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Social Innovation Fellows take a silly photo together

Become a Social Innovation Fellow

Want to make a meaningful impact in the world? Join us.

Who are the Fellows?

Social Innovation Fellows are undergraduate and graduate students from all corners of campus who are interested in becoming changemakers – social entrepreneurs, innovators and visionaries who have a dream to change the world – and who want to learn to improve their skills and knowledge to solve society’s greatest challenges.

The Social Innovation Fellows is for students who:

  • Want to work hands-on with a network of community partners to create real world impact locally and globally;
  • Are passionate about changing the world and want to explore a social challenge related to the UN Sustainability Goals;
  • Want to gain valuable experience, connections and insight into starting and maintaining a successful social enterprise.

Discover

You’ll pursue your passion for social change, learn adaptive skills and cultivate a sense of purpose.

Design

You’ll work with well-rounded teams and a Brain Trust of experts to become a creative problem solver.

Do Good

You’ll learn and apply the technical skills to build a viable venture that serves a greater good.

What is expected of Social Innovation Fellows?


Social Innovation Fellows will learn the adaptive skills necessary of social entrepreneurs and innovators as well as technical skills to ideate, launch, or support an entrepreneurial project, product, policy or enterprise.

Fellows are required to meet at least once per month with their team. In addition, they are required to attend our skills-based Innovation Labs that are led by staff and guest speakers and occur monthly. Fellows are also expected to maintain good academic standing, and to represent the program in a positive manner both on and off campus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Every spring, full-time students from across campus are invited to apply to join the upcoming cohort of Social Innovation Fellows. There are no restrictions on major or academic level. There are approximately 25-35 students selected to participate each year, and each cohort officially begins working together in the fall.

The cohort that is selected for the coming academic year will meet with staff, attend a retreat in August or September, and review/rank the information provided from a curated selection of Venture Partners. Prior to being placed on their teams by staff, every Fellow’s venture interests and rankings are taken into account.

Fellows then start attending Innovation Labs, meeting with their teams and Venture Partners, and getting to know their team mentor and senior fellow.

The goal of this program is for teams to explore and scope a challenge and design a creative solution. Program deliverables will primarily be report-outs at the Innovation Labs. In addition, at the end of each semester teams will be expected to create and present their exploration process and findings/activities to a larger stakeholder community.

Report-outs are based on what you, both individually and as a team, have learned as well as progress toward your project goals. Your Venture Partner is here to serve as a “living laboratory” — an enterprise or ecosystem that offers you a real-world connection. A Venture Partner may express a desire for your team to work on a specific set of deliverables, however, it is up to your team to determine project direction, outputs and outcomes with guidance from the support network.

Teams receive a micro-investment of $1,000 for prototyping, development, or other related uses decided upon by the team.

Fellows also receive a graduation cord upon program completion, access to the Entrepreneurship Garage and Raleigh Founded meeting spaces on Centennial campus, mentorship from industry experts and peers, the opportunity for cross-campus multidisciplinary collaborations, lifelong friendships, access to jobs and internships, and immersion into a broader network of entrepreneurs and changemakers.

For more information about the intangible benefits, we highly recommend speaking to current or former Fellows that you know. You can find info about them by visiting our Instagram page.

It may be helpful to shift your mindset; the Social Innovation Fellows is not like a typical class or program. Throughout the year, your team will scope a challenge with input from your Venture Partner and other stakeholders; this process serves as your main goal. To help you achieve this, the entire cohort will meet on a monthly basis to learn methods and best practices that will serve as tools for your project. We will not assign work in the traditional sense.

It will be up to your individual team to use the tools/methods and Lab content to move the needle forward within the context of the social challenge that you ultimately decide to tackle. It is up to you and your team to hold each other accountable and work out problems together. A support system of mentors, Brain Trust, and staff are here to help you through the process.

In some cases, serving as a Fellow will fulfill other scholar requirements. For example, the program is an approved Civic Engagement Initiative for Park Scholars. 

Social Innovation Fellows aims to build from existing campus assets, complementing coursework for students enrolled in entrepreneurship offerings by providing a cohesive co-curricular learning pathway. The Fellows can serve as an in-depth follow-on to the first year project work of the Goodnight Scholars or a service learning experience for Caldwell Fellows; or offer a supportive framework for students in business, design, engineering, textiles, and every other discipline to continue exploration of market-based ventures and prototyping that have positive social impact.

Attendance at a 2.5 hour Innovation Lab is required once per month (typically on the first Tuesday between 5:30-8pm). For the 20-21 academic year, these were held virtually via Zoom; prior to this they were in person. Our format is flexible, and we will be heavily relying on University guidance for meetings for the 21-22 academic year.

There is also a mid-year presentation event in the fall and a final presentation in the spring; both are scheduled with exam dates in mind. Additional time commitment will vary throughout the program and is negotiated within your team. Fellows usually report that meeting as a team once per week tends to work best.

Our wonderful Venture Partners are curated each summer by staff, a few of which may be continuing projects from previous academic years. Although we do not yet have this list available for you, it may be helpful to remember that we aim to focus our efforts on ventures (including for-profit enterprises, nonprofits, and B-corps) that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This includes continuing our progress with ventures tackling the enormous issues like climate action, responsible consumption and production, affordable and clean energy, and clean water and sanitation.