Engage - Social Innovation Fellowship

The Social Innovation Fellowship is an award-winning program that provides 15-20 students with $4,000 to build a social venture over the summer, supported by a year of intensive skills training, complementary coursework, and a community of social entrepreneurs offering mentorship and critique.

Who is eligible?

The SI Fellowship is the overarching program for both C.V. Starr Social Entrepreneurship Fellows and Leslie Altman Social Entrepreneurship Fellows. In addition, there are two seats in the program available to RISD students.

We define “social innovation” as the pursuit of innovative, transformative and sustainable solutions to social problems. In some cases, Social Innovation Fellows are founders of their own social impact venture - these include student-run organizations, businesses, and non-profits. In other cases, Social Innovation Fellows are building a new and innovative capacity within an existing organization.

Fellows can work individually on their ventures, but we encourage teams to apply together whenever possible. Each eligible fellow - regardless of whether they are working individually or on a team - will receive a $4,000 stipend.

No funding option:

For Brown/RISD students that do not meet the eligibility requirements, but are eager to participate (such as graduate students and graduating seniors), we will still consider your application. However, our funding restrictions do not allow us to provide the funding to cover full-time work on your venture over the summer.

If you are interested in participating in the no-funding option, please apply using the standard application. We hold the same expectations that you will fully participate in the community in the spring, work on your venture full-time during the summer, and continue in the fall as long as you are on-campus.

Our Expectations

In addition to completing a 10-week full-time immersion project during the summer of 2014, Fellows are expected to participate actively in the Fellowship community. This entails:

  • Attending two half-day retreats
  • Attending weekly meetings on Wednesday evenings, which take the form of either a Small Group Meeting or Workshop (2-3 hrs/week)
  • Documenting progress of their project on Swearer Sparks 
  • Mentoring applicants for the following year’s class of Fellows, as well as mentoring admitted Fellows throughout their year in the program (1 hr/month)

Learn More

Dates & Deadlines


9/28: Info Session, 7 pm @ Petteruti Lounge
10/13: Info Session, 7 PM @ RISD Career Center, 123 Dyer St
10/26:  Proposal Writing Workshop, 7 pm @ J. Walter Wilson 303
11/5: Proposal Writing Workshop, 7 pm @ Swearer Center (25 George St.)
11/11: Draft Application Deadline
12/23: Final Application Deadline

Social Innovation Fellowship FAQs

Who is eligible for the SI Fellowship?

Students who apply for the SI Fellowship must have a specific social impact venture they are starting or building. These ventures range from small-scale student organizations to global organizations. Students may also work on an “intrapreneurial” project, which is an entrepreneurial project within an existing organization or company. Read the profiles of our current fellows for some examples.

Any Brown undergraduate may apply for the SI Fellowship. Fellows who are graduating after May 2016 will be eligible for funding. There are also seats available for fellows who are not eligible for funding - graduate students and students graduating in May 2015. In addition, RISD students may apply for the 1 to 2 seats that will be available to them.

How much funding do fellows receive?

All fellows receive a $4,000 award. The purpose of the funding is to allow the fellows to work full-time on their venture during the summer.

What is the application process for the SI Fellowship?

Students interested in applying for the Fellowship are encouraged to meet with Lizzie Pollock, Assistant Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the Swearer Center for Public Service to share their ideas and receive initial feedback and input. Update: Lizzie Pollock will be unavailable for the fall semester starting October 9. We encourage you to meet with Jonathan Kalin, Interim Assistant Director of Social Entrepreneurship to share ideas and receive initial feedback. Click here for Jonathan’s open office hours, which are held in the Swearer Center on Mondays and Wednesdays, 3-5pm.

Students must submit an application for the SI Fellowship that includes a project proposal, a research paper, a personal statement, and two letters of support. Students who submit draft proposals will then be assigned 2-3 advisors who have expertise in the student’s field of interest to help them hone and improve the proposal. Application deadlines are listed above. 

If you have questions about the application process, please contact elizabeth_malone@brown.edu.

I thought this program was called the Starr Fellowship. Is the SI Fellowship the same or different from the Starr Fellowship?

Since 2008 the C.V. Starr Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship has supported students with social impact ventures through funding, programming, and a peer community. With the new seats made available for RISD and Taubman students (paid for by these respective schools) as well as the addition of the Leslie Altman Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship, we needed a new name for this program. Thus the SI Fellowship was born. All of the programming and expectations will remain the same, but the name is different!

Is the SI Fellowship extra-curricular?

Yes, the SI Fellowship is an extra-curricular program for which students do not gain course credit. However, fellows are encouraged (but not required) to enroll in Leading Social Ventures: Social Entrepreneurship in Action (PPAI1701Q). Over the course of a semester, students gain knowledge, analytical competence, and leadership skills relevant to leading social ventures. The teaching method is interactive and experiential and assumes that students are highly motivated to be part of an active learning community.

What is the time frame of the SI Fellowship?

The SI Fellowship begins each January. Throughout the spring semester, fellows participate in programming that helps them develop a business model, a pitch, and a plan for their summer. Fellows then spend the summer working full-time on their venture. In the fall semester, SI Fellowship programming is focused on what’s next – for the student and for the venture – through workshops on skills such as fundraising, strategic planning, and governance. The following spring semester, fellows are asked to serve as mentors for the following cohort in the Fellowship.

What are the expectations of the SI Fellowship?

Fellows are expected to commit to approximately 2-3 hours of programming per week in the spring and fall semesters  over the course of their year in the Fellowship (on Wednesday evenings). This programming takes the form of workshops, small group meetings, dinners, and/or speaker events. SI Fellowship programming is highly interactive and applied, our facilitators are experienced and skilled practitioners, and we always have food at our events.

During the summer, fellows are expected to work full-time on their ventures over the course of 10 weeks.

In the spring following the year-long SI Fellowship, fellows are expected to serve as mentors for the next cohort of fellows.

Fellows are required to physically be on campus at least 2 out of the 3 semesters (for the upcoming cohort this means Spring ’15, Fall ’15, and Spring ’16).

What do students do after the Fellowship is over?

Fellows from past years have pursued their projects as full-time careers following commencement, as well as received national recognition and funding for their work through the Echoing Green Fellowship, Dell Social Innovation Challenge, and others. Read our 2013 Impact Report for more information on student impact.

What is the difference between the C.V. Starr Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship and the Leslie Altman Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship?

The C.V. Starr Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship is an endowment from the C.V. Starr Foundation, which covers the summer funding and program costs for 15-20 fellows to participate in the SI Fellowship each year. The Leslie Altman Fellowship was established in loving memory of Leslie Altman ’75, P’08 by her husband, Frank L. Altman ’75, P’08, and daughters, Miriam H. Altman ’08 and Lauren Altman. The Altman Fellowship will cover the summer funding and program costs for one fellow to participate in the Fellowship each year. This fellowship will be reserved for students working on the issues of education, gender equality, public art, and/or community development with first preference given to female students.


For information about the Brown Venture Fellowship (same program for non-social impact ventures) click here.