The New World Social Innovation Fellowship is a co-curricular program for path makers, change makers, and pioneers committed to addressing pressing social problems in new and creative ways. The Fellowship selects and supports students – known as Cheng Fellows – with a demonstrated commitment to advancing progress on a social challenge through a project of their design. Students may choose to lead change through innovation in business, an organization, social movement, or within an existing organization, such as government. Through weekly co-curricular programming, coaching, mentoring, and seed funding, the Fellowship provides a platform for students to develop and scale efforts while in school and post-graduation.


The 2019-20 Fellowship application is now closed. The 2020-21 application will open in March 2020 for eligible students at HKS, HBS, and Harvard College. Please sign up for the SICI newsletter to be notified when the application opens.

Evaluation Criteria 

Applicants will be evaluated on the following:

  • Eligibility 
  • Demonstrates commitment to a specific social issue and the people/communities adversely affected by the issue.
  • Articulates their role as the agent of change and why they would be effective in leading this effort.
  • Proposes a feasible pathway to address the identified social problem, which is new and creative given the implementing context.
  • Establishes a connection between their social innovation project and their post-graduation/career goals.
  • Approaches innovation with a learning mindset.
  • Demonstrates leadership potential and exhibits Fellow Characteristics.

Application Components

The application is comprised of four sections:

  • Applicant Contact and Academic Information
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae, not to exceed 2 pages in length
  • Short Answer Responses
  • Reference (optional): You may choose to provide contact information for one reference (we may or may not contact references during the selection process). This person should be able to shed more light on your connection to the problem or opportunity on which you are working.

Deadline and Review Process

Fellowship applications for current HKS students, current HBS students, and rising juniors/seniors at Harvard College have closed. Applications for HKS Mid-Career students will open on July 15th. The application must be submitted no later than 11:59 PM (EST) on Wednesday, July 31st for consideration. Once you have submitted your application, you will not be able to return to make changes or review materials. Interviews will be held for finalists on Friday, August 16th. All applicants will be notified of decisions via email on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. 

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Alexandra Philip, Program Manager, at Alexandra_philip@hks.harvard.edu.

Fellow Characteristics

Social change and transformation is hard work. Selected Fellows in previous cohorts have demonstrated:

  • Strong commitment to, and experience in, addressing chosen problem area.
  • Clear drive and motivation to contribute to social change.
  • A specific idea of how they may contribute to advancing this change.
  • An action-orientation and hunger to learn from failure. 
  • Compelling reasoning for pursuing social innovation within the context of a public policy school.
  • Humility, flexibility, and openness to questioning one’s own assumptions.
  • Active partnership and participation in building a highly connected and supportive community within the Fellowship.
  • A commitment to complete all program requirements, including attendance at scheduled co-curricular sessions one evening per week and completion of the Social Change Plan.
  • Intellectual curiosity and accomplishment, and the ability to persuasively communicate ideas, insights, and plans.
  • Leadership capacity and experience.