6 National Fellowships for Social Entrepreneurs & Activists
For leaders building business plans with community impact in mind.
The world is demanding social leadership from the corporate sector. Wealth continues to increase for the top 1 percent, and the rest of us are managing a good amount of anxiety over a myriad of issues—the widening wage gap, digital divide, soaring healthcare costs, and a lack of affordable housing to name a few.
While the largest companies hog more than their fair share of media attention for building social programs as an afterthought, social entrepreneurs across the country are building business plans with community impact in mind.
What is social entrepreneurship?
“The social entrepreneur should be understood as someone who targets an unfortunate but stable equilibrium that causes the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity; who brings to bear on this situation his or her inspiration, direct action, creativity, courage, and fortitude; and who aims for and ultimately affects the establishment of a new stable equilibrium that secures permanent benefit for the targeted group and society at large.” — Martin & Osberg 2007, Stanford Social Innovation Review
If your grind uses a business model to create a more inclusive and equitable society, you are probably a social entrepreneur. Claiming the title may open you up to additional opportunities.
Take Black on the Job, for example, the self-titled “business/movement dedicated to the advancement of black people in the workplace” has helped black workers across the U.S. add $7.5 MILLION in salary increases since they launched in 2018. CEO Cyntoni Miller, popularly known as Admin Cyn, and her team offer a suite of services including resume reviews, confidence coaching, and mock interviews. Admin Cyn is right, Black on the Job is more than a business, its a movement taking on economic inequality and the wage gap.
Social entrepreneurship is crucial work that sounds exciting, but it can feel like an isolating and behemoth endeavor for founders. Taking on a system that’s beating up on people you care about is mentally and physically taxing. National fellowships provide respite in the form of a cohort of other socially-minded doers from across the county. You’ll be able to learn together, support each other, and raise awareness for your mission. Many fellowships also offer monetary benefits in the form of a stipend or seed funding.
Five national fellowships to consider:
Echoing Green exists with the mission to support bold ideas and extraordinary leaders. Each year, 30 fellows are selected into the program to receive leadership development, seed resources (a stipend over two years: $80,000 for individuals; $90,000 for partnerships), and lifelong support. For-profit organizations are eligible.
Front Line Leaders Academy (FLLA)
A program of the Young Elected Officials Network, FLLA is a six-month program that provides training and leadership development to individuals interested in seeking positive social change through the political process. Areas of focus include campaign management, field operations, communications plans, fundraising, and running for office.
The Global Good Fund Fellowship is a 12-month hybrid leadership program for social entrepreneurs around the world. We accelerate leaders who relentlessly tackle the most pressing social issues to create a more sustainable and just future for all. Each leader receives professional executive coaching, c-suite business mentorship, $10,000 to spend exclusively on their leadership development, customized tools, resources, training and networking opportunities to scale their social impact.
Ashoka has a 35-year history building a global network of social entrepreneurs. The fellowship includes a tailored stipend for up to three years, if needed, for the Fellow to dedicate themselves full time to the advancement of their idea. Ashoka also has a program for Young Changemakers under 20.
The Roddenberry Fellowship is a 12-month program that provides Fellows with $50,000 to take an existing initiative (e.g. campaign, organization) to the next level or to launch a new initiative.
The Aspen Institute offers a number of different fellowships including the Henry Crown Fellowship, Finance Leadership Fellowship, Health Innovators Fellowship, and Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership. Programs choose classes of 20–22 leaders annually to explore how to make a significant positive impact on the world.
Profellow is a searchable database for professional and academic fellowships. I applied for a public policy fellowship while in grad school and received a $2,500 stipend and travel to five seminars in Washington D.C. over the 11-month program.
Forbes 30 under 30 lists are a way to gain national clout and press for your work. Forbes releases a yearly list of social entrepreneurs. Locally, check if the business journal for your city publishes an annual 40 under 40 list.
Plug into SOCAP, an annual convening with an entrepreneur program focused on social entrepreneurship and impact investing. It’s a great place to connect with other social entrepreneurs, keep on top of industry trends, and present your work.
Applying is the first step
Confidence is a big part of the application process. National fellowships may seem daunting, or for people who are “doing bigger things than you.” I urge you to free yourself from that limiting mindset.
The first step is to apply. The people who get the fellowships are the people who know about the fellowships and the content you create for applications can be used to promote your work in other spaces.
Expect a competitive process, be willing to get vulnerable, and be comfortable sharing your “why.” Find a previous fellow and reach out to them for support and guidance on the application process.
Know of another fellowship to include in this list? Please reach out to spread the word.