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 a clear drive to solve a defined social problem. Have questions about the Fellowship? Watch the Fellowship information session below. 

Application for the 2021-22 academic year is now closed. The next application cycle will open in Spring/Summer 2022.


The New World Social Innovation Fellowship currently accepts applications from students in the following schools:

  • HKS: Applicants from HKS must graduate in Spring 2022, including the one-year Mid-Career program.
  • HBS: Applicants from HBS must graduate in Spring 2022.
  • HGSE: Applicants from HGSE must graduate in Spring 2022.
    • Note to EdLD students: Students enrolled in the EdLD program may only apply as rising second-year students (Spring 2023 graduation)
  • HSPH: Applicants from HSPH must graduate in Spring 2022.
    • Note to DrPH students: Students enrolled in the DrPH program may apply as rising second-year students or rising third-year students (Spring 2022 or 2023 graduation)
  • Harvard College: Applicants from Harvard College must graduate in Spring 2022 or 2023.

Joint degree and part-time students must be currently enrolled in one of the above programs and graduate in Spring 2022 to apply.

Pairs are eligible to apply, however, all applicants must meet the eligibility requirements outlined above. Each person must submit an application and will be assessed on an individual basis.


  • May 10, 2021, 12:00pm ET: Application opens.
  • July 11, 2021, 11:59pm ET: Application deadline.
  • July 12 – July 30, 2021: Initial application review.
    • Review Process: SICI engages a community of close collaborators, including Harvard partners and field experts, to review applications. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application throughout the summer. Due to the volume of applicants, we do not respond to individual emails regarding application status.
    • Supplemental Materials: We may request supplemental information from candidates that advance in the application process.
  • July 30, 2021: Finalists notified.
    • Interview Request: Finalists will receive an interview request via email and must respond before the stated deadline to secure an interview slot.
  • August 2, 2021, 9:00am ET: Interview deadline.
    • Deadline for finalists to respond to interview questions.
  • August 9 – 11, 2021: Finalist interviews.
  • August 17, 2021, 9:00am – 5:00pm, ET: Decision notifications.
    • All candidates are informed of the decision regarding their application.

Selection Criteria

We encourage applicants to carefully review the 2021-22 Cheng Evaluation Rubric. There are no “hidden criteria” – we assess applicants based on exactly what is described in the rubric. Please know that you do not need to have “3’s” in all categories to become a Fellow – in fact, no applicant has ever received these marks. We expect growth and development throughout the year.

Program Structure

Each year, the Social Innovation and Change Initiative invites up to 15 exceptional students to join the New World Social Innovation Fellowship. Selected students attend weekly co-curricular sessions for the duration of the program (AY 2021-22) at the Harvard Kennedy School. Sessions may be held in-person, hybrid, or virtually, depending on campus COVID-19 guidelines.

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. Students are expected to remain in good academic standing for the duration of their participation in the program. Domestic and international students are encouraged to apply.