Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship (5/27)

bluhm_helfand_logoThe Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship @ Chicago Ideas Week recognizes a group of young socially-conscious leaders who have developed sustainable ventures addressing civic needs and provides them with exposure to nationally recognized business and community leaders, funding to support their causes and a platform for growth.

The Fellowship was created by philanthropist and entrepreneurs Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand to help advance the next generation of social innovators, entrepreneurs and change agents. In 2013, the fellowship received over 200 applications.

The Program

The BHSI Fellows are hosted in Chicago for Chicago Ideas Week in October each year, all expenses paid. Fellows gain exposure for their organizations, establish a community of support and receive a $10,000 financial contribution for their venture.

Fellowship Details

Each of the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation fellows will receive $10,000 in financial support for their venture, and they’ll join a group of like-minded young innovators for a week of one-of-a-kind experiences including:

  • The opportunity to present their ventures at Chicago Ideas Week alongside leading innovators, entrepreneurs and thinkers in front of an exclusive audience.
  • Intimate breakfasts and lunches with prominent business and political leaders. Past meetings were hosted by Mayor Richard M. Daley, TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel, Chairman of Equity Group Investments Sam Zell and Groupon Chairman and Co-Founder Eric Lefkofsky.
  • Participate in hands-on working sessions with top not-for-profit leaders. Past speakers include Pencils of Promise Founder & CEO Adam Braun, Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman and charity: water Founder & CEO Scott Harrison.
  • One-on-one meetings with potential funders, partners and mentors relevant to their ventures. Previous mentors include United Airline’s Managing Director of Corporate and Community Affairs Sonya Jackson, Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson, entrepreneur and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker, GrubHub Founder Matthew Maloney and philanthropist and civic leader Helen Zell.
  • Access to Chicago Ideas Week speakers. Past speakers include President Bill Clinton, General Colin Powell, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Deepak Chopra, Edward Norton, Judith Rodin, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Tom Brokaw, Ellen Gustafson, Wes Craven, Kevin Bacon and Dean Kamen.
  • A night rocking out a private concert with a superstar headliner. Headliners have included Third Eye Blind and Weezer!
  • And much more!

Applicant Criteria

  • All applicants must be 35 years of age or younger (born on or after October 13, 1978).
  • Applicants may be from anywhere in the world.
  • Ventures may be for-profit or not-for-profit entities.
  • All ventures must demonstrate that they are innovative and addressing compelling social need(s).
  • All ventures must demonstrate a sustainable model with proven results.
  • Chicago Ideas Week takes place from October 13-19, 2014. The fellowship takes place from October 12-16, 2014 during Chicago Ideas Week.*

Important Dates

  • March 24: Applications Open
  • Deadline to Apply: May 27 11:59 PM CDT
  • Semi-finalists Notified: July 3
  • Semi-finalist Interviews: August 22-23
  • 2014 Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellows announced: August 27
  • October 12-16: Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship @ Chicago Ideas Week

* The formal dates of the BHSI program are Sunday, October 12 – Thursday, October 16. However, Fellows are welcome (but not required) to attend all Chicago Ideas Week events (all expenses paid). All applicants must be available for an interview on August 22 and 23 in the event they are selected as semi-finalists. Semi-finalists may choose to interview in person in Chicago (with all travel expenses paid) or remotely.


For questions or more information on the BHSI Fellowship, please contact Jessica Malkin at

Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship Application

Jelisa Adair

I am the Civic Engagement Fellow for 2013-2014. While a student at Wesleyan I double majored in Psychology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and completed a joint thesis during my senior year. I am interested in issues of social justice, mental health, media, and global welfare.