Grinnell Prize winner talking with 2 students

Eligibility and Application Guidelines

2025 Grinnell College Social Innovator in Residence Application
Application Deadline — Aug. 14, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. (CDT)

Who Should Apply?

Individuals working in any sector and who meet the following criteria are strongly encouraged to apply:

  • changemakers working on the cutting edge of social innovation;
  • leaders creating solutions to social justice issues;
  • visionaries tackling complex and systemic challenges in a sustainable and equitable way;
  • mentors inspiring the next generation of social innovators; and
  • social innovators who would benefit from time and space to further their social innovation work.

Deadline for Applications

Applications will open on June 14, 2024. The application period will run until Aug. 14, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. (CDT).

Award and Stipend

The social innovator will receive an award and stipend that together total $50,000.

The College will cover the cost of the social innovator’s travel to Grinnell College for a residency planning visit and to and from Grinnell College at the commencement and completion of the residency period. The social innovator will be responsible for all travel costs associated with any partner or family members who accompany the social innovator during the residency period.

Additional information about lodging, health insurance, and other resources that will be provided during the residency can be found under Living Situation and Access to College Resources.”

Length of Appointment

The social innovator will select either a five-week or seven-week residence period during the fall semester, commencing in late August/early September.


  • Applicants must be over 18 years of age.
  • Citizens or permanent residents from any country (applicants from countries outside the United States must hold a valid passport and be able to obtain a J-1 Visa even if they are currently in the United States). Please contact Vicki Nolton if you have any questions about your eligibility.
  • Applicants must have demonstrated their impact and be recognized in their community and/or field as a leader in social innovation work in their field.
  • Applicants must be proficient in English to ensure the ability to exchange ideas with our campus and/or broader community.
  • Applicants must be able to live off-site from their work for five to seven weeks in the fall of 2025.
  • Alumni and friends of the College are encouraged to apply, but applicants do not need any affiliation with Grinnell College to apply.
  • Eligibility is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or citizens from other countries who are eligible for J-1 Exchange Visitor status in the “Specialist” category. J-1 Specialists will be hosted by the  Center for Careers, Life, and Service in collaboration with Grinnell College’s Office of International Student Affairs.
  • Please contact Vicki Nolton if you have questions about your eligibility or Karen Edwards if you have questions about eligibility for J-1 Specialist.

J-1 Visa Requirement

If an applicant is selected as the winner of the residency award and is a citizen or permanent resident from any country outside the United States, they will need to secure a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa in the Specialist category for travel to and lawful employment within the United States. Grinnell College will facilitate the J-1 Specialist application process and cover the cost of visa application and SEVIS fees for the social innovator. The social innovator will be responsible for the application and any costs associated with any partner, family members, and/or guests who accompany the social innovator during the residency period.


The Social Innovator in Residence selection process will include verification of the applicant’s work, organization, and credibility. Applicants who advance to the finalist round will also be asked to consent to a criminal history background check.

Applicants will be disqualified from the selection process if:

  • there is sufficient cause to believe that the applicant has falsified information in their application and/or through due diligence research of the applicant
  • the applicant advances to the semi-finalist and/or finalist round of selection and fails to provide additional information requested by the selection committee and by the deadline provided
  • the applicant advances to the finalist round of selection and does not consent to a criminal background check
  • the applicant and/or their organization participates in significant proselytization or substantial lobbying
  • the applicant and their work do not meet the selection criteria for social innovation that approaches complex problems in a systemic, sustainable, and equitable manner and addresses the root causes of the issues rather than only the surface symptoms of the issue

Overview of the Application and Selection Process

Applicants should expect to invest time in developing thoughtful and thorough responses to the application essay questions. Your responses to this application will assist the selection committee in learning about you, your social innovation work and approach, and how you would benefit from the Grinnell College Social Innovator in Residence program. All application materials must be submitted in English via the online application form.

You are encouraged to carefully review the selection criteria and then gather the following information before completing the online application:

  • responses to each of the application essay questions about the issue you are addressing and your approach to addressing that issue
  • list and descriptions and/or links to educational presentations, workshops, etc. that you have led related to your work and/or social innovation approach
  • description of what you hope our students will learn from you during a residency
  • description of your goals during a residency
  • a current resume or CV (not to exceed three pages)
  • names of three people who are very familiar with your work and who can speak to how you would benefit from this residency opportunity (If you are selected as a semi-finalist for Social Innovator in Residence, your references will be contacted and asked to provide a letter of reference by Sept. 30, 2024.)

Selection Timeline

Applicants who meet the eligibility criteria will be evaluated and selected using a multi-stage review process.

Sept. 2024

  • Review of applicant materials by Social Innovator in Residence Selection Committee

Sept. 17, 2024

  • Applicants notified if selected as a semi-finalist
  • Additional information requested from semi-finalists
  • Student research of semi-finalists through virtual interviews and published sources
  • Selection committee review of student research on semi-finalists

Oct. 11, 2024

  • Semi-finalists notified if selected as a finalist
  • Due diligence of finalists, including criminal background checks (with consent)
  • Follow-up student research and interviews of finalists

Dec. 2–6, 2024

  • Finalist virtual interviews

Jan. 2025

  • Selection of 2025 Social Innovator in Residence winner

Feb. 2025

  • Formal announcement of 2025 Social Innovator in Residence winner

Spring–Early summer 2025

  • Winner and Grinnell College develop and formalize residence goals and logistics

Fall 2025

  • Winner residency period on Grinnell College campus for 5–7 weeks

Selection Criteria

Evaluation will utilize the application materials, student researcher interviews with the applicant, and review of published information. The selection committee will assess the applicant’s ability to:

  • assess and address a particular social justice or environmental challenge within a distinct context;
  • develop and utilize a model that addresses the issue(s) in a manner that is:
    • systemic
    • addresses immediate needs, and
    • transforms/disrupts underlying structures, values, and ways of thinking
    • explicitly plans for sustainability, replicability, and/or scalability
    • integrates the agency of those most impacted by the challenge in integral ways
    • demonstrates measurable impact and shows promise for future impact
  • express interest in and an ability to mentor students in a higher education context, including how to guide students in connecting their education to their civic or social innovation aspirations
  • convey the ability to incorporate students into their social innovation work
  • articulate how College resources provided during a residency may help further their mission
  • benefit from a period of reflection and respite at Grinnell College

Letters of Recommendation

Applicants will need to provide information for three individuals who are willing to serve as a professional reference for them and their work. If selected as a semi-finalist for the Social Innovator in Residence, an applicants’ references will be contacted and asked to provide a letter of reference by Sept. 30, 2024.

Application Checklist

  • Social Innovator in Residence application form (online)
  • a current resume or CV (not to exceed three pages)
  • links to websites or visuals that communicate the applicant’s social innovation work and/or approach
  • contact information for three professional references who can submit a reference letter, if the applicant is selected as a semi- finalist

Living Situation and Access to College Resources

The social innovator will be provided a furnished apartment and office close to the Grinnell College campus and downtown area. While in residence, the social innovator may use the college facilities, such as the libraries, meeting spaces, and wellness facilities, and attend campus events free of charge. The social innovator will also receive per diem monies to cover food and miscellaneous living expenses. The social innovator will be responsible for all living costs associated with any partner, family members, and/or guests who accompany the social innovator during the residency period.

The College will also connect the social innovator to additional college resources to support the residency goals, such as resources for writing, publishing, research, and special projects. Additionally, the social innovator will be offered a part-time student research/project intern to support the social innovator’s residency goals.

Additional Information

Work Agreement

The social innovator must live on-site in Grinnell, Iowa (United States) for the duration of the residence period which will be either 5 or 7 weeks. In advance of the residency, the College and the social innovator will develop an agreement outlining the specific goals, responsibilities, policies, resources, and terms of the residency. Responsibilities may include teaching workshops, presentations, research or community projects, and meetings with students, faculty, staff and/or community partners. They will be classified as a short-term employee of the college and will be expected to follow the college employee policies and procedures.

Applicants are encouraged to thoughtfully develop student and social innovator goals for the residency period based on what one hopes to gain professionally and personally from the residency and what one hopes to help Grinnell College students learn about social innovation and how to transform or disrupt inequitable systems. In consideration of these goals, applicants may propose mutually beneficial collaborative projects, research, or other co-creative endeavors. Near the close of the residency period, the social innovator and the College will discuss potential interest in additional collaborative opportunities.

Health Insurance

Social innovators who are citizens of the United States will be responsible for their own health insurance coverage during the residency period. The College will cover the cost of a temporary major medical insurance policy for social innovators who are a citizen or permanent resident from any country outside the United States. All social innovators will be responsible for the cost of health insurance for any partner and/or family members who accompany the social innovator during the residency period.

Residency’s Alignment with Grinnell College’s Center for Careers, Life, and Service mission and goals

The Center for Careers, Life, and Service offers robust guidance and resources to help students in designing a life that encompasses their personal, professional, and civic ambitions. Grinnellians have a long history of using their liberal arts education to tackle complex social issues through service, activism, and systems change work. Grinnell College also strives to connect our students with learning and collaboration opportunities with world-class social innovators to help students draw connections between social innovators’ work and similar issues within students’ local community, region, country, and beyond. Engagement with social innovators also provides distinctive experiences to foster students’ development of the knowledge base, skills, and coalitions necessary to transform and/or disrupt inequitable systems.

Recognizing the need to support both students and social innovators, the Social Innovator in Residence Program aims to provide social innovators with opportunities to advance their work by leveraging the resources of Grinnell College and provides students with an opportunity to connect their own experience, civic interests, and liberal education with inspiration and mentorship from world class social innovators.

About the Center for Careers, Life, and Service and Service and Social Innovation

Grinnell’s Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) provides robust supportive services to help students explore and connect their personal, civic, and professional interests to their studies and their purpose in life, so they can map a pathway that is meaningful to them. Within the CLS, the Service and Social Innovation team provides guidance and experiential learning opportunities for students to connect with their civic engagement interests.


If you have additional questions about the Social Innovator in Residence program or application process, please contact Vicki Nolton.

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