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    Bluhm / Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship

    Chicago Ideas supports innovators in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors under the age of 35 who are working to solve pressing social challenges through the Bluhm / Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship. The application window for 2018 has closed. Stay tuned for more info on the finalists.

    About BHSI

    About BHSI

    The Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation (BHSI) Fellowship at Chicago Ideas Week recognizes social entrepreneurs, 35 years or younger, whose nonprofit and for-profit ventures tackle significant social challenges through innovative business models. Now in its eighth year, the BHSI Fellowship is committed to empowering entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds by providing them with a platform for growth.

    Each year, the outstanding entrepreneurs chosen as Fellows earn a spot on the Chicago Ideas Week stage, and - during the weeklong ideas festival - meet with a slate of nationally-recognized business and civic leaders, as well as fellow speakers, on a schedule tailored to their unique needs. In addition, Fellows are awarded $10,000 in non-discretionary financial support toward their work. They join a close-knit community of past Fellows who enjoy ongoing support and mentorship from the greater BHSI and Chicago Ideas communities. 

    Since its inception in 2011, the BHSI Fellowship – created by philanthropists and entrepreneurs Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand – has awarded more than $575,000 to the Fellows through contributions and in-kind services.

    Chicago Ideas Week will be held October 15-21, 2018. For more information, contact Julia Dilday at julia (at)

    2018 Key Dates

    THURSDAY, APRIL 19: Call for entries opens 

    WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13 (11:59 PM CST): Application deadline

    THURSDAY, JULY 26: BHSI semi-finalists announced

    FRIDAY, AUGUST 24 & SATURDAY, AUGUST 25: Semi-finalist interviews in Chicago. In order to be considered for the Fellowship, applicants must be able to attend the in-person interviews. Travel expenses will be covered.

    TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4: BHSI Fellows announced

    MONDAY, OCTOBER 15–SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21: Chicago Ideas Week 2018In order to be eligible for the Fellowship, Fellows must be present in Chicago October 14–19, with the option of staying to participate through the 21st. (Travel expenses will be covered.)

    Meet past BHSI Fellows

    Read about these exceptional entrepreneurs making a difference in the world.
    Minhaj Chowdhury
    Co-Founder & CEO, Drinkwell
    Micaela Connery
    Founder, The Kelsey; Mitchell Scholar, University College Dublin; 2012 BHSI Fellow
    Andrew Mangino
    CEO, The Future Project; BHSI Fellow
    Donnel Baird
    BHSI Fellow; Founder, BlocPower
    Jeff Nelson
    Co-Founder & CEO, OneGoal
    Zubaida Bai
    BHSI Fellow; Founder & CEO, AYZH

    The 2017 BHSI Fellows

    These five individuals were selected from a pool of more than 250 applicants for the socially impactful work they are building.
    Jahmal Cole
    Founder & Executive Director, My Block My Hood My City
    Katherine Katcher
    Founder & Executive Director, Root & Rebound
    Alex Niemczewski
    Co-founder & CEO, BallotReady
    Rose Wang
    Co-founder & CEO, Chirps
    Brian Hill
    Founder & CEO, Edovo