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 attack big problems in new ways. By taking a customer-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.

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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 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 Facebook, Twitter, MOMA, the Harlem Children’s Zone and more. They 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.

More Questions

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

Key Dates

  • Open House Info Session: March 3, 6pm
  • Applications close: March 20 at 11:59pm EST
  • Finalist workshops: April 2 or April 10th
  • Fellowship Start: June 6
  • Research Phase Ends: July 29th
  • Build Sprint Ends: October 21st

Alumni & Portfolio

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

The Challenge: Closing the ‘Justice Gap’

“Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building; it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists… it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.”
– Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

There is a staggering need for legal services among low-income New Yorkers, and it threatens to tear at the fabric of our democracy.

The courts are the final line of defense against poverty and inequality — particularly for children, seniors, domestic violence victims, veterans, and immigrants. Having a lawyer can mean a family stays in their home when threatened by an unscrupulous landlord, a hard-working single mother isn’t cheated of her wages, and families aren’t torn apart by deportation. Yet too many New Yorkers lack the support of an attorney when they are forced to fight for their basic rights.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone accused of a crime deserves the right to counsel, but no such right exists for civil cases. As a result, the overwhelming majority of civil defendants walk into court without legal representation.

  • Only 10% of tenants in eviction proceedings have an attorney vs. 90% of landlords

  • Only 4% of defendants are represented by an attorney in debt collection proceedings vs. 100% of creditors

  • More than 60% of detained immigrants lack legal counsel

These lop-sided statistics are not how the world’s oldest democracy should function. This is not justice. Every New Yorker deserves high-quality legal assistance, regardless of their income level.

At its core, the problem is a massive imbalance between the demand for low-cost and pro bono legal services and the available supply. The Legal Aid Society, the largest non-profit legal provider in the country, has to turn away 8 out of every 9 people who seek their help.

In the face of this crisis, there is growing energy around new approaches and a renewed commitment from city and state agencies to expand coverage, while recognizing that traditional models alone may be too expensive at scale. To help spur innovation, we are looking for 15-18 talented fellows who want to ensure the justice system works for everyone, regardless of income.

Come explore new ways to:
  • Supplement existing legal services cost-effectively with smart software, better data, or new advocates;

  • Make it easier for New Yorkers to identify when they’re facing a legal issue and access trusted, high-quality resources;

  • Address language and literacy barriers that prevent New Yorkers from understanding their rights, court procedures, and the implications of contracts, court decisions, and settlements; or

  • Grow the supply of pro and low bono providers who have both the time and knowledge base to support low-income clients.

Fellowship Roles

Product

Resourceful entrepreneurs who tackle big problems.

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Design

Imaginative UX/UI experts who can visualize and delight.

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Engineering

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

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Product

Knowledgable advocates who can unravel and explain.

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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?

justfixnyc

JustFix.nyc

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.

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Propel

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.