FAQ & Resources
I want to enter! How do I submit my proposal?
Online applications are now open! To apply: click here > register by creating a login > answer the questions > and upload your proposal in PDF. Please remember to read the instructions carefully.
BE SURE TO CREATE YOUR iSTART ACCOUNT WELL BEFORE THE DEADLINE - iStart will send you an email to confirm your account and there has been feedback that there is a delay in this email being sent. Please create your iStart account ASAP!
Can you provide a sample proposal?
Yes. The winning team from last year, Vaxess, has kindly shared their proposal. The i-lab also hosted a workshop on How To Write a President’s Challenge Proposal, please see below under "RESOURCES" for more information.
I have a great idea, how can I find a team?
Our workshops this fall will be followed by a mixer where students will be able to meet prospective team members. If you can’t make it to our offline events, find like-minded students online at our social media page.
I’ve already entered this idea in another contest or challenge. Can I still enter The President’s Challenge?
You are welcome to enter your ideas anywhere in addition to The President’s Challenge. We are not looking for exclusivity, but to develop the best ideas and bring solutions to fruition. This includes our recently announced Deans' Challenges on Cultural Entrepreneurship and Health and Life Sciences.
Some teams are entering ideas they’ve already begun to develop, and my team is starting from scratch. Do they have an advantage?
The terms of the Challenge are developed to make the most equal playing field possible while not excluding pre-existing ideas. Proposals will not be judged on their current status, but for their potential impact and the strength of the project implementation plan.
What criteria will the Judging Committee use?
The Judging Rubric provides details on what the judges will be looking for. Participants should keep in mind that the Committee will focus on the potential impact of the idea and the strength of the project implementation plan.
Does my idea have to be non-profit?
No. While many social business ventures are often non-profit, as long as the proposals fit the requirements for application, for-profit plans are welcomed for consideration.
I am a Harvard Alumnus, can I apply?
Yes, but only as part of a teams that includes at least one matriculated and degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate Harvard student or Harvard postdoctoral candidate who serves in a leadership role. There is also the New Venture Competition which is designed to support HBS alumni in launching promising new businesses and social-impact ventures. Please visit their website for more details on rules & eligibility.
Does Harvard own the intellectual property (IP) associated with my proposal?
Your participation in the President’s Challenge – including winning a prize or using i-lab facilities and resources to develop inventions, software, copyrighted works or unpatented materials as part of the Challenge – will not, in and of itself, give Harvard any rights in those developments. If Harvard is otherwise entitled to rights in such a development under its Intellectual Property Policy – for example, because the development involves work done under a sponsored research agreement administered by Harvard or with other financial support from Harvard – the fact that you participated in the President’s Challenge or used i-lab facilities or resources to work on the development will not eliminate or diminish Harvard’s rights.
The i-lab hosted a kickoff mixer on October 18, and will host three workshops in the Fall semester specifically designed to support students in the President’s Challenge application process. Please see the President's Challenge event calendar for details and registration information.
Workshop 1: How to write a President's Challenge Proposal
Workshop 2: Creating Shared Value - A Conversation About Impact
Thinking about how to show your idea has social impact? Here is a slide adapted from Wolk and Kreitz, Business Planning for Enduring Social Impact: a How-To-Guide, available on the Root Cause website.
Workshop 3: Lean Startup-Structured Experimentation
Online, the i-lab's resources page is a good starting point to explore the nearly infinite information on the internet about entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial companies. Sites like TechCrunch can help you stay on top of the latest startup news, and Quora provides a great way to find answers to common questions about startups and entrepreneurship.
For more specific resources on Social Entrepreneurship visit: Root Cause, a Cambridge organization that supports social innovators & educates social impact investors. They have great resources from how to write a business plan for enduring social impact, to case studies; Ashoka, who has helped pioneer social entrepreneurship for three decades through its network of 3,000 global fellows; Social Enterprise Alliance, which provides tools and resources to social enterprises.
You can also get involved in the Social Enterpreneurship community right here at Harvard! There are student groups that focus on social enterprise in Business, Govenment, Health, Education and Tech. Reach out to the leaders of these student groups to find out how you can get involved.