The New World Social Innovation Fellows Program supports selected students — Cheng Fellows — in taking action to advance progress against a pressing social problem through social innovation. We have found that successful applicants do not always think of themselves as “social innovators”. We encourage applications from civil servants, intrapreneurs within large organizations, social entrepreneurs, activists, and changemakers with dedicated passion and clear drive to solve a defined social problem.

It is crucial for candidates to honestly consider their readiness and motivation to advance an independent social innovation effort while also pursuing an academic degree. Through a rigorous Fellowship experience, Fellows refine their understanding of a specific social problem, reflect on their personal identities and sources of power, and take action in finding their unique pathway forward, making concrete plans to continue their work post-graduation.


  • HKS: Applicants from HKS must graduate in Spring 2020, including the one-year Mid-Career program.
  • HBS: Applicants from HBS must graduate in Spring 2020.
  • Harvard College: Applicants from Harvard College must be current sophomores or juniors at the College graduating in Spring 2020 or 2021.
  • Pairs: Partners may apply, but all applicants must meet the eligibility requirements outlined above. Each person must submit an application and will be assessed on an individual basis.

How to apply

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.

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

How are applications evaluated?

Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • 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.
  • Is motivated to  build a highly connected and supportive community within the Fellowship.
  • Demonstrates leadership potential.

Program structure

Each year, the Social Innovation and Change Initiative invites up to 15 exceptional students from Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard College to join the New World Social Innovation Fellowship. Selected for their commitment and potential to create lasting social change, students attend weekly co-curricular sessions to learn social impact frameworks, apply these lessons to their projects, and advance their work as well as that of others in the cohort.

Applicants must attend all co-curricular sessions (one night/week) at Harvard Kennedy School’s campus for the duration of the academic year and be in good academic standing for the duration of their participation in the program. Domestic and international students are welcome to apply.