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.

The 2021-22 application will open on May 10, 2021 for all eligible students. Please sign up for the SICI newsletter to be notified when the application opens.


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 only apply as rising second or third-year students (Spring 2022 or 2023 graduation)
  • Harvard College: Applicants from Harvard College must graduate in Spring 2021 or 2022.

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.

Application Timeline

  • May 10, 2021 at noon ET: Application opens
    Applicants that submit by this deadline will receive early notification if your application will progress to the next round of review.
  • July 12, 2021 at 11:59pm ET: Final application deadline
  • July 12 – August 3, 2021: Application review period
    Review Process: SICI engages a community of close collaborators from across Harvard, as well as expert partners, to review Cheng applications. Throughout the summer, we will provide updates to applicants on the status of their application. Due to the volume of applicants, we do not respond to individual emails regarding application status.
    Supplemental Materials: For candidates that move forward, we may request supplemental information.
  • August 4, 2021: Finalists notified. All finalists will receive an interview request and must respond within 24 hours.
  • August 10 – 12, 2021: Finalist interviews. All interviews will take place over Zoom.
  • August 17, 2021: Decision notifications are sent. All candidates are informed of the decision regarding their application.

Application Criteria

The 2020-21 Cheng Evaluation rubric is available here. The 2021-22 rubric will be available on May 10, 2021, when the Cheng application launches.

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 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.

Selected students must attend all co-curricular sessions (one night/week) for the duration of the academic year at the Harvard Kennedy School’s campus or virtually, depending on campus COVID-19 guidelines. Students are expected to remain in good academic standing for the duration of their participation in the program. Domestic and international students are welcome to apply.