2017 Fellowship

Our Fellowship helps innovators build high-impact products for low-income New Yorkers.

The Fellowship

Think the world doesn’t need another selfie app? We agree. Our intensive summer Fellowship is designed to help top talent tackle big problems in new ways. By taking a human-centric approach and pushing our teams to iterate quickly and cheaply, we aim to build products that can really make a difference.

We’ve built our summer program to provide everything a team of early-stage social entrepreneurs might need: thousands of dollars in resources, an amazing peer group, unparalleled access to a pool of community collaborators for research and testing, and much more.


The program is split into two parts: We start with an intensive eight-week Research Phase, delving deeply into the lived experience of our Design Insight Group (a community of low-income New Yorkers) to discover insights that lead to potential product ideas. This is followed by an 80-day Build Sprint, where the best ideas and products that come out of the Research Phase are tested, validated, and eventually built.

Our Fellows are experienced professionals who come from places like the Harlem Children’s Zone, Google, Facebook, Twitter, MOMA, NASA, NYU School of Law and more. They are frontline social workers, experienced engineers and designers, leading academics, have launched tech companies, clothing lines, and non-profits and are looking for new ways to support communities traditionally underserved by technology.

Great candidates will bring not only a great track record in their area of expertise, but also courage, empathy, and a love of fast-paced, collaborative environments. If that sounds like you, we’d love for you to join us!

How does it work?

Our fellows work full-time out of our co-working space in Brooklyn. The work is split into two steps: Two months of intensive human-centered design research, followed by three months to build out a minimum viable product

Closing out the Fellowship, you’ll present your product to a crowd that includes investors, foundations, government agencies, and members of the communities that supported your work.

All of our fellows receive access to expert mentors, support from our team, a research budget, and an honorarium to cover their bills.


Applications have been closed for the 2017 fellowship.

More Questions

For more information on the Fellowship or the application process, please see our FAQ or attend one of our weekly webinars.

You can also watch a recorded webinar.

Additionally, we'll be hosting an Open House on February 16th.

2017 Key Dates

  • Applications open: 1/27/17 at 9:00am EST
  • Open House: 2/16/16 at 6pm EST.
  • Weekly Info Sessions:Every Thursday in February at 1pm EST
  • Applications close: 3/6/17 at 11:59pm EST
  • Finalist workshops: 4/1/17 or 4/9/17
  • Fellows Accepted: 4/15/17
  • Fellowship Start: Early June
  • Research Phase Ends: End of July
  • Build Sprint Ends: Mid October

Alumni & Portfolio

Our Alumni, and what they've built coming out of the Fellowship program.

The 2017 Challenge: Older Adults and Their Caregivers

“We need to recommit ourselves to finishing the work that earlier generations began– make sure this is a country that remains one where no matter who you are or where you started off, you’re treated with dignity, your hard work is rewarded, your contributions are valued, you have a shot to achieve your dreams whatever your age.”
– President Barack Obama

Our nation is aging rapidly, but rather than enjoying their golden years, too many older adults find themselves struggling, forced each month to choose between food, medication, or rent. And there has been an alarming rise in the number of older adults who are homeless or relying on food banks.

In New York City, the number of older adults is projected to increase to nearly 1.9 million by 2030, making it the fastest-growing population. Unfortunately, older adults struggle disproportionately with access to benefits, health issues, and affordable housing.

  • One out of every six older adults relies on emergency food

  • One out of five lives below the poverty line

  • One out of four has limited mobility

Many face these challenges alone. In 2014, 32 percent of persons age 65 and over, and nearly half of persons 85 and older in New York City lived alone. In addition, olders who live alone have the second highest poverty rate (among all older households).

A complex ecosystem of benefits and support systems exists to help older adults; however, navigating and accessing these benefits can be a challenge and many forgo help. As many as one million older adults in New York are eligible for SNAP aka food stamps, but only about half are enrolled in the program.

Caregivers are a valuable lifeline for older adults who are fortunate enough to have them. According to the New York State Office for the Aging, approximately 3 million caregivers provide more than 2.6 billion hours of unpaid care to loved ones each year at an estimated worth of $32 billion. These caregivers often sacrifice their careers and spend thousands of dollars to care for aging adults.

To spur innovation, we are looking for 15-20 talented fellows who are eager to use their talents and skills to ensure that the elderly of NYC receive the care they deserve.

While the situation is dire and the challenge staggering, we must find solutions. And with your help, we will.

Help Find Solutions To Key Challenges Like:
  • How might technologies help fight social isolation and better connecting older adults- especially those with limited mobility- to their communities?

  • How can we simplify and demystify the complex web of benefits and support systems already available to older adults, in order to increase their access?

  • How can we build the capacity of caregivers to identify challenges, provide support, and connect older adults to resources?

Fellowship Roles


Resourceful entrepreneurs who tackle big problems.

More Info

Imaginative UX/UI experts who can visualize and delight.

More Info

Thoughtful full-stack builders who code and test with care.

More Info

Knowledgable advocates who can unravel and explain.

More Info

What we’re looking for

Our fellows come from a variety of backgrounds, but all share similar characteristics:

  • Open to learning: A fellow challenges their previously held beliefs with compassion for both the community and each other.
  • Gets things done: The Fellowship is a tremendous opportunity, but it is brief. With such a limited amount of time, working quickly and effectively both in teams and alone is essential to success.
  • Sees feedback as a gift: Feedback is a tremendously powerful tool for learning and growth, but only when it is given and received with the best of intentions.
  • Resilient: The work we do is bound to have setbacks. Fellows need to bounce back from difficulty to face the challenge anew.
  • Comfortable with the unknown: Developing a new product is fraught with uncertainty. Being able to make decisions with limited knowledge is an essential skill.
  • Willing to fail: Making decisions with limited information necessarily means sometimes we’re going to be wrong. Great fellows learn from their mistakes with enthusiasm.

Where are the past fellows now?



Georges, Dan, and Ashley met in our 2014 class. Passionate about tenants’ rights, they built JustFix.nyc, a non-profit tech platform that helps renters get things fixed in their apartment. As tenants complete customized to-do’s, the tool builds out a case history that they can take to Housing Court – where 90% of renters are self-represented. This fall, JustFix.nyc won the 2015 NYC BigApps housing category and received follow-on investment from the Labs via our Catalyst program.



For Jimmy, a former Facebook product manager, one insight made all the difference. His team noticed that almost everyone waiting in line at the food stamps office had a smartphone, but that they couldn’t use their phones to get the help they needed. Now, Propel makes it easy to register for food stamps and track your balance from a mobile device. The team has raised more than $1 million from investors and is on track to help thousands of people across the country access critical benefits.