Social Entrepreneurship is not new, but the proliferation of information concerning its impacts on global societies has most recently come to light. With no distinct lines being drawn as to who or what organization fits the definition of social entrepreneur, professionalism standards have never been as important as they are today.

The business world is becoming more competitive as technologies and overall business systems evolve to become more globally aware. It is important to hone in on those skills that matter; skills that will drive your social entrepreneurship into the future, bringing about change that you can feel proud being a part of. Social Entrepreneur Fellowship Programs are designed to sharpen those professional standards within you; they are designed to make you a leader in the field of Social Entrepreneurship.

It is important to follow a certain criteria for evaluating a Social Entrepreneur Fellowship Program, in order to be sure that you obtain that higher quality of training that you expect from such:

  • Program should establish you with recognition in your field.
  • Program should design you to be a leader in social entrepreneurship.
  • Program should mold you in providing best practice example.
  • Program should strengthen and bolster your overall reputation.

You should really consider getting out and practicing in the field you are interested in. It is good to know if you truly want to pursue that specific field before going through the steps of searching for a entrepreneur fellowship program. This is especially logical if you have more than one area that you are interested in.

One important step to evaluating a fellowship program in general is to search for academic papers written by people who are members of the fellowship forth which you wish to join. If you find papers that grab your interest, making you wish you had been the one to write it, then chances are you would feel at home there. Even better, if the papers you found interesting were written by a trainee at the level which you are applying, then the chances of you enjoying the people there are even far greater.

“Self-evaluation is key to understanding what type of learning you want to be a part of: Do you want to participate as a resident, with total immersion into the program, or do you feel that a “part time” program fits your lifestyle more?”

Though the very first mention of the term social entrepreneurship was by H. Bowen in his book entitled Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, and then making its first actual larger social debut in the early 2000’s, thanks to Charles Leadbeater’s The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur, there was no notable academic strides in research and developing ideas of what and who fall into the category of social entrepreneurship. Therefore, the basic ideas of a fellowship in this manner are fairly new in comparison to other fields. This is to say that you must research any fellowship program extensively before choosing.

There is a chance that you may have to relocate due to the reason stated above. Despite the fact that fellowship programs for social entrepreneurship are growing in number, you must focus on the quality of the fellowship, and on what it will provide you in terms of bringing quality to your future work.

Self-evaluation is key to understanding what type of learning you want to be a part of: Do you want to participate as a resident, with total immersion into the program, or do you feel that a “part time” program fits your lifestyle more?

Try and reach out to present and graduated participants of the program to see what they have to say. Usually, they will be candid and honest about their experiences.

One of the most important things one should do before making a choice about a particular social entrepreneurial program is who their alumni are. Say you were seeking a business fellowship program and Bill Gates was on one of the alumni. Adding this to alone your repertoire has enormous weight to your reputation in the field of business. The reputation of your faculty is very important.

So, who are the at the top of the social entrepreneur fellowship programs?

  1. Echoing Green is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in New York. This fellowship has donated over $40 million to 700 world-class leaders. They have big name fellows as a part of their roster such as Serita Cox of iFoster and Aaron Tanaka of The Center of Economic Democracy. Echoing Green is supported by USAID and implements the Individualized Fellow Plan (IFP). You can apply to their fellowship program here.
  2. Draper Foundation Grants has in its ranks 100 entrepreneurs and plans to give $110 million to 185 organizations by 2021. On their “about us” page the DRK Foundation says: “Borrowed from our venture capital legacy, we find, fund and support exceptional leaders with innovative and highly impactful ideas that have the potential to scale. We provide $300,000 of unrestricted capital over three years and, most importantly, we provide rigorous, ongoing support by joining the board of directors and partnering with the leader to help build capacity in the organization and scale their impact.” You can apply for a fund here.
  3. The Shuttleworth Foundation is a privately funded Purpose Trust. They support openness in practice, open communication, open reporting, open source software, and open recourses, only to name a few of their values. Some of their alumni include: Mark Surman, founder of the Mozilla Foundation; Waldo Jaquith, founder of ethics.gov; and Marcin Jakubowski, founder of Open Source Ecology.
  4. Inspiring Capital MBA Fellowship is a great short term paid fellowship program that lasts 10 weeks. “Fellows have primarily been MBAs between their first and second year, although there have been post-second year and law school Fellows as well. Most have come from a professional background in the private sector, though some have already had experience in the social sector. Inspiring Capital is able to offer Fellows a stipend of $3000 for the summer, which is most commonly subsidized by their business school.”
  5. Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship was “designed as a way of advancing the next generation of social innovators, entrepreneurs and change agents.” They offer an all expenses paid BHSI Fellows at the Chicago Idea Week. “Fellows gain exposure for their organization, establish a community of support, and receive a $10,000 financial contribution for their venture. All applicants must be 35 years of age or younger. Applicants may be from anywhere in the world and ventures may be for-profit or not-for-profit entities.”