About the program
What is the purpose of the Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship?
The Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship is designed to stimulate solutions by Rhode Islanders to Rhode Island challenges. The program, made possible through the generosity of Letitia and John Carter, provides funding for social impact. 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. The Innovation Fellowship 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.
In 2017, the Innovation Fellowship will focus on one challenge for Rhode Island: increasing and improving civic engagement.
What do you mean by innovation?
Innovation can be defined in many different ways, we know. We are looking for new, novel, or re-energized approaches that have not meaningfully been tried at significant scale in Rhode Island.
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.
How will the Foundation know if this program is successful?
The success of this program will be judged over the long term. Our aim is to create a marketplace for Rhode Island solutions. If we give several smart people the freedom to apply creative and fresh thinking to important challenges, we believe placing a few of these “smart bets” will have significant social and community impact.
Can organizations apply?
No, the Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship is intended for individuals.
Can groups of individuals apply?
No, a team of more than one individual may not apply.
Can I submit more than one idea?
Yes, you may submit more than one application.
Can I start a business?
Fellowship ideas must respond to a Rhode Island challenge and have a clear community and social benefit. If you are proposing starting a for-profit venture, you should be explicit about the social outcomes of your work.
I applied last year. Can I reapply?
Yes, you can reapply with the same idea or a different proposal.
What if I live outside Rhode Island?
The Fellowship criteria describe “Rhode Islanders” broadly. You must commit to living in Rhode Island during the three years of the Fellowship. Those who have a deep connection to Rhode Island will be viewed favorably in the selection process.
How do I apply?
The first step is to submit a short letter of intent online by 11:59 p.m. on December 16, 2016. Learn more about the application process
How much can I ask for?
Fellows will be awarded up to $100,000 annually for up to three years. In other words, you may request as much as $100,000 each year, $300,000 total.
How can the funding be used?
The significant financial support provided by the Fellowship enables Fellows to concentrate time on the idea proposed in the application. The Fellowship is unrestricted, and Fellows are expected to devote concentrated time to their work during the term of the Fellowship and engage in activities that further the development and implementation of the idea. Examples of activities include piloting the idea, convening outside perspectives to shape the idea and build buy-in, purchasing equipment or materials, and conducting research. The funding may be used for individual financial support and/or direct project costs.
Each Fellow will be required to submit an annual written report documenting activities, expenses, and outcomes.
When can I apply for this year’s Fellowship?
The application opens on October 24, 2016 and the deadline is 11:59 EST on December 16, 2016. The application will close electronically and no applications will be accepted after the deadline. We encourage you to submit your completed application in advance of the deadline.
Is using the online application the only way to apply for the Fellowship?
Yes. All applications must be submitted through our online system. No paper materials, separate emails, or attachments will be accepted.
Does the selection panel provide applicants with individualized feedback?
Due to the volume of applications, the selection panel does not provide feedback to individual applicants.
Is the Fellowship considered taxable income?
Recent tax laws suggest that fellowships are taxable income. We urge you to consult your tax advisor.
How are Fellows selected?
The Rhode Island Foundation has convened a panel of key leaders, thinkers, and doers to select the Rhode Island Innovation Fellows. Depending on the subject matter of specific proposals, the selection panel may choose to consult outside experts as appropriate.
How was the selection panel chosen?
The selection panel was chosen by the Rhode Island Foundation.
How will the selection panel evaluate applications?
Learn more about the selection criteria
When will decisions be made?
We expect to announce the 2017 Fellows in April 2017.
Will the Foundation share the names and ideas of all the applicants?
There has been tremendous interest from applicants and other members of the community in learning more about the applicants and their ideas for improving Rhode Island. We offer every applicant the option to have his/her name, email address, and a brief description of his/her idea made public.