The Social Innovation + Change Initiative (SICI) is a community of individuals, organizations, and movements working on breakthrough efforts to tackle our world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.

Together we accelerate the work of first-time and long-time social changemakers, and we nurture the ecosystems they need to thrive.

We come together across sectors, geographies, and areas of expertise to support and learn from each other. We share what we know about both the theory and practice of social change. And we conduct research to build a body of knowledge for future generations.

Who We Are

SICI was founded by Julie Battilana, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Harvard Business School and Professor of Social Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. SICI is led by Professor Battilana, Faculty Chair of SICI, and by Brittany Butler, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and Executive Director of SICI.

See a snapshot of SICI’s community of faculty, staff, students, and practitioners here.

How We Teach

In addition to graduate-level courses at HBS and HKS, we facilitate teaching and trainings across Harvard University through:

  • Social Innovation Accelerator – The New World Social Innovation Fellowship selects and supports Harvard students, known as Cheng Fellows, who are actively advancing progress on a specific social challenge through a project of their design.
  • Visiting Social Innovators – The Marla and Barry Beck Visiting Social Innovator program hosts practitioners from around the world to advance positive social impact within and beyond the Harvard University community. 
  • Power and Influence for Positive Impact – This six-week online course features social innovators from our growing community. The course runs on the Harvard Business School Online platform several times per year.
  • Executive Education – We currently run two custom-designed programs for seasoned leaders who not only lead social innovation themselves, but who also influence the way others do their work. Leadership for System Change: Delivering Social Impact at Scale is designed for awardees of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Power, Innovation, and Leadership is designed for members of the TruthSpeaks Foundation, an organization founded by social justice leader, LaTosha Brown.

Our Research

The body of literature available on how to create social value is paltry when compared to the literature focused on generating commercial value. Meanwhile, societies continue to struggle with reforming deeply rooted systems – such as financial, educational, energy, and health care – to advance social progress. While there are obvious and inspiring examples of both social innovation and social changemaking throughout human history, the mechanics of how to effectively use these processes to resolve these problems are still not well understood.

Our research efforts aim to help fill that gap.

Located at the intersection of the public, not-for-profit, for-profit, and social enterprise sectors, Harvard Kennedy School has a history of offering systematic analyses of how various sectors and actors interact to create positive social change. SICI is building on this multi-sector, systems-level approach with three specific outcomes in mind:

  • Support efforts that enable rising scholars to conduct timely, tenure-worthy research.
  • Increase the volume of knowledge on social innovation and change coming out of the academy.
  • Bridge the divides between researchers and practitioners, and in doing so, improve the work of both groups.

Follow Us

Stay connected by subscribing to our monthly newsletter. Penned by Executive Director Brittany Butler, the newsletter explores a new theme related to social innovation and change each month and includes a spotlight on our community members. Previous newsletters are posted on our blog. You may also follow us on Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn.


Download the Social Innovation + Change Initiative one pager. 

The New World Social Innovation Fellows Program supports selected students — Cheng Fellows — in taking action to advance progress against a pressing social problem through social innovation. We have found that successful applicants do not always think of themselves as “social innovators”. We encourage applications from civil servants, intrapreneurs within large organizations, social entrepreneurs, activists, and changemakers with dedicated passion and clear drive to solve a defined social problem. 

 Sign up here to be notified when the application launches.

We encourage applicants to carefully review the Cheng evaluation rubric in advance of applying. For reference, you can review the 2021-22 Cheng Evaluation Rubric here. 

The New World Social Innovation Fellowship currently accepts applications from students in the following schools:

  • HKS: Applicants from HKS must graduate in Spring 2023, including the one-year Mid-Career program.
  • HBS: Applicants from HBS must graduate in Spring 2023.
  • HGSE: Applicants from HGSE must graduate in Spring 2023. EdLD students may only apply as rising second-year students (Spring 2024 graduation).
  • HSPH: Applicants from HSPH must graduate in Spring 2023. DrPH students may apply as rising second-year students or rising third-year students (Spring 2023 or 2024 graduation).
  • HGSD: Applicants from HGSD must graduate in Spring 2023.
  • Harvard College: Applicants from Harvard College must graduate in Spring 2023 or 2024.
  • Joint degree and part-time students must be currently enrolled in one of the above programs and graduate in Spring 2023 to apply.

Pairs are eligible to apply, however, all applicants must meet the eligibility requirements outlined above. Each person must submit an application and will be assessed on an individual basis.

Each year, the Social Innovation and Change Initiative invites up to 15 exceptional students to join the New World Social Innovation Fellowship. Selected students attend weekly co-curricular sessions for the duration of the program (AY 2022-23) at the Harvard Kennedy School. Sessions may be held in-person, hybrid, or virtually, depending on campus COVID-19 guidelines.

Through a rigorous Fellowship experience, Fellows refine their understanding of a specific social problem, reflect on their personal identities and sources of power, and take action in finding their unique pathway forward, making concrete plans to continue their work post-graduation. Students are expected to remain in good academic standing for the duration of their participation in the program. Domestic and international students are encouraged to apply.

Faculty Director

Julie Battilana Photo

Julie Battilana

Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation, HKS; Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration, HBS