Fellowship FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Fellowship.

Can I participate remotely?

This year, due to COVID-19, the Fellowship with be fully remote first. That means that there will not be the requirement, like in years past, that fellows work out of our co-working space, in Brooklyn. That said, though, the Fellowship is a full-time commitment, for the course of the full four months. We will be operating on Easter Standard time, working standard business hours.

We will be using a variety of tools and platforms to facilitate this remote work. Likely a mix of video conferencing, online whiteboards, etc. If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at blueridgelabs@robinhood.org.

What do you mean by “Expert”?

By “Expert” we mean anyone who has a deep understanding of the challenge area for the year. This could come from academic, professional, or lived experience – what we’re looking for are people who have an opinion on where there are opportunities to do better. Past Expert Fellows have included community organizers, senior citizens, lawyers, journalists, social workers, and more. If you’re not sure if you’d be eligible, please reach out to chat.

Can I participate part-time?

No. The goal of the program is to provide Fellows with dedicated time to discover, test, and launch new products.

If you’re currently employed, we’re happy to chat about setting this up as an externship if that’s something your employer would support.

I’m not in New York, can I still participate?

This year, for the first time, the Fellowship will be fully remote first, and only if and when it is safe to do so, the co-working space at 150 Court st, in Brooklyn, will be available to any fellow who wishes to work out of it, however, fellows will not be required to physically be in the space.

Historically, a huge component of our research process is going out into communities to meet people where they are so in prior years, we had required all of our fellows to be in New York City for the duration of the program. This year will be an experiment and a challenge to do the type of community centered design that this program depends on fully remotely. We look forward to Fellows helping us co-design and co-create the process with us.


Do you provide work visas for international applicants?

Unfortunately, at this time we’re not able to provide visas, visa adjustments, or any documentation for non-US citizens to participate in the Fellowship. If you’re already in the US on a visa that allows for fellowship, research, or contract work without any additional adjustments to your status or documentation, you are eligible.

What is the Fellowship stipend?

Fellows joining us for the entire program will receive a stipend of $20,000. Fellows joining for only the Research Phase will receive $10,000. We also provide a health insurance reimbursement to all eligible participants.

In addition to their individual stipends, each team of Fellows will receive a small budget to develop their products, including funding for direct user research.

I already have a social venture, can I apply?

The Fellowship is designed to help individuals uncover and explore new ideas. If you’re already working on an established social venture, we encourage you to check out our Catalyst program. Applications typically open in August. Please join our mailing list for updates.

Can I apply with a team or a friend?

We evaluate all applicants individually, but if you have a friend or colleague who would make a great Fellow, we encourage you both to apply. You can expect to work with many different members of the cohort during the first two months but will have the option to choose to work together permanently after the Research phase ends.

How are teams formed?

Fellows work as a cohort during the first two months of research – typically in small, rotating groups so that everyone has a chance to get to know each other. As the Research phase ends, Fellows self-select into teams to pursue specific ideas. We provide support to facilitate this process, but the ultimate choice of who you work with is up to you.

What if I want to work on something outside the challenge area?

We select a challenge area each year because it helps us build the highest quality research and mentorship experience for our Fellows. In addition, past Fellows have told us repeatedly how much they appreciate the structure a challenge provides as they start to explore possible opportunities. As a result, flexibility around topic choice increases over time:

All Fellows should expect to work within the challenge area during the first two months (the Research phase). After that, you and your teammates will decide which ideas you want to pursue. We don’t allow teams of one, so the primary constraint at this point is whether you can convince another Fellow to join you. We often have teams who will move a step or two away from the challenge area at this point – for example from civil justice to criminal justice – though this evolution is always based on insights they gained during the research process.

Who owns the IP?

You do. At the end of the Fellowship, most teams either move forward in some capacity with the products they have designed or hand the IP off to partner organizations to continue to build out internally. Either way, you and your team will have the freedom to decide what’s best.

The one place this isn’t true is with interview notes and verbal reports from community-based research conversations, which we ask teams to contribute back to the Labs so that we can incorporate these lessons into future problem briefs and research projects.

Do you take equity in the for-profits that spin out of the program?

If you convert your Fellowship work into for-profit venture, we ask you to donate 1% in equity warrants to Robin Hood at your first valued funding round. We structure this donation through the Pledge 1% initiative, which was founded by Salesforce, Atlassian, and Rally.

If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

I have another question. How can I learn more?

Come to an Open House or check out one of our weekly webinars. You can find details on both on our Events page. You can also e-mail us at blueridgelabs@robinhood.org.