Social Innovation + Change Initiative

The Social Innovation + Change Initiative hosts the New World Social Innovation Fellowship: a rigorous co-curricular program for path makers, change makers, and pioneers committed to addressing pressing social problems in new and creative ways. The Fellowship selects and supports students – known as Cheng Fellows – with a demonstrated commitment to advancing progress on a social challenge through a project of their design. Students may choose to lead change through innovation in business, an organization, social movement, or within an existing organization, such as government. The co-curricular experience of the Fellowship bridges research, theory, and social change frameworks with experiential insights and expertise to guide students in effectively leveraging themselves as leaders and innovators for positive social impact.

Cheng Fellows use their time at Harvard to learn and simultaneously advance progress against a defined problem about which they have a dedicated passion and future commitment. The program is designed as a scaffolded, intensive co-curricular Fellowship for students to explore social problem-solving within the context of a policy school and with an eye toward action while earning their degree. Fellowship work is guided by a curated sequence of weekly co-curricular sessions, skills-based workshops, practitioner visits, individualized coaching and mentorship, hands-on Studio time, and experiential learning opportunities. Fellows form a cohort-based community and actively contribute to building a place of productive support and encouragement, recognizing that no single individual changes the world alone. Participants embrace a learning orientation in their work, actively incorporating and building on learnings from Fellowship offerings to guide their independent change efforts.

The program provides up to $30,000 to Fellows who successfully complete the program for project-related inquiry, development, ideation, and advancement.

For more information about the Fellowship, please visit the Social Innovation and Change Initiative website.

Julie Battilana

Julie Battilana

Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation
Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration, HBS
Director, Social Innovation + Change Initiative

Current courses and recent work:

Le Manifeste Travail
Stanford Social Innovation Review —“Should You Agitate, Innovate, or Orchestrate"?
Problem, person, and pathway: A framework for social innovators



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

Application 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.

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 students (Spring 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.


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.