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2020 Indigenous Communities Fellowship

How can Native innovators in the US use traditional knowledge and technology to drive social, environmental, and economic impact in their communities?

Submissions are Closed


Eligibility Requirements

Who can apply to the 2020 Indigenous Communities Fellowship?

MIT Solve is looking for Native-led for-profit or nonprofit solutions that directly benefit indigenous communities within the United States. 


  1. Submitted solutions must include use of technology for practical and functional purposes. This can be high-tech or low-tech: examples include software (mobile app), hardware (computers, phones, connectivity), agriculture (seeds, irrigation), and manufacturing. This may encompass new technology like drones and artificial intelligence, or existing ancestral technology (like traditional home structures or food storage and preservation) applied in new and interesting ways.
  2. Strong preference will be given to tribal members and Native-led projects that directly benefit and are located within Native communities in the United States. Solve specifically looks for a diverse set of Fellows and projects.

Applicants can be anyone, such as individuals, students, community leaders, business owners, social entrepreneurs, makers, innovators, teams, or established start-ups. Individual applicants must be at least 18 years old. Teams must have at least one member who is at least 18 years old. If you have a relevant solution, we hope you’ll apply! 

How are we CrowdSolving the Indigenous Communities Fellowship?

  1. SOURCING SOLUTIONS Anyone who meets the criteria above can participate in the Fellowship and submit a solution. Whether you’re working on a prototype or have an existing product, we’re looking for innovators and entrepreneurs with the best solutions.

  2. SELECTING SOLUTIONS Once the submission deadline passes, judging begins. After an initial screening by Solve staff, Fellowship judges select the most promising solutions. As part of the partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Fellowship will select 3-4 Fellows who are current students or alumni of the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership (SIGP) Program, and 4-5 from any affiliation. All applications will be scored using the same criteria and selected through the same process.

What type of solutions will be accepted to the Indigenous Communities Fellowship?

Solution applications must be written in English. The most important thing is that your solution addresses the focus of the Indigenous Communities Fellowship. Through open innovation, the Indigenous Communities Fellowship is looking for a diverse portfolio of solutions across stages of development and team members’ gender and background. We believe that there is no one solution to the world’s most complex challenges—and encourage people of all backgrounds to submit their applications.

The Indigenous Communities Fellowship considers solutions at various stages of development. Note: solutions in the concept stage are unlikely to be selected. You are still welcome to submit a concept stage solution to receive feedback from the Solve community through our platform.

  • Concept: An idea being explored for its feasibility to build a product, service, or business model based on that idea.

  • Prototype: A venture building and testing its product, service, or business model. Typically described as "Pre-Seed" if For-Profit.

  • Pilot: An enterprise deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community. Hybrids and For-Profits would typically be in a "Seed" round and starting to generate revenue (whether or not they are cash flow positive).

  • Growth: An enterprise with an established product, service, or business model rolled out, which is poised for further growth in multiple communities or countries. Organizations at this stage should have a clear path towards financial sustainability whether they are nonprofit or for-profit. For-Profits at this stage would be "Seed" or "Series A.”

  • Scale: A sustainable enterprise working in several communities or countries and that is looking to scale significantly, focusing on increased efficiency. For-Profits in this stage would be "Series A" or "Series B." 

How will my solution be evaluated?

The judging committee for the Indigenous Communities Fellowship will be comprised of experts and leaders from across sectors. After an initial screening by Solve staff, the judges will score the screened solutions based on the following criteria:

  • Alignment: The solution addresses the challenge that has been set forth.

  • Potential for Impact: The planned solution implementation has the potential to impact lives and drive economic growth nationally.

  • Scalability: The solution can be scaled to affect the lives of more people.

  • Feasibility: Solution implementation is feasible, and the team has a plan for financial sustainability.

  • Innovative Approach: This is a new solution, a new application of a solution, a new business model, or a new process for solving the challenge, and the team clearly identifies its competitive advantages (e.g. intellectual property).

Selected Fellows will join a Regional Summit in Fall 2020 to showcase their work and kickstart connections.

Indigenous Communities Fellowship Timeline

  • April 7, 2020 - Indigenous Communities Fellowship opens

  • July 7, 2020 - Deadline for applicants to submit a solution

  • September 8, 2020 - Fellows announced

  • Fall 2020 - Regional summit

  • May 2021 - Solve at MIT

What will I receive if selected as a Fellow? 

All solutions selected for Solve's Indigenous Communities Fellowship will receive a $10,000 grant funded by Solve. In addition to grant funding, Solve conducts a detailed resource needs assessment with each Fellow and strives to match Fellows with additional resources. Fellows will also get the chance to showcase their work at both the 2020 Regional Summit in or adjacent to Indian Country, and the 2021 flagship Solve at MIT event, which takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA. 

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