Social Innovation Lab



Our 2018-2019 Cohort application has closed.
Thank you for your interest in the Social Innovation Lab!

Deadline: Monday, October 1, 2018 11:59 p.m. 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 72 ventures through this program including Portable Alternative Crib Initiative, Urban Pastoral and Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap. To learn more about SIL and our impact, view our 2018 Impact Report.

What SIL looks for:

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

Applications will be evaluated based on:

  1. The leadership ability of the applicant(s);
  2. The venture’s boldness, originality and potential for impact; accomplishments to-date; feasibility and potential for sustainability;
  3. and fit with SIL resources and offerings.

To be eligible:

  • Applications may be submitted by:
    • Residents of the greater Baltimore area, or
    • Students, faculty, or staff at Johns Hopkins University (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 impacts).
  • Ventures may be non-profit, 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. The cohort-based learning model builds and amplifies the strengths of individuals and the group, and participants must be willing to share their experience with the group.

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 of up to $25,000, supported by the Abell Foundation
  • Dedicated mentors and access to an extensive network of advisors including issue experts, experienced entrepreneurs and connections
  • 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 setting milestones, addressing challenges as they arise and guidance in navigating resources)
  • Office and meeting space
  • Pro bono tax and accounting, legal and banking support
  • Opportunities to pitch potential supporters at SIL events, including the annual Impact+Innovation Forum, scheduled for April 30, 2019.




Follow us on Twitter @SIL_Baltimore and Facebook @TheSocialInnovationLab for more upcoming information sessions.


Impact Bootcamp
Join us at our upcoming Impact Bootcamp on Saturday, September 29, co-hosted with Baltimore Corps’ Elevation Awards and Open Society Institute-Baltimore’s Community Fellowships! This Bootcamp is for people who want to gain or enhance the skills essential for launching and leading a community project, nonprofit, or mission-driven business. While participation in this event is not required to complete an application, we encourage attendees to consider applying to SIL. Please see the RSVP link below for more details about the event, including a draft agenda.

RSVP Here:





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?

Check out our current and alumni ventures.
Is this mostly for people who want to start non-profits or for people starting for-profit businesses?

Both are eligible and encouraged to apply, provided the venture you are forming expects to have positive social impact.


What do you mean by “social impact?”

For us, when we refer to “social impact,” we mean the measurable demonstration of value created to society as a result of a social innovation. Businesses create value for shareholders; social enterprises create financial value and societal value. We support organizations who expect to build value for society.


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 or accomplishments, traction, or impact (but may still be at the 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, but thinking locally is encouraged. Please note, in order to be eligible to receive the up to $25,000 Cohort Prize, participating teams must commit to remain in Baltimore.


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 and/or a coalition of partner organizations working together effectively is more likely to demonstrate leadership ability and likelihood of success. 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, please do not be discouraged from applying: SIL can help you form a team, build partnerships, and improve your potential for success.



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

Yes, send any questions to SIL Director Alex Riehm at


May I submit more than one application?

No, SIL looks for dedication and commitment – thus we want to see applicants are fully committed to their venture and who have made progress towards their projects.


After the deadline of October 1, when will be the next time that you anticipate accepting applications for a new cohort?

Our accelerator program is an intensive, six-month commitment where we are fully devoted to supporting our cohort ventures. The next application process will open in August 2019.


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 score the applications based on what you provide and select finalists. Finalists may be asked to submit additional information and will be invited to an interview with the committee during business hours on October 16 or 17. Accepted applicants will be notified by October 24.


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. Time and place for where your work occurs is up to you, but there are several required event dates as well as required weekly cohort sessions. Participating teams commit to devoting at least ten hours per week towards their ventures, although participants often contribute many more.

Mandatory program dates:

  • New cohort reception: Wednesday, October 24, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • Individual onboarding meetings with SIL Director: October 29 to November 2
  • Cohort Retreat #1: Saturday, November 3, 9:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Cohort Retreat #2: Saturday, November 17, 9:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Cohort Retreat #3: : Saturday, January 26, 9:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Weekly cohort sessions: Week of January 29 – Week of May 6
  • Impact+Innovation Forum: Tuesday, April 30, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Weekly cohort meetings will be held on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at 1812 Ashland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21205. In person attendance is required. If you cannot make this time, please still apply and email Alex at to discuss.

If you have conflicts or further questions, do not be discouraged from applying. If you have a conflict, please contact The SIL Director, Alex, at


If I were selected, how would I receive the $1000 award?

Since this award is provided on a reimbursement basis, selected teams would be reimbursed by Johns Hopkins for costs incurred. Participating teams will receive full terms and details in program orientation.


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 Alex Riehm at


To access the application, visit The deadline to apply is Monday, October 1 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time.


What our participants say:

“My time with the John Hopkins Social Innovation Lab was life changing! I had no idea that when I nervously took the time to apply for the SIL that I would be accepted and ultimately awarded the $25,000 inaugural seed funding for my efforts to launch the Portable Alternative Crib initiative. The mentorship, funding and resources offered were all valuable to not only help grow my mission but also to launch a product to help families that are most in need.”

– Shantell Roberts, The Portable Alternative Crib Initiative

“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

“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