Democracy Defenders Accelerator | DDA

Democracy is in danger, and urgently needs people to defend it.

Our 10-month civic leadership programme for young activists will help fight the democratic decline.

Why defend democracy?

Over recent years, rising inequality, war, natural disasters and the Covid 19 pandemic have spurred the decline of democratic governance around the world.

But everywhere we look, inspiring activists have been standing up for human rights and environmental protection — demonstrating the vital importance of civil society in these challenging times.

To support and empower even more people to take action in the face of the democratic decline, we have developed the Democracy Defenders Accelerator. This 10-month programme will bring together young activists from diverse backgrounds to learn, exchange and grow together.

And together, we will become the defenders of democracy.

What is the DDA?

The Democracy Defenders Accelerator aims to create a world in which active young citizens are empowered to defend the principles of an open society, democratic values ​​and a well-functioning civil society.

In this immersive, hands-on programme, participants will learn how to design and deliver civic engagement projects and practise participatory leadership skills — through both the running of a fictional organisation and real-life projects. The entire ten-month learning process will be supported by mentors and facilitators.

The four main goals of this programme:

  • Open Society and Democratic Values: Discuss and explore democratic values, as well as potential threats and opportunities to democracy in international contexts.
  • Empower Civil Society: Design highly innovative, bottom-up civic engagement initiatives. Gain the confidence to test these ideas in real life to solve communities’ issues on a local, national or global level.
  • Qualitative Participatory Leadership: Learn about participatory leadership principles and values by practising leading a (fictional) organisation.
  • More Collaborative Decision-Making: Learn different decision-making methods to be able to make better collaborative decisions.


The DDA consists of 160 contact hours, made up of workshops and mentoring sessions:

  • 20 online training sessions, held every two weeks, 20 January – 17 November 2023.
  • A 10-day Democracy Defenders Bootcamp, held in person in Estonia, 27 March – 5 April.



DDA is divided into four phases, following design thinking principles.

Phase 1 | Research

Defining the problems for the civic engagement projects

20 Jan – 24 March 2023. Online.

Phase 2 | Bootcamp

An immersive 10-day Democracy Defenders Bootcamp in Estonia

27 March – 5 April 2023. Offline in Tallinn, Estonia.

Phase 3 | Implementation

Implementing the civic engagement projects

21 April – 8 Sept 2023. Online.

Phase 4 | Impact

Measuring the impact of the civic engagement projects

6 Oct – 17 Nov 2023. Online.

Who is the DDA for?

The DDA is aimed at active citizens and community leaders, aged 20-35 with a strong interest in open society, democracy and civil society.

The programme’s target countries are Indonesia, the United States, Albania, Georgia, Estonia and other EU/EEA countries. However, participants from other countries will also be considered.

What will it cost?

The DDA is free of charge, except for the cost of travel and visas to attend the Bootcamp in Estonia. All other costs (such as accommodation, meals and transport during the Bootcamp) will be met by the organisers.

How to apply?

Willing participants apply to the DDA through a competitive selection process.

Applications for the 2023 DDA are now closed.

Further information

For further information, please download the DDA_Applicants_infopack.

Feel free to contact Agustina Iskandar Crombach, DDA Participant Onboarding Lead, with any questions:

WhatsApp: +6285277600301

Follow our social media to stay informed! Links in the footer below.

Funded by:

The DDA is financed by the ACF Fund and the Citizen OS Foundation. ACF’s operator in Estonia is Open Estonia Foundation in cooperation with the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations (NENO).

DDA programme and agenda


Design Thinking, often applied to great effect in the private and public sectors, has also proved effective in improving the design of civic engagement projects. The Democracy Defenders Accelerator has adapted the five step process by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford ( to suit the programme’s needs.

During the four phases of our 10-month programme, participants have the opportunity to explore and define problems in civil society and democracy in their home countries. They will also have the opportunity to continuously research, prototype and test their ideas with stakeholders. Finally, they will come together to collectively assess the impact of each project.

Programme dates are provisional, subject to change under unforeseen circumstances.

Phase I: Research

Defining the problems for the civic engagement projects

The programme starts with online meetings, in which we will learn about the concept of open society, democratic values, and get an overview of the global situation for civil society. In this phase, participants will research a problem they have noticed in their community or society that they want to solve.

Sessions during this phase will be held online every two weeks, from 14.00-17.00 (UTC+2/Tallinn time):

  • Fri 20 Jan | DDA kick-off meeting. Open society and values of democracy.
  • Fri 3 Feb | Civic engagement project examples. Researching and defining the problems.
  • Fri 17 Feb | Qualitative and quantitative research methods in civic engagement projects.
  • Fri 3 Mar | Analysing the results of research. Developing project ideas.
  • Fri 17 Mar | Pitching the projects. Forming the teams.
  • Fri 24 Mar | Practical information about the upcoming Democracy Defenders Bootcamp

Phase II: Bootcamp

Designing the civic engagement projects

Democracy Defenders Bootcamp: 27 March – 5 April 2023, Tallinn

For this phase, we will meet physically for the Democracy Defenders Bootcamp in Estonia, to learn, test and improve the civic engagement project ideas. We will practise participatory leadership in real-life by leading a fictional organisation, working in teams on the projects that we will have previously defined.

The 30 participants will collectively form the fictional democratic organisation, whose name will be voted on, whose statutes, governance system and action plan will be co-created, and whose leaders will change on a daily basis. Each night, the representatives of this organisation will come together to make a retrospective of the day, hear out all the pros and cons of their work so far, refer back to the timeline and action plan, and vote on who will represent the organisation on the following day.

Throughout this process, there will be 6 to 8 civic engagement project teams working within the organisation. They will each be tackling an issue that can only be solved well in collaboration with the best knowledge and wisdom of people from diverse cultures and experience.

The 10-day Bootcamp agenda will be as follows:

  • Mon 27 Mar | Arrival at the venue. Getting to know each other. Welcome party and mingling.
  • Tue 28 Mar | Participatory leadership. Value- and mission-driven organisations.
  • Wed 29 Mar | Argumentation and critical thinking.
  • Thu 30 Mar | Design thinking and digital transformation.
  • Fri 31 Mar | Design thinking and digital transformation.
  • Sat 1 Apr | Day off to discover beautiful Estonia.
  • Sun 2 Apr | Marketing and communication of civil engagement projects.
  • Mon 3 Apr | Financing the projects.
  • Tue 4 Apr | Project impact and Theory of Change. Pitching the ideas.
  • Wed 5 Apr | Working with the projects. Pitching the ideas. Giving and receiving feedback.

Phase III: Implementation

Implementing the civic engagement projects

After the Bootcamp, the teams will start engaging new team members and stakeholders as well as a wider audience into the implementation of the civic initiative projects, using digital engagement platforms and other communication and marketing channels. During this period we will continue with online workshops and mentoring sessions.

Sessions during this phase will be held online, from 14.00-16.00 (Tallinn time):

  • Mentoring session | Dates and time to be agreed with the mentor
  • Wed 31 May | Training session.
  • Mentoring session | Dates and time to be agreed with the mentor
  • Wed 14 June | Training session.
  • Mentoring session | Dates and time to be agreed with the mentor
  • Wed 5 July | Training session.
  • Mentoring session | Dates and time to be agreed with the mentor
  • Wed 9 August | Training session.
  • Mentoring session | Dates and time to be agreed with the mentor
  • Wed 23 August | Training session.

Phase IV: Impact

Measuring the impact of the civic engagement projects

In this phase we will have four online meetings, at which the impact of the projects will be evaluated and the teams will present their results. As a group, we will all share our personal experience of participating in the programme, and discuss the future of the civic engagement projects.

Sessions during this phase will be held online every two weeks, from 14.00-17.00 (UTC+3/Tallinn time):

  • Fri 6 Oct | Measuring the impact of the projects. Qualitative and quantitative research methods. Theory of Change.
  • Fri 20 Oct | Teams present their results on the impact of their projects. Giving and receiving feedback.
  • Fri 3 Nov | Presenting project results to a wider audience. Graduation ceremony.
  • Fri 17 Nov | Sharing personal experiences. Discussing the future of the projects. Joining the alumni network.


The main outcomes participants can expect as a result of this programme are:

  • Knowing the principles of an open society, knowing the values of democracy and being aware of both the problems and opportunities of Western democracy and civil society;
  • Acquiring the practical skills of participatory leadership and having an overview of different methods of engagement and decision-making;
  • Having knowledge and skills in designing, implementing and evaluating the impact of citizens’ initiative projects;
  • Being aware of the principles of digital transformation and various digital solutions that can help them involve people in civic engagement projects;
  • Having knowledge and experience of how to reflect on their own activities and how to give feedback to other’s projects.

At the end of the Democracy Defenders Accelerator, participants will receive a certificate stating the amount of attended hours, which confirms their participation in the programme.

All participants will also be welcomed into our global alumni network for young activists, for ongoing support.

Facilitators and Mentors

Sara Sinha, project manager, facilitator and mentor

Sara Sinha is the Partnerships and Community Lead at Citizen OS. Sara has expertise in digital governance and accessibility in design.
View LinkedIn.

Agustina Iskandar Crombach, participant onboarding lead, facilitator and mentor.

Agustina leads Citizen OS Indonesia. She has coordinated and led high impact projects and successfully manages a large network of volunteers.
View LinkedIn.

Wawan Putra, facilitator and mentor.

Wawan is an expert in programme monitoring, evaluation and capacity building in the areas of sustainability, gender equality and social inclusion.
View LinkedIn.

Fara Olivia Rumere, facilitator and mentor.

Fara is an expert in Gender and Statistics. As a UN Women National Youth Gender Activist and a founder of the online platform Sa Perempuan Papua, her focus is on supporting women’s wellbeing and entrepreneurial capacity.
View LinkedIn.

Margo Loor, facilitator and mentor.

Margo Loor is the co-founder and technology evangelist of Citizen OS. Margo is highly skilled in discussion design and coordinating discussion initiatives on an international scale.
View LinkedIn.

Anett Linno, programme coordinator, facilitator and mentor.

Anett Linno is the CEO of Citizen OS. Anett has over fifteen years of experience in the field of civic initiatives around the world and specialises in the development of education programmes.
View LinkedIn.

Applications for the 2023 DDA are now closed.

See our guidance on the application process below:

Application Timeline

In order to be accepted into the DDA, willing participants apply through a competitive selection process.
A selection panel will review applications. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted for a phone interview, and the final candidates will be announced via email and on Citizen OS channels.

Key dates for the application process are:

  • 1 October 2022: Applications open
  • 1 November 2022: Information seminar for interested participants
  • 10 November 2022: Applications close
  • 2 December 2022: Announcement of shortlisted candidates
  • 6-22 December 2022: Interviews with candidates
  • 28 December 2022: Announcement of selected candidates

Participant Criteria

  • An intermediate level of English (at least B2), both written and oral. This will be demonstrated during interviews.
  • An active citizen or leader in a community, civil society group or NGO.
  • Ideally a resident of one of the target countries of the DDA: Georgia, Albania, Indonesia, the United States, Estonia and other EU/EEA countries. A limited number of places are also available to residents of other countries.
  • Highly motivated to join the full 10-month programme including both the online sessions and the 10-day Bootcamp in Tallinn, Estonia.
  • Willing to pay for the travel ticket and visa (where necessary) to enter Estonia for the Bootcamp.
  • Have the strong commitment required to maintain the networking and team work with youth from other countries, as part of a global network.
  • Committed to equality (race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc).
  • Aged between 20-35 years old. (Exceptions may be possible).

How to Apply

Applications for the 2023 DDA programme are now closed.

In the application, prospective participants provide:

  • Personal details (name, age, contact details, etc.)
  • Educational background
  • Relevant experience (in an organisation, community, etc.)
  • Responses to 4-5 provided questions (up to 150 words each)
  • Description of a civic engagement project to be developed through the DDA.

Download the DDA_Applicants_infopack.

Watch the recording of the information seminar for interested participants that took place on 1 November.

Attendance and Training Contract

Upon acceptance into the programme, participants will be expected to purchase return travel tickets and visa (where required) from their country of residence to Estonia, for the Democracy Defenders Bootcamp, 27 March – 5 April 2023. Participants will therefore need to confirm in the application form that they are willing and able to cover this cost. Participation in this programme is otherwise free of charge.

It is required that all participants will attend at least 80% of the online training sessions and 100% of the Democracy Defenders Bootcamp in Estonia. Training Contracts between all participants and Citizen OS Foundation will be signed, and if participation requirements are not being met, Citizen OS will have the right to ask the participant for a reimbursement of the cost of the training.

Quick info

20 Jan – 17 Nov 2023

Mix of remote (online, every two weeks) and face-to-face (Estonia, 27 March – 5 April 2023)

Free, except travel and visa costs to enter Estonia

Young civic activists, primarily from Indonesia, USA, Albania, Georgia, Estonia and other EU/EEA countries.

Information seminar
View the recorded info seminar for interested applicants, partners and media that took place on 1 November.

Get in touch

Sara Sinha

Sara Sinha

Project coordinator

With any questions or comments, please contact