SIL Call for Applications

Social Innovation Lab
Call for Applications


The Social Innovation Lab’s application period for its 2017-2018 cohort will open in August.
The Social Innovation Lab (SIL) provides funding, mentorship, office space and workshops to develop innovative nonprofits, mission-driven companies and disruptive technologies into sustainable ventures that benefit communities in Baltimore and beyond.
Since 2011, SIL has supported 62 ventures, including MERIT, Fusiform and Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap. To learn more about SIL, view our 2016 Impact Report.

What SIL looks for

SIL seeks driven, altruistic applicants – people who see or experience a problem, thoughtfully develop a solution and have the dedication to turn their idea into reality.
Applications are evaluated on leadership ability, boldness and originality of the venture, traction 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 The Johns Hopkins University
    • 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 non-profit, for-profit, or not yet incorporated


What SIL offers

SIL provides ventures opportunities to:

  1. Establish and refine strategies for growth and sustainability
  2. Meet critical milestones to move their venture forward
  3. Connect, learn from and collaborate with other social entrepreneurs

Our annual cohorts consist of 10 ventures and each venture receives:

  • $1,000 in funding, and the potential to receive additional funding
  • Access to dedicated mentors and an extensive network of advisors
  • Workshops from experienced entrepreneurs and social sector leaders
  • One-on-one coaching and support from SIL Director
  • Office and meeting space
  • Other forms of support, including marketing and legal assistance
  • Opportunities to pitch potential supporters at SIL events


What SIL 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





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).

I’ve already been working on something, can SIL help me take it to the next level?

SIL helps with early-stage development of ventures; these are ventures that are still in startup mode, have a small team and minimal funds. If you have already started a venture that has received substantial funding (more than $100,000) or that has been around for more than two years, SIL may not be ideal for you.

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.

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, 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.

When do you anticipate accepting applications for a new cohort?

August 2017

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

Applications are reviewed by a committee which selects finalists based on the submitted applications. Finalists may be asked to submit additional information. Finalists will be invited to an interview with the committee, and accepted applicants will be notified shortly after.


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 (session dates will be set based on cohort members’ schedules).

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? Email SIL Director Alex Riehm at