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.


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 2020-21 New World Social Innovation Fellowship application is now open to eligible students. Apply here. Applications are due by Sunday, July 12, 2020 at 11:59pm ET. 

Application Timeline

  • May 1, 2020: Application opens.

  • June 1, 2020 at 11:59pm ET: Early review application deadline.

    • Applicants that submit by this deadline will receive early notification if your application will progress to the next round of review.

  • June 15, 2020: Update for early review candidates.

  • July 12, 2020 at 11:59pm ET: Final application deadline.

  • July 12 – August 3, 2020: 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, 2020: Finalists notified. All finalists will receive an interview request and must respond within 24 hours.

  • August 11 – 13, 2020: Finalist interviews. All interviews will take place for Zoom.

  • August 20, 2020: Decision notifications are sent. All candidates are informed of the decision regarding their application.

Application Criteria

Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Understanding of Problem: Applicant defines a specific social problem, its root causes, and why it is important using both quantitative and qualitative measures.

  • Purpose: Applicant demonstrates passion for this social problem and the people impacted, and establishes a connection between their social innovation project and their post-graduation/career goals.

  • Positioning: Applicant articulates their role as the agent of change and why they would be effective in leading this effort.

  • Potential: Applicant proposes a feasible pathway to address the identified social problem, which is new and creative given the implementing context.

  • Innovation: Applicant demonstrates understanding of current efforts that have attempted or are currently attempting to address this social problem and articulates how their effort is different.

  • Cohort Expectations: Applicant demonstrates promise in their ability to approach innovation with a learning mindset, and build a highly connected and supportive community within the Fellowship.

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

  • HKS: Applicants from HKS must graduate in Spring 2021, including the one-year Mid-Career program.

  • HBS: Applicants from HBS must graduate in Spring 2021.

  • HGSE: Applicants from HGSE must graduate in Spring 2021 or Spring 2022 (EdLD).

  • HSPH: Applicants from HSPH must graduate in Spring 2021 or Spring 2022 (DrPH).

  • Harvard College: Applicants from Harvard College must graduate in Spring 2021 or 2022.

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 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) at Harvard Kennedy School’s campus for the duration of the academic year and be in good academic standing for the duration of their participation in the program. Domestic and international students are welcome to apply.

The New World Social Innovation Fellows Program is supported by New World Development Company, a Hong Kong-listed conglomerate led by Adrian Cheng, a 2002 graduate of Harvard College.

Adrian Cheng
Adrian Cheng is the Executive Vice-chairman and General Manager of New World Development Company Limited. He is the chairman of New World Group Charity Foundation Limited and a director of certain subsidiaries of the Group. Cheng worked in a major international bank prior to joining New World Development Company Limited in September 2006 and has substantial experience in corporate finance. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree (cum laude) from Harvard University with a focus on East Asia studies, and was conferred the Honorary Doctorate of Humanities by the Savannah College of Art and Design. Cheng founded New World Springboard Community Program which encourages young people to give back to society and also founded K11 Art Mall and K11 Arts Foundation which nurtures young artists, offers international scholarships, and hosts exhibitions around the world. He is the vice-chairman of the Youth Federation of the Central State-owned Enterprises, the vice-chairman of All-China Youth Federation, a member of the Tianjin Municipal Committee of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and a member of Board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.