MIT IDEAS Social Innovation Challenge
The IDEAS Social Innovation Challenge is MIT’s longest running social entrepreneurship program housed in the PKG Public Service Center. Since its founding in 2001, IDEAS has enabled MIT student-led teams to apply their education and expertise in collaboration with community partners to address social and environmental challenges around the world. Through this program, you can recruit a team from anywhere in the world and develop a creative solution in partnership with impacted stakeholders. Your team can also benefit from a supportive body of reviewers, mentors, and funding within the range of $1,000 – $20,000.
If you have not yet reviewed our Program Guidelines, please do so.
Team structure: Each team must be led by one or more full-time MIT students for the duration of the application process (through the following April after the December deadline). A full-time MIT student on the team must also have significantly contributed to the innovative design, process, model, technology, or other key components of the project. Consider bringing in people beyond MIT students that will contribute the right skills to round out your team. There is no team size requirement.
Although you may enter a project for which you already have established a formal entity (501(c)(3), LLC, C corp, B corp, for example), your project cannot have acquired significant investment ($>100,000). Funding will go to the MIT student(s) on your team, not to any organization you have created. We strongly encourage teams to partner with community partners to understand the problem, develop the solution, and implement the project. A community partner can be a non-profit organization, a government body, a partner or client company, a community leader, a school, etc.
Service-focused & ethical: IDEAS is a program of the MIT PKG Public Service Center. As such, all projects must have a service focus, working to address an unmet need for a historically and/or acutely underserved societal or environmental challenge. We are looking for projects in which the social mission is explicit and ethics is central. Projects must not put any person or living creatures in harm’s way.
Location: While projects can take place in the US or abroad, we are guided by MIT’s Travel Risk Policy for determining whether students can travel to certain locations. Please be sure to check whether your project location is on this list: https://icc.mit.edu/travel-abroad/safety-and-security/international-travel-risk-policy-country-warning-levels. We do not permit students to travel to High Risk locations, and we work with students on a case-by-case basis for other countries with travel warnings. If you are planning to travel or are traveling with PKG Center funds, we reserve the right to ask you to change, delay, or otherwise alter your travel plans if we think it necessary for your safety.
As the Institute is still closely monitoring travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, proposals where some can be completed locally, remotely, or with on-the-ground teammates are highly encouraged.
Participation: All MIT and non-MIT participants may only join ONE team per academic year. Your team must be available to attend all required events—reviewer feedback session, the spring finalist seminar series, the showcase & awards ceremony, and, if applicable, any other necessary programming.
Repeat applicant: We welcome back all past applicants even those who were among our finalists cohort in past years. Past applicants may submit the same idea or a new project.