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GoBridge Event Scholarship Guidelines

Objective: The following document is meant to describe the process of giving away diversity scholarships for conferences. Hopefully this document can give some insights into how such a process can work and how to maximise the benefits from it.

  • Resources: Funds, flights, accommodations, conference tickets, etc.
    • There's room for creativity here. Raising money from community funds for the conference is obvious. Other available channels to obtain more benefits to give away may be:
      • The conference itself. Is the conference willing to give away tickets?
      • The speakers may donate their travel expenses. Not all speakers require travel expenses coverage, as their companies are covering those, or, given the choice may even opt to share rooms with other speakers if suggested to them it’s for a good purpose, thus clearing rooms for scholarship applicants. Similarly, if a speaker is using company funds to travel to a conference, the conference might have some funds available to fly an applicant in their stead.
      • The attendees may donate extra tickets. At GopherCon EU we added a special ticket for 20% discount to allow attendees to donate a ticket that will go to a diversity applicant. Since not all applicants require travel expenses, these tickets can help those who don’t.
      • Sponsors. Are the conference’s sponsors willing to donate money towards bringing underrepresented groups to the conference?
    • What is Covered?
      • This one is tricky, but you should have a good idea of what is covered and specify it explicitly in the application form. Are you covering travel visa costs (those can be very expensive)? Incidentals? Travel insurance? If anything happens and an applicant needs x-ray, are they going to drown in debt for the next decade? What happens if a flight is missed? These funds can accumulate and some recipients may not have a good idea on how much stuff costs in another country. Whatever you are planning to cover, make sure it's on the application form, whatever you are not planning to cover and expect the applicants to cover, explicitly get them to agree.
    • Travel Visa
      • Issuing invitation letter is important for visa purposes (get one from the conference as well as the one from the sponsoring organization). It is also important to make sure applicants get the right type of visa, and to make sure that those who are exempted from a visa truly don’t need a visa also for a conference.
    • Risks
      • Applicants generally wait until their scholarships are approved to apply for travel visas.
      • There are inherent risks in that - since they may not get the visa, and the flight tickets are not getting cheaper. If you are planning on offering diversity scholarships launch the application process as long as possible in advance to avoid paying extra and bringing less people. Form a committee ASAP (see below) to expedite processes.
    • Policies
      • It is very difficult to come up with guidelines to who should be a diversity scholarship recipient and there is definitely no one size fits all solution to this particular problem.
    • Distribution
      • When all is set and done. Somebody is going to have to book everything for the recipients. This is long and tedious. They must be careful about connection flights in 3rd countries where applicants might need another visa. They must be careful that applicants don't accidentally have a flight after a Visa expires (can be a matter of 1 day).
    • Contact Person
      • Applicants should ideally have a focal point in a similar time zone. Many problems can arise at the time of the tickets purchases.
    • GDPR
      • We didn't ask for consent on gathering recipients data, such consent should probably be required on the form, along with explanation on how long you intend to keep the data. I didn't allow the members of the committee to download the applications because of GDPR. I think another necessary step is to collect statements from members of the committee to never download or share any information (including applicant names) about applicants.

From having a look at other diversity scholarships we found that there are two types:

  • A set of qualifications has to be met, and a raffle is held between qualified candidates.
  • Candidates are ranked based on their
    • qualifications
    • story
    • impact on the community
    • impact for them

For both cases a committee should be gathered to determine who's qualified or to rank the candidates (where each member of the committee can give points to candidates). Anonymization of the applications is advisable, however, some applicants may have already received scholarships and you might decide you'd like to filter them out.