Social Innovation Lab is now accepting applications for its 2017-2018 cohort

Deadline: Monday, October 2, 12:00 p.m. (noon) Eastern Time

The Social Innovation Lab (SIL) at Johns Hopkins University accelerates emerging ventures and leaders that seek to change Baltimore and the world. SIL does this by providing funding, mentorship, office space, and workshops to help innovative non-profits, mission-driven companies, and disruptive technologies develop and grow into thriving, sustainable ventures that make a measurable impact.

Since 2011, SIL has supported 62 ventures, including the Portable Alternative Crib, Urban Pastoral and Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap. To learn more about SIL and our impact, view our 2017 Impact Report.

What SIL looks for:

SIL seeks driven, altruistic applicants – people who see a problem, are thoughtful and deliberate at developing a potential solution rooted in extensive research or experience, and are willing to exert extraordinary dedication to make the potential solution a reality.

Applications will be evaluated based on leadership ability of the applicants, boldness and originality of the venture, accomplishments to-date, financial feasibility and sustainability, and more.

To be eligible:

  • Applications may be submitted by:
    • Residents of the greater Baltimore area, or
    • Students, faculty, or staff at Johns Hopkins University/Medicine (any location)
  • Applications may be submitted on behalf of ventures that are in the prototype/pilot phase or already launched and operating (ventures must be beyond the idea stage and must be able to demonstrate accomplishments, traction, or impact)
  • Ventures may be nonprofit, for-profit, or not yet incorporated

What SIL offers:

SIL provides ventures with the opportunity to:

  1. Develop and refine strategies for growth and sustainability;
  2. Establish and meet critical milestones to move the venture forward; and,
  3. Connect and collaborate with other entrepreneurs. SIL’s cohort model allows participants to learn from, and collaborate with, each other along the entrepreneurship journey.

Up to 10 ventures will be accepted into the cohort and each will receive:

  • $1,000 in funding for the venture with the potential to receive additional funding up to $25,000
  • Dedicated mentors and access to an extensive network of advisors
  • Workshops and sessions where venture leaders learn from experienced entrepreneurs and social sector leaders
  • One-on-one coaching and support from SIL’s Director (including guidance on setting milestones, addressing challenges as they arise, and navigating resources)
  • Office and meeting space
  • Pro bono accounting and legal support
  • Opportunities to pitch potential supporters at SIL events, including the annual Impact+Innovation Forum

What our participants say:

“SIL exposed us to an incredible ecosystem of mentors, collaborators, and funders that have been pivotal to the growth and evolution of our venture.”

— J.J. Reidy, Urban Pastoral

“SIL allowed Bright Energy Africa to leverage the vast and diverse network of entrepreneurs, partners and resources at Hopkins and the greater Baltimore community. The fellowship allowed us to meet other passionate individuals hoping to address some of our community’s most pressing health, social and economic disparities.”

— Miguel Dias, Bright Energy AFrica

“My mentor at the Social Innovation Lab helped me develop metrics that demonstrate the powerful impact of my organization. Thanks to him, I’m able to show the difference my organization makes to teachers and families across Maryland.”

— Melissa Badeker, Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap

“The Social Innovation Lab provided our company with the foundation to grow in the Baltimore entrepreneurial ecosystem. The sessions were invaluable and the networking opportunities with fellow social enterprises and Baltimore changemakers were a huge strategic plus.”

— Seal-Bin Han, FitMango


For more information on applying, view the frequently asked questions below and join one of the upcoming info sessions:

Wednesday, September 6 5:30-7:30pm (drop in anytime)
Impact Hub (10 E. North Avenue)
Registration required:

Thursday, September 7 12:00-2:00pm (drop in anytime)
Brody Learning Commons Café (JHU Homewood campus)
Registration required:

Tuesday, September 12 12:00-2:00pm (drop in anytime)
FastForward (1812 Ashland Avenue, Suite 100)
Registration required:



Is this just for JHU students?

No, anyone who lives in the greater Baltimore area can apply. Also, in addition to students, Johns Hopkins University/Medicine faculty and staff may apply.

What are some examples of the kind of ideas and ventures SIL is looking to support?

Great examples include the Portable Alternative Crib, Urban Pastoral, Sunrise Health and Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap.

Is this mostly for people who want to start non-profits or for people starting for-profit businesses?


I have an idea for a product or invention and I want to develop a prototype but I’m not sure if I want to build it into a venture. Should I still apply?

No, SIL is for individuals and teams that want to build ventures. In order to be eligible, you must already have a prototype in development or completed.

Do I have to already be working on something or can I just have an idea?

You need more than an idea. SIL is looking for ventures that have already demonstrated some form of accomplishments, traction, or impact (but may still be at an early stage).

Does my venture have to focus on an issue in Baltimore?

Your venture is not required to focus on addressing an issue in Baltimore, although thinking locally is encouraged.

Do I have to apply with a team or can I apply on my own?

You may apply on your own, but applying as a team is encouraged. A large part of the selection process will include an evaluation of the leadership ability of the applicant(s). Although uniquely talented individuals may achieve success independently, a team of individuals working together is more likely to demonstrate the leadership ability and likelihood of success that SIL looks for. Further, if applying as a team, you are encouraged to include team members that represent the community/issue you seek to serve. If you do not currently have team members, apply anyway and if selected, SIL can help you form a team.

I’m thinking about applying, is there someone I can get in touch with to see if this would be right for me?

Yes, please register for one of the information sessions listed above.

May I submit more than one application?

No, SIL looks for dedication and commitment – thus we want to see that applicants are fully committed to their venture.

After the deadline of September 30th, when will be the next time that you anticipate accepting applications for a new cohort?

August 2018

How does the review process work and when will I find out if I’ve been accepted?

Applications will be reviewed by a committee, which will select finalists based on the submitted applications. Finalists may be asked to submit additional information. Finalists will be invited to an interview with the committee on October 17 or 18. Accepted applicants will be notified by October 25th. Applicants not accepted into the cohort will receive constructive feedback after the review period.


What is the time commitment if selected?

Building an impactful and sustainable venture is a major time commitment. This can be accomplished alongside other commitments such as school, work, or family obligations. However, your work with your venture and SIL should be among your top priorities. The time and place for your work is up to you, but there are several required event dates as well as required weekly cohort sessions and bi-weekly check-in meetings with the SIL Director.

Mandatory program dates:

  • New cohort reception: Thursday, October 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • Individual onboarding meetings with SIL Director: October 31 or November 1
  • Cohort Retreat #1: Saturday, November 4, all day
  • Cohort Retreat #2: Saturday, November 18, all day
  • Cohort Retreat #3: Saturday, January 27, all day
  • Weekly cohort sessions: Week of January 29 – Week of April 16 (weekly session dates will be set based on cohort members’ schedules; sessions are on weeknights for approx. 90 minutes)/li>
  • Bi-weekly workshops (Spring)
  • Impact+Innovation Forum: Tuesday, April 24, 5:30-8:30 p.m. (annual pitch event)
  • Exit interviews: April 26 or 27

If selected, will the trainings and program be personalized based on what I need help with or will it be standard for everyone?

There will be some standardized programming for all participants, but a large part of SIL’s offering is one-on-one mentoring and coaching, which will be highly personalized.


Question not answered here? Register for one of the information sessions listed above or email SIL Director Darius Graham at

To access the application, visit The deadline to apply is Monday, October 2 at 12 p.m. (noon) Eastern Time.