What is Nathan Cummings Really Looking For With That Big Fellowship?

The Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship has just kicked off its second year and is now looking for three visionary thinkers to receive $100,000 each to turn an inventive idea into a reality. That’s a tidy sum of money – but the Nathan Cummings Foundation (see IP’s profile) is being just a tad bit vague about what they’re actually looking for. The winning applicants must use an NCF approach, be risk takers, and use out of the box thinking. This doesn’t give applicants much to go on. Fortunately, the foundation only has two focus areas and this could be good news for climate change activists.

NCF recently overhauled its programs (see IP’s post) to focus on two areas: 1) Inequality and 2) Climate Change. You'd thus think that at least one of NCF’s new fellows will work on climate change, but there aren't any guarantees. However, beyond "risk taking" and "out of the box thinking," NCF isn’t too clear about what it wants. Applicants must demonstrate that their project will use at least one of the Foundation’s approaches, which are: Arts and Culture, Constituency Building, Disruptive Ideas, and Religious Traditions and Contemplative Practices. Each of these approaches emphasizes the importance of shaping people’s perceptions to build new narratives that can provoke change. Applicants will probably do well if they can demonstrate how their ideas buck the status quo and will cause people to approach issues from a new angle.

Applicants should also demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit. The first cohort of NCF fellows were certainly entrepreneurial. Andrew Slack is the founder of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) and used performance art to spread messages of social change. Margot Bradenburg is the creator of Faircare.com, an enterprise that connects domestic workers to better employers. Saqib Bhatti is an experienced campaigner who used his fellowship funds to work with unions and fight Wall Street corruption. The issues in the second fellowship cohort will certainly be different – however the focus on creative ideas and an entrepreneurial, risk-taking spirit will remain the same.

The NCF Fellowship could be a great opportunity. Be sure to apply quickly though – applications are due March 10, 2014.