.
  3. And finally, based on those conversations, we’ll get on another 1-2 hour call to get our hands dirty (or...maybe more our mouths talking?!) collaborating on some real project work. We want to get a sense of what it will be like to work together, so we’re going to spend some time coming up with and refining project ideas live. We’ll share a little more when the time comes, but you won’t need to do any concrete preparation—just come ready to talk and brainstorm.

We will be accepting applications through 15 May 2022, though we will be admitting fellows on a rolling basis, so we encourage you to get started as soon as you’re able. You can expect an initial response to your application within 24 hours.

FAQ

Below are some questions we thought folks might have. If you have a question that isn't answered here, please get in touch!

Whom will I be learning from? What is the background of the faculty running the fellowship?

You’ll be learning from other fellows as well as from Powderhouse’s team alongside other experts and advisors from the community whom we’ll bring in to support particular projects and pieces.

We’ve been developing youth and adult programming since 2009, prototyping hardware, software, and media to support rigorous, creative work across a variety of disciplines. Academically, our backgrounds span math, physics, environmental engineering, creative writing, and community performance.

Who’s behind this? Why are you running it?

Powderhouse’s team is running this fellowship. We’re running it to prototype some elements of a replacement for high school we’re working to build as part of our larger mission.

We believe that for many people, School doesn't work, with severe consequences. Although society invests in improving School-as-it-is, where will radically new approaches to School come from?

We’re trying to answer that question, and we hope you’ll help us do so!

How can I apply? What’s the process like?

We are accepting applications on a rolling basis through 15 May 2022. To get started, apply here, and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours about next steps.

Briefly:

  1. We’ll ask you to briefly describe your background, what’s interesting to you about this fellowship, and share a few ideas for or examples of projects you think are great (whether or not you want to do them yourself).
  2. Based on that, we’ll follow up with an informal video interview during which we’ll discuss those questions further, along with any questions or concerns you might have about the fellowship.
  3. And finally, based on that, we’ll ask you to complete a mini-project (which shouldn’t take more than five hours) of your own design.

The purpose of all this is to give you as much of a chance as possible to showcase what you’ll contribute to the program. We don’t care whether you’ve found traditional kinds of success before (in school, sports, or wherever). We care that you’re excited to work collaboratively to make great creative projects—and that you’re willing to work for it.

If you have ideas about how we can do this better (in general, or in your case in particular), please let us know.

How do I know if I’m a good fit?

As long as you’re eligible, all we’re looking for is an interest in computation, narrative, and design (including some experience with at least one of those); friendly and critical collaboration; and a commitment to creating great projects and publications.

If you have any doubts about whether you’re a good fit, please get in touch. We’re happy to arrange a call to discuss the program in general and your particular situation.

Who’s eligible to apply?

As long as you feel like you are a good fit for the program, can speak English at a conversational level, are fully vaccinated against COVID, and are older than 18, you’re eligible to apply.

Note that you’ll be using programming and design tools, collaborating with colleagues, and sometimes traveling for projects. If you might need accommodations to do this (e.g. for reasons of disability) or if you have questions about any of the other eligibility requirements, please get in touch.

How much does the program cost?

There is no cost to you; you will be paid. You will be responsible for your own housing and living expenses; although, we offer a stipend for re-location support for those moving to the Boston area.

How will I be paid?

You’ll be paid ~$1,500 weekly via direct deposit. This is the equivalent of an $80,000 annual salary. If you need a bank account, we can help you get set up with one. If for some reason direct deposit doesn’t fit your circumstances, let us know and we can work to accommodate you.

Who else will be in the program?

We’re looking for 2-5 creative, critical, and collaborative people who bring a diverse set of skills, perspectives, and backgrounds to this work. Everyone will be here because they are excited about computation, narrative, and design; interested in Powderhouse’s mission; and eager to do creative projects.

Do I need to be a United States citizen or permanent resident?

No.

Can you sponsor visas?

Unfortunately, not at this time.

How do you accommodate special education needs?

“Special education” can mean many things, and we are committed to supporting people to be able to comfortably and effectively participate. As long as you are eligible, we will work closely with you to ensure you have all the support needed to participate. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What if I need to miss some of the program?

We understand life happens. But, you are expected to treat this program as a full-time commitment. If you find that you are regularly missing sessions, we may ask you to leave the program and reapply when things have settled down for you. If you know already that you have a scheduling conflict, please get in touch with us to discuss it.

What equipment do I need to participate?

None. We will be working to create publications, and all fellows will be working on Mac products. All necessary equipment (e.g. laptop, tablet, and phone) will be provided if you don’t already have access to these. Fellows will have the opportunity to purchase loaner equipment at a discount at the end of the program.

Can I get academic credit or certification?

Unfortunately, we do not offer academic credit yet. But, we are eager to help you prepare whatever materials (including a portfolio) may be required to translate your experience with Powderhouse into academic credit for prior experience and learning or any employee education programs which might be relevant.

How much time does this require?

This is a full-time commitment. You’ll be expected to be available 10AM–5PM, Monday–Friday (excluding federal and state holidays) for duration of the program. We also expect that you’ll spend some time (≤ 10 hours/week) outside of that schedule working independently or with other fellows on projects, revisions, and workshop materials.

Can I reapply if I’m not admitted?

Yes, but you’ll need to wait at least one month after receiving the decision on your previous application. If and when you do reapply, we’ll be looking at what has changed since your previous application.

Is the program accessible if I have a disability?

“Disability” can mean many things, and we are committed to supporting people to be able to comfortably and effectively participate. As long as you are eligible, we will work closely with you to ensure you have all the support needed to participate. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What is the schedule for the program?

We’ll be meeting 10AM–5PM, Monday–Friday from 1 June–29 July 2022 (excluding state and federal holidays). Refer to the full calendar for details.

Who pays for project supplies?

We’ll cover the costs for anything (within reason) you need to do the projects you tackle during the program.

Do you offer support for English Language Learners?

The program will be run in English and will be accessible to folks who are conversational in English; there is no expectation that you are a native speaker. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What does it mean that I should “have some experience with at least one of the domains [Powderhouse] focuses on”?

Because of the short timescale of this program, we want to make sure that participants have some background in at least one of our areas of focus (i.e. computation, narrative, or design). In the case of computation, this might mean you’re a professional developer or have an extensive collection of Scratch projects you’ve been building since middle school. In the case of narrative, maybe that means a spoken word poet or write as a freelancer. In the case of design, perhaps you screenprint t-shirts and posters for bands or design and build physical projects of your own.

We hope this will ensure that we can work together to create great pieces even without the time to get everyone fluent with all of those skills. If you have any questions about this or would like to discuss your background more, please get in touch.

How are publication themes and projects chosen? What if I have a particular idea I want to work on?

We’ve chosen the theme “Secrets” for our first issue. You can read more about the theme here. Unfortunately, with only two months for the program, time doesn’t permit collaborating on the choice of theme.

But, the point of a theme is just to create some coherence for readers. Our interest in interdisciplinary work means we are especially interested in creative or poetic interpretations of the theme, so within the theme Secrets, we are eager to co-design and develop project and piece ideas with you.

If you have a particular idea or direction of interest and are wondering whether and how it might fit within the theme, please get in touch.

What will I actually learn?

This is not a bootcamp or traditional skills-focused course: our primary goal during this summer fellowship is to release a publication and learn what we can from the experience for the design of future youth programming. Given the short timeline, we won’t be able to dive into these skills in the way we would a year-long experience. Instead, we’ll offer introductory workshops around these skills in addition to deeper dives and just-in-time support tailored to the specific projects and pieces you’re tackling.

To get a more detailed sense of what that will involve, check out our answer to this question for the full-year youth program.

How are you handling COVID?

We require all participants to provide proof of booster and vaccination before attending. We’ll require daily temperature checks and offer regular on-site testing. Our studio will be equipped with sanitation stations. Participants will not be required to be masked indoors (though of course, you are welcome to mask if you’d like, and we will provide masks for anyone interested). If local guidances change before or during the program, we may reassess these plans.

How will our projects and pieces be evaluated? What are you looking for in them?

We are interested in great pieces which are:

  • consistent with our themes and editorial priorities,
  • creatively, intellectually, and/or technically ambitious,
  • and of genuine interest to someone (i.e. people will read it)

Given Powderhouse’s own interest in learning from this fellowship, we are particularly interested in projects and pieces which demonstrate the role computation, narrative, and design in opening up a wide variety of projects and interests to active investigation.

Note that although projects and pieces will be regularly critiqued and workshopped, we offer no grades (numeric or otherwise) evaluating projects and pieces.

Are health care or other benefits included in the program?

Yes. We offer full healthcare, dental, vision, and retirement benefits. You can read more about the benefits we offer here.

Why the theme “Secrets”?

“Secrets” is the working theme for our first community publication, to be released summer 2022. We may title the publication something else with fellows, the basic concept is simple:

To protect a loved one. To lie to ourselves. To one-up a competitor. To avoid an uncomfortable conversation. To keep our money safe. To keep our country safe. To organize against oppressive regimes. To get away with it. To connect with someone. To keep someone at arm’s length. To surprise someone. For fun.

Whatever the reason, we keep and tell secrets from the moment we’re aware that what other people know and know about us matters. Whether cryptography and whisper campaigns or corporate surveillance and being in the closet, this issue will give us an opportunity to explore how and why we keep (and break) secrets.

This theme is meant to offer a jumping off point, a flexible structure we hope fellows will make their own, exploring and expanding on it through personal projects, anything from writing personal stories about playground secrets to investigating corporate or government practices around transparency to writing computer programs to encrypt and encode information. These projects will turn into the pieces which will make up the publication we release at the end of the program.

In general, we have publication themes to tie together the diverse projects and eventually pieces we hope people will develop in our programs. We chose “Secrets” as our first theme since:

  1. Our summer program is only a couple months long. We knew we’d have to truncate some of the experiences we hope to tackle collaboratively during the longer experiences we plan to run. Choosing a theme was something we felt we could expedite, whereas community building and creative work were not.
  2. We believe nearly any topic offers the potential for deep learning and investigation. But, some topics offer a broader and more diverse set of entry points than others. “Secrets” offers obvious points of entry for personal storytelling, cultural critique, computational exploration, and more—while also being approachable and easy to riff on.
Why the name “Kindling”?

Tinder is the material that can turn a spark into a fire. Kindling refers to what turns that first flame into a small fire, e.g. the sticks and twigs just big enough catch and light the main fuel that will sustain the fire.

Our work often involves helping people spark their own intellectual and creative journeys. And we hope that our publications can offer the same to our audience, in small ways.

And not for nothing: Powderhouse’s namesake is a gunpowder magazine. Whether the forest fire that clears out the brush while fertilizing the soil for something new, the revolutionary muzzleloader, or the spark that leads to a lifelong passion, we have an affection for the fragile and new, and hope to provide some space where it can gather momentum until it can be self-sustaining.

Who owns the work I create during the program?

You’ll retain full ownership of all the work you do and artifacts you create in the program. However, Powderhouse will retain a license to be able to publish and adapt the work you create in the program. You can read the full policy here. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please let us know, and we’ll be happy to work with you to figure it out.