Apply for MIT D-Lab Innovation Ecosystem Builders Fellowship 2018 (Fully-funded to the United States)

Apply for MIT D-Lab Innovation Ecosystem Builders Fellowship 2018 (Fully-funded to the United States)

Deadline: December 18, 2017

Calling emerging local leaders from the Global South! Applications are open for MIT D-Lab Innovation Ecosystem Builders Fellowship 2018. MIT D-Lab’s newest fellowship convenes and equips local leaders in low-income communities who are building innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems to address local and global challenges. These innovation ecosystem builders will spend a year learning, connecting, and experimenting, using D-Lab’s participatory design methodology to devise and refine collaborative initiatives.

Fellows are emerging local leaders in the Global South supporting innovators and social entrepreneurs in low-income communities. The Fellowship offers strategies and support for fellows to make their programs more innovative, collaborative, and effective.

Are you working to support grassroots innovators improving the lives of people living in poverty? Are there persistent gaps in your local innovation ecosystem that you want to fill? Would you like to be innovative and collaborative in your program design? Apply to join our first cohort of fellows!


Between March 2018 and March 2019, MIT D-Lab will provide clusters of fellows from three to five different emerging innovation ecosystems with training, travel, and community so that they can:

  • LEARN: They provide training in our participatory design methodologies and exposure to strategies from around the world for supporting innovators and entrepreneurs and creating systems change.
    • Fellows will receive training in our participatory design methodologies and exposure to relevant research and case studies from around the world in order to learn from D-Lab’s and others’ experience supporting innovators and entrepreneurs and creating systems change.
    • Fellows will teach one another lessons they have learned from their own work.
    • Together fellows will generate new ideas, hypotheses, and research questions around creating and sustaining robust innovation ecosystems.
  • CONNECT: They bring clusters of fellows from a few innovation ecosystems together through both in-person and online events, creating a community of support among them while connecting them to other potential collaborators, mentors, researchers, student interns, service providers, and funders.
    • Fellows will be funded to gather in person two to three times during the year and will connect with each other online throughout the fellowship year, forming a community of support for one another.
    • Fellows will try out new strategies for engaging a variety of local stakeholders in their program design and execution.
    • Fellows will also be connected to potential collaborators, mentors, researchers, student interns, service providers, and funders.
  • EXPERIMENT: They offer guidance and funding to help fellows test their new collaborative programs and initiative ideas, and we adjust our own programming to meet fellows’ needs.
    • Fellows will put their new design and collaboration skills and new ideas into practice, working together within and across their ecosystem teams to devise and conduct low-cost program pilots to engage potential users and partners, test assumptions, gather useful feedback, and refine their designs.
    • Fellows will receive guidance and small amounts of funding from the program to support these experiments.
    • Fellows will also elicit and receive feedback and support from their cohort and mentors over the course of their design iterations.


They are seeking applicants whose programs/organizations/initiatives/ventures are:

  • Dedicated to training, funding, resourcing, networking, or otherwise serving local innovators and entrepreneurs*
  • Based in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, or East Asia & the Pacific
  • Working with communities or in contexts in which people earn on average less than $3 USD per day
  • Committed to social impact and inclusive innovation and design
  • At least two years old
  • Have either a proven business model or funding secured to cover core operations for at least 50% of the fellowship year

They are looking for individual fellows who are:

  • In positions with both decision-making authority and implementing responsibility over programming and budgeting for their program/initiative
  • Committed to collaborating with a variety of people within their ecosystem
  • Excited both to learn and to develop new techniques and methodologies for building their innovation ecosystem
  • Prepared to dedicate time and resources to initiate new programs or change existing programs over the course of the coming year
  • Living at least part-time in the context in which they are working
  • Committed to continue working within the same innovation ecosystem as you are now for at least two years following the close of the fellowship

* Examples of applicants’ current ecosystems-focused initiatives, programs, and organizations might include:

  • education institutions and programs
  • incubators and accelerators
  • coworking spaces, makerspaces and fablabs
  • public and private sector funders
  • government and NGO development programs
  • impact-oriented product distributors and resellers
  • online networking and job-sharing platforms
  • advocacy organizations or campaigns

Evaluation Criteria

Requests for Information will be evaluated by the Innovation Ecosytem Manager, D-Lab staff, and representatives from collaborator initiatives at MIT and elsewhere. They will be weighing applications based on the following criteria:

The Ecosystem

  • Strategic coherence with D-Lab work and partners
  • Number & Diversity of strong applications
  • Potential for growth

The Fellow’s Initiative

  • Alignment with fellowship goals
  • Demonstrated impact
  • Capacity for collaboration/increased impact

The Fellow

  • Capacity for leadership
  • Dedication to Community
  • Enthusiasm for approach


Fill out the online Request for Information by 9 A.M. EST, Monday, December 18, 2017, and encourage others who are supporting innovators and entrepreneurs in your community to do the same.

Clusters of applicants from a few well-represented emerging ecosystems will be invited to submit full applications in February, 2018. A final cohort of fellows from three to five ecosystems will be chosen that month.

For more information, visit MIT D-Lab Innovation Ecosystem Builders Fellowship.