About the New Challenge

New Challenge Website Header

The New School launched a school-wide ideas competition, New Challenge, in Spring 2012. New Challenge expands opportunities for students to realize their ideas and to take them to the next level of implementation.  Building on The New School’s commitment to learning through action, New Challenge helps students develop as changemakers and lead real change in the world.  As a campus-wide platform, New Challenge strengthens community across the university, enriching learning and opportunities for creative collaborations.

Supporting New Challenge

If you are interested in supporting student change makers at the New School consider making a donation to New Challenge here.


New Challenge is an annual ideas competition for students who are committed to working on social and environmental challenges on a local or global scale in innovative ways. Reflecting The New School’s diverse and creative community, New Challenge encourages students to submit entries of all types, including ideas for new products or services, social ventures, policy-oriented initiatives, performance projects, documentary films, technology apps, game design,  etc. New Challenge winners’ endeavors have spanned a wide range of issues, including prison reform, food justice, gentrification, eco-transportation, domestic violence, education, and infectious diseases.  New Challenge projects have been implemented in various locations including, the South Bronx and Williamsburg in NYC, as well as eastern Europe, Liberia, Cambodia, Colombia, and Honduras.

Each project is judged according to the following criteria:

Problem Definition
Innovation of Proposed Solution
Potential for Social Impact
Team Leadership

Winning projects are selected by a diverse panel of judges (including faculty, administrators, alumni, students, and outside experts).


All students who participate in the competition receive constructive feedback on their proposals, can participate in capacity-building workshops, and are featured on the New Challenge website.  Winners receive award money between $2,500 and $10,000, are eligible for mentorship, participate in workshops, and have the opportunity to become clients of diverse classes at The New School.

Social Innovation at The New School

New Challenge is a project of the Social Innovation Initiative.  In 2011, The New School established the Social Innovation Initiative, with support from the Deans of the Schools of Public Engagement, Parsons School of Design, and Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, in conjunction with the Provost’s Office.  The Social Innovation Initiative strives to expand opportunities for students and faculty to engage cross-divisionally in interdisciplinary learning, research and practice that contributes to real-world problem solving.  More specifically, New Challenge catalyzes educational innovation across The New School, by focusing on real-world problem solving, engaging students in collaborative innovation and action, and enhancing opportunities for emerging changemakers to pursue their passions.

The New Challenge Team
New Challenge is managed by Elizabeth Werbe with support from Dana Martens, student Program Manager.
This university-wide initiative was co-founded by Michele Kahane, Associate Dean and Faculty Member at the Schools of Public Engagement and Cynthia Lawson, Associate Provost and Faculty Member at Parsons.
Past members of the Social Innovation Steering Committee have included Michele Kahane, Cynthia Lawson, Mary Watson, Tony Whitfield, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Judy Pryor-Ramirez.

We are seeking mentors to help students translate their ideas into reality while building while developing the skill-sets needed to thrive in the 21st century.

Learn more and apply on our Mentorship Page.

Contact Us

For more information, you can contact us at newchallenge@newschool.edu, email student Student Program Manager Dana Martens, or contact New Challenge Associate Director, Elizabeth Werbee by email or phone: 212.229.5400 extension 1289.


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