Fellowship FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Fellowship.

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 or remotely?

No. The goal of the program is to provide Fellows with dedicated time to discover, test, and launch new products. If you can’t commit to the full duration, we encourage you to look into the Research-only option.

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.

What is the Research-only option?

Every year, we allow a limited number of Fellows to join us for only the first two months of the program (the Research phase). Priority is given to Fellows who have structural barriers that prevent them from completing the full program (e.g. a return to teaching in the fall) and those whose expertise aligns most heavily with the Research phase (e.g. Issue Area Fellows or Design Fellows with a research background).

If you choose to participate for only the Research Phase, there will be opportunities for you to continue to engage with the rest of the class moving forward including the possibility of providing part-time support or advice to one or more of the Build teams. And of course you’ll be invited to all program events, including our end-of-program Product Showcase, and treated as a full member of our alumni community.

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

A huge component of our research process is going out into communities to meet people where they are so we require all of our fellows to be in New York City for the duration of the program. A number of past Fellows have relocated temporarily to participate in the program, and we provide limited relocation funds for these purposes. Please get in touch with us to find out more.

Do you provide work visas for international applicants?

Unfortunately, at this time we’re not able to provide visas 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, we’re happy to chat about ways to make this work.

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.