The Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship, made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, is designed to stimulate solutions to Rhode Island challenges.
RIIF Application Information
Please note the 2016 application deadline has passed.
In 2017, the Innovation Fellowship will focus on one challenge for Rhode Island: increasing and improving civic engagement.
What is civic engagement, and why does it matter? Civic engagement is how community members participate in and help shape the fabric of a community. It is defined by individual and collective actions to identify and address issues of shared concern. By building understanding, knowledge, skills, and relationships, we are able to solve our community’s problems. Civic engagement is the foundation upon which our society is built.
This Fellowship is built around the spirit of entrepreneurship and seeks to achieve community impact by (1) investing in an individual’s creativity and potential and (2) providing freedom to apply creative and fresh thinking to important challenges. By innovation, we mean new, novel, or re-energized approaches. By impact, we are looking for results – tangible benefits for a significant number of Rhode Islanders, significant scale, and/or observable progress on significant and longstanding challenges.
Rhode Island Innovation Fellows receive up to $300,000 over three years to test and implement innovative ideas that could dramatically improve an area of life in Rhode Island. Up to two Fellows are selected annually.
Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to carefully review all of the information on this page and the frequently asked questions.
Qualifications and Expectations
Rhode Islanders aged 18 or older are eligible to apply. Recipients must commit to staying in Rhode Island for the three-year duration of the Fellowship. Elected officials, Rhode Island Foundation employees and board members, and their family members are ineligible to apply.
The funding is for individual financial support and/or direct project costs. Proposed ideas must specifically benefit Rhode Islanders. Ideas must be implementable, not merely theoretical, and issues of sustainability will be addressed during the application process.
A few notes on what is not eligible:
- The program is intended for an individual; teams are not eligible to apply.
- The program is not intended to support the work or programs of existing organizations.
- This is not a typical business plan competition; we are looking for community benefit, not just commercial success.
The Foundation has convened a panel of leaders, thinkers, and doers to select the Rhode Island Innovation Fellows:
Victor Capellan, Superintendent of Schools, Central Falls
Leslie Taito, Senior Vice President of Corporate Operations, Hope Global
Dr. Frank Sánchez, President, Rhode Island College
Elan Babchuk, Director of Innovation, Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
Theresa Moore, President, T-Time Productions
Aidan Petrie, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Ximedica
Dan Shedd, President, Taylor Box Company
Neil D. Steinberg, President & CEO, Rhode Island Foundation
The panel will be evaluating each proposal on the following criteria:
1. The idea
- The solution is a new, novel, or re-energized approach. It is not something that has been tried meaningfully in Rhode Island.
2. Plan behind idea
- The resources requested would allow the applicant to produce real results.
- The applicant presents a compelling plan that seems implementable and would logically lead to the intended results.
3. The applicant
- The applicant has the expertise and credentials to achieve his/her goal.
- The applicant is committed to Rhode Island, has passion and vision, is a strong communicator, and would be a good representative of the Innovation Fellowship.
- If other resources are required, there is good reason to believe this applicant could access them.
4. Potential impact
- The idea has significant potential social and/or economic impact. Intended results would benefit the state at significant scale.
- It addresses a "problem" or seizes an opportunity that is extremely important for Rhode Island (affects a significant number of people, has serious human/financial costs, etc.). In 2017, the idea must have potential to improve or increase civic engagement in Rhode Island.
5. Uniquely suited to Fellowship
- The Fellowship would provide a unique and important source of capital for this idea. In other words, there is no other funding easily available for this idea.
6. Multiplier effect
- The idea is inspiring. It would generate excitement within a broader community and leverage resources from other sources.
This is a three-stage application process.
- The purpose of Phase 1 is to present an innovative idea that would have substantial impact with the Fellowship resources. Interested candidates must complete this one-page application online by 11:59 p.m. on December 16, 2016. The application asks for you to describe your idea very briefly. (Preview the Phase 1 application.)
- The purpose of Phase 2 is to describe a viable plan for achieving this idea and demonstrate why the Fellowship resources are critical. If your idea is selected to advance to Phase 2, you will be notified by early February.
- The purpose of Phase 3 is to inspire the selection panel with your potential as an Innovation Fellow. Up to 8 finalists will be invited to interview with the panel. Up to two Rhode Island Innovation Fellows will be announced in April 2017.
Each Fellow will be asked to share regularly with the Rhode Island Foundation his/her progress, challenges, and lessons learned, and to submit an annual written report documenting activities, expenses, and outcomes. In addition, at the conclusion of the Fellowship, Fellows will be asked to share their work broadly with the community, offering insights to inform and advance future work.