Innovation Fellowship Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the UUSC Human Rights Innovation Fellowship?

The UUSC Human Rights Innovation Fellowship is a one-year $25,000 grant, awarded to individuals or organizations, designed bring about systemic change by creating, nurturing, or spreading an innovation in the areas of UUSC’s work. These innovations may be technological or financial products or apps, pathbreaking applied research, advances in corporate accountability, legal arguments, methods of mobilization, or methods of community outreach.

What is the theme for 2018 fellowship?

The theme for the 2018 fellowship is resisting criminalization. The fellowship should address a major challenge facing individuals and/or communities who are criminalized in the United States. Criminalization refers to policies and practices that stigmatize, scapegoat, and profile whole communities as “criminal” or “terrorist.” UUSC’s primary goals in this campaign are to advance community protection strategies and expanded sanctuary, decriminalize poverty, and advance restorative justice.

Who can apply for the fellowship?

Individuals or non-profit organizations with an innovative project that is relevant to the fellowship’s theme can apply. In addition, advocacy organizations, academic institutions, research centers, grassroots organizations, and UUSC partners may apply for the fellowship. However, UUSC partners’ proposed innovations must be separate from ongoing grants. Collaboration by applicants is encouraged.

Applications must be submitted in English.

What are the assessment criteria for the fellowship?

  1. Alignment with UUSC approach and values: The application must reflect UUSC’s values and be compatible with UUSC’s approach to environmental justice and climate action.
  2. Impact: The project must positively impact or benefit marginalized communities in terms of scale and/or scope.
  3. Competency of applicant: The individual or organization must demonstrate clarity and rigor in assessment of the social problem and theory of change of the innovation.
  4. Applicant’s track record: The applicant must have a demonstrated track record that indicates knowledge, competency, and experience in the fellowship’s thematic area.
  5. Creativity of innovation: The application will be judged by the extent to which the project is new, different, or timely.

What is the selection process?

The online application forms will be reviewed by UUSC, with input provided by UUSC supporters. After the initial review, we will conduct a face-to-face interview in person or over Skype or Zoom. The final selection will be made by UUSC.

What are the key dates and timeline of the fellowship selection process?

Applications for our 2018 Human Rights Innovation Fellowship are now closed.

Applications open: November 2017

Applications close: January 2018

Awardees announced: April 2018

Can I reach out to UUSC to inquire about the status of my application?

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, UUSC will be unable to respond to questions regarding an application’s status until April 2018 when the fellowship is awarded. Please e-mail any questions at that time to innovation @ uusc.org.

What do the fellows receive?

Fellows will receive a maximum grant of $25,000.

UUSC Human Rights Innovation Fellowship

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) invites applications for its 2018 Innovation Fellowship on the subject “Resisting Criminalization.” UUSC and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) are engaged in a joint campaign that aims to “resist the harm created by criminalization” and to “create more safe, just, welcoming, and sustainable communities.” The UUSC Human Rights Innovation Fellowship is a one-year $25,000 grant, awarded to an individual or non-governmental organization, designed to bring about systemic change by creating, nurturing, or spreading an innovation in human rights. For this year’s theme, UUSC invites applications from individuals or organizations working on projects that seek to combat the systemic criminalization of immigrant communities, communities of color, Muslims, and LGBTQI communities in the United States – and individuals and communities at the intersections.

These innovations may be legal strategies, methods of mobilization, methods of community outreach, technological or financial products or apps, path breaking applied research, advances in corporate accountability, or other new approaches. The successful proposal will be rights-based, align with UUSC’s values and approach, positively impact and engage at-risk communities, and provide a new, different, and timely solution.

Applications for our 2018 Human Rights Innovation Fellowship are now closed.

Learn more about Love Resists, our anti-criminalization campaign with the UUA: loveresists.org.

Past winners of Human Rights Innovation Fellowship

The Lowlander Center 

The focus of the 2017 Human Rights Innovation Fellowship was climate-forced resettlement, and the winner was The Lowlander Center, a non-profit organization based in the bayous of Louisiana dedicated to finding community-based solutions for “living with an ever-changing coastline and land loss to climate change while visioning a future that builds capacity and resilience for place and people.” The fellowship was awarded to implement an adaptation tool developed for communities faced with the difficult decision to relocate in the face of climate-induced land erosion and other environmental challenges. Read more about this project.

National Domestic Workers Alliance

The focus of the 2016 Human Rights Innovation Fellowship was economic justice, and the winner was National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), in support of the launch of its “National Home Care Workers Hotline,” which serves as a resource for workers who assist the elderly and persons with disabilities and illness. The hotline provides “know your rights” information along with up-to-date tools and resources for workers education and training for self-advocacy. Read more about this project and the work NDWA is doing.

Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research

The focus of the 2015 Human Rights Innovation Fellowship was the human right to water, and the winner was Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research (PUKAR). The grant funded a vital water access survey in Mumbai’s Mandala slum, coordinated by PUKAR’s Youth Fellowship Program. This independent youth-driven research collective focuses on issues of urbanization anchored in community-based participatory research. (In Hindi one meaning of pukaris “a clarion call.”) The PUKAR collective encourages disenfranchised youth in Mumbai to learn through training and experience about how to conduct valid social science research, followed by support in how to use that knowledge to produce meaningful environmental change in their community. Read more about the work PUKAR is doing through the innovation fellowship!