What are the eligibility requirements?

Cheng Fellowship applications for current HKS students and rising juniors/seniors at Harvard College are now open. The deadline to apply is April 1, 2019. Applications for HKS Mid-Career students will open in Summer 2019.

  • HKS: Applicants for the 2019 Cheng Fellow cohort must be Master’s candidates graduating from an HKS degree program in Spring 2020, including the one-year Mid-Career program. This is a one-year Fellowship experience.
  • HBS: Applicants for the 2019 Cheng Fellow cohort must be Master’s candidates graduating from an HBS degree program in Spring 2020. This is a one-year Fellowship experience.
  • Harvard College: Applicants for the 2019 Cheng Fellow cohort must be current sophomores or juniors at the College graduating in Spring 2020 or 2021. Seniors will have a one-year fellowship experience. Juniors participate in a two-year Fellowship experience, providing students with an extended runway for post-graduate planning, individualized support, and deepened community. Year 1 is spent engaging in the weekly co-curricular programming together with HKS Fellows, while Year 2 is focused on developing and executing on your individual game plan. College Fellows must plan to participate in a summer experience related to their Fellowship work during Summer 2020, between Year 1 and Year 2.

All applicants must be available to attend weekly evening co-curricular sessions (one night/week) on HKS’ campus for the duration of the 2019-20 academic year, be enrolled students, and in good academic standing for the duration of their participation.

Who should apply?

We have found that successful applicants do not always think themselves as “social innovators” nor do they necessarily have experience with “entrepreneurship.” We encourage applications from civil servants, community organizers, “intrapreneurs” within large organizations, social entrepreneurs, activists, front line staff and any changemakers with dedicated passion and clear drive to solve defined social problems.

It is crucial for candidates to honestly consider (and ultimately to demonstrate in their application) their level of readiness and motivation to be focused on advancing their independent social innovation work while also pursuing an academic degree. Applicants must have the commitment to use a significant part of their time at Harvard to develop, refine, and advance a specific project that aims to transform the status quo for the primary purpose of positive social impact. Successful applicants will demonstrate that they are highly focused and self-motivated, able to integrate constructive feedback, willing to grapple with complexity, and have an unwavering dedication to a specific social cause, which they are committed to pursuing after graduation and beyond.

Applicants will be evaluated on the following:

  • Provides evidence of real commitment to a specific social issue and the people adversely affected by the current state.
  • Demonstrates a clear connection between the Fellowship and long- and short-term post-graduation goals.
  • Approaches innovation with a learning mindset.
  • Demonstrates leadership potential and exhibits Fellow characteristics.

Fellows will be asked to bring all resources at their disposal to the table for this program — their time, brainpower, attention, energy, relationships, public image, passion, and more. This demand would be inappropriate for students who are not yet certain of their commitment.

This program is not for students who are interested in innovation for its own sake, nor for those who would accept a profitable outcome from their efforts without true social impact. Similarly, it is not for students who believe they would feel constrained by dedicating themselves to a specific problem for the duration of the program, and beyond, in order to contribute to solving it.

Is this an incubator or accelerator for social enterprises?

The program is a scaffolded, co-curricular experience for aspiring change agents looking to learn and be in action in tackling a problem about which they are passionate and dedicated. Social innovation can be pursued through a number of vehicles and pathways – including the launch and scaling of, and intrapreneurship within, social movements, organizations, businesses, and/or governments. Our position is that these strategic decisions should be made based on and informed by the defined problem and your personal fit as a change agent. This program is not specifically designed to provide technical skills for students looking to launch a venture without deep exploration and analysis of the problem, their own identity and sources of power, and the pathways available to them.

Is there a financial aid component?

Cheng Fellows are eligible for up to a total of $30,000 at the successful completion of the Fellowship in support of project-related inquiry, development, ideation, and advancement. A limited amount of funding may be available to enable real-time experiential learning. All funding awarded through the New World Social Innovation Fellows Program Fund is intended to support Cheng Fellow projects and innovation work and is not applicable to tuition, school fees, etc. This funding is considered taxable income.

How do I apply?

Cheng Fellowship applications for current HKS students, current HBS students, and rising juniors/seniors at Harvard College are now open. The deadline to apply is APril 1, 2019. Applications for HKS Mid-Career students will open in Summer 2019.

More questions?

We’d love to hear from you! Contact Ally Philip, Program Manager, at alexandra_philip@hks.harvard.edu.