Frequently Asked Questions

Application Teams and Individuals

Award Money & Winner’s Circle Events

Community Vote



Proposals We Are Seeking

About Social Innovation

Submitting Your Application


Application Teams and Individuals

Do I need a partner or team, or can I apply on my own?

You do not need a partner to apply, applications can be submitted by both individuals and teams.

 New Challenge strongly encourages collaboration of different kinds.  Teaming up with students from different disciplines can be particularly useful as you develop and implement your idea.  Partnerships with community organizations, whose work closely aligns with your own, can be beneficial in terms of accessing a particular community, sharing ideas, and amplifying your project’s impact.

If you are seeking a partner or want to join a team, attend a New Challenge event during the fall.

Can I apply as part of a team?

Yes, New Challenge encourages the formation of teams with diverse skills. Teams can be a strength and asset to a project.

Teams can include New School students and others who are not students at The New School. However, New School students must be the originator of the idea and be actively engaged in the project’s implementation during the award period.  Teams should submit only one application.

Applicants cannot participate in more than two proposals submitted to New Challenge, either as individuals or members of a team. Team members should also be aware that if a member of their team has applied as part of another team or as an individual, that only one proposal per individual can receive funding.

If you wish to submit a proposal for a group project developed in a course at The New School, then you must either submit the project with the entire team or get written consent from all members of the team to submit the project.


Award Money and Winner’s Circle Events

What kind of expenses are covered?

Expenses are approved individually for all New Challenge Winners.

Every New Challenge project is different, with each project having a unique set of project-related expenses. Generally, a wide variety of expenses are covered, including material rental or purchasing, equipment rental or purchasing, travel, space rental, contracting services, etc. If you are unsure if your expense is eligible for a New Challenge award, email for clarification.

How much are the awards?

Students can win between $2,500 and $10,000 to fund their projects.

How many awards are allocated?

In the past, six to ten prizes have been awarded per year.

What happens if I can’t attend one of the Winner’s Circle workshops after winning an award?

Attendance at the first Winner’s Circle Workshop held right after the award celebration is required in order to receive New Challenge funding. Winners are also expected to attend future workshops during the academic year following the awarding of funds. These workshops are typically scheduled in the evenings.


Community Vote

What is the Community Vote?

The Community Vote invites others, in and outside of The New School, to vote online for your project.  One winner of the Community Vote will automatically win a spot in the Finalist Round and join the other Finalists who are selected through the formal judging process.

The Community Vote is an opportunity for all applicants to showcase their projects to the larger New Challenge community. Each project will be featured on the New Challenge Facebook page, with an image and one-sentence description. Members of the New School community and beyond will have a chance to better understand the proposals and ask questions, as they like and comment on each proposal’s photo on the New Challenge Facebook page. Each applicant is encouraged to spread the word about their proposal and invite their communities to “like” their image in support of the proposal. The proposal’s photo with the most “likes” on the New Challenge Facebook page will automatically advance to the Finalist Round of the competition.

Additionally, each proposal will be featured on an individual web page on the New Challenge website. The webpage will include an image and description, both of which are submitted in the New Challenge Application. The New Challenge Team encourages applicants to use these individual web pages as a dynamic platform to advance your idea.

What do I need to submit to participate in the Community Vote?

By completing the New Challenge Application Form, you will submit the required information to participate in the community vote. The “Project Abstract and Photo” component of the application will be made available during the community vote to tell others about your project.

Are high Community Vote numbers required to advance in the competition?

High Community Vote results are not required to advance in the competition. The winner of the Community Vote will advance to the Finalist Round of the competition.

The remaining spots in the Finalist Round will be chosen by judges based on their assessment of all applications. The judge’s assessment is not influenced by the number of community votes a proposal receives.

What do winners of the Community Vote receive?

The winner of the Community Vote will automatically advance to the Finalist Round of the competition.

There is no financial prize tied directly to the results of the Community Vote. Instead, the Community Vote winner will compete against the other participants in the Finalist Round for the pool of final awards.



Can undergraduate students apply?

Yes, undergraduate students are welcome to apply.Eligibility guidelines can be found in New Challenge’s Terms and Conditions.

What happens if I submit a proposal that’s not eligible?

Once proposals are received, the New Challenge team will review them for eligibility.  Any proposal that is deemed ineligible will be disqualified and applicants will be informed of this decision.

Eligibility guidelines can be found in New Challenge’s Terms and Conditions.

Are graduating students eligible to apply?

Graduating students are strongly encouraged to team-up with one or more students who will be enrolled at The New School for another academic year following the awarding of funds, as priority consideration will be given to projects submitted by primary applicants who are ongoing students.

Students must be part-time or full-time degree seeking students who are currently enrolled at The New School and in good standing.

New Challenge Winners are expected to attend Winner’s Circle workshops and events during the year following the awarding of funds. Additionally, winners are asked to remain in communication and available for occasional events following graduation in order to share their experiences and support subsequent students pursuing similar projects.

I am a non-degree seeking student. Am I eligible for an award from New Challenge?

New Challenge awards are only available to full-time and part-time degree seeking students who are in good standing.

New School students who are non-degree seeking, but plan on enrolling in a degree program in a future year, should consider applying for New Challenge when their status is either a full-time or part-time degree seeking student.

I did not attend any of the information sessions or workshops. Can I still apply?

Yes. Attending New Challenge sponsored events is not a requirement to apply. However, these events can be valuable to you as you develop and refine your ideas.

The New Challenge Application Form asks applicants to identity the New Challenge events they attended. Attendance at New Challenge events is neither required to submit an application, nor does it give a proposal an advantage. Judges will not be provided this information from the New Challenge Application Form.



How long should I expect to wait before I hear if I advanced to the next round?

Projects that advance in the New Challenge competition will receive notification according to the schedule of Important Dates. Projects that do not advance will receive notification on these dates, as well.

Who are the New Challenge Judges?

New Challenge Judges are comprised of New School faculty, administrators, board members, students, alumni, and external experts. Each judge has been selected because they are in some way connected to social innovation – as practitioners, educators, or administrators. For a detailed breakdown of the current list of New Challenge Judges, please visit the Judges & Mentor page.

How does New Challenge measure the “impact” that a project can have?

New Challenge allows each applicant to define their own success metrics.


Proposals We Are Seeking

Are course proposals eligible to submit for the competition?

Yes, proposals submitted to New Challenge may originate from projects begun inside or outside of New School courses.

One of the purposes of New Challenge is to enable students to turn academic ideas into implementable projects in the real world. Many great ideas come from the classroom and if you are committed to advancing these ideas beyond the classroom, we encourage you to apply. New Challenge is for testing and expanding ideas in the real world, beyond the classroom setting.

What kinds of proposals should be submitted?

New Challenge encourages the submission of proposals that demonstrate an innovative approach to a clearly defined social or environmental challenge. The manner in which you put your idea into action can range from starting an organization, developing a performance, producing a piece of music, recording a film, developing a product, designing a new technology, starting an advocacy project, etc.

Take a look at past winners for some great examples. The kind of ideas accepted are not limited to the list of winners; New Challenge welcomes innovative ideas on topics not previously addressed.

For guidelines on what proposals should not be submitted, please see the New Challenge Terms and Conditions.


Social Innovation

What is social innovation?

Social innovation as a field of practice aims to enhance the capacity of individuals, communities, and organizations to devise effective, just, and sustainable solutions to social and environmental problems. Social innovation can take many forms, including new forms of interaction, organizations, policies, products, services, technologies, and systems to improve lives and address pressing needs of the 21st century. Practitioners of social innovation can play diverse roles as social entrepreneurs who create new social ventures; as designers who create new products, services, technologies or games with a social purpose; as leaders of larger organizations who are developing innovative programs that serve diverse constituencies and needs; and as artists and culture-makers who help extend human imagination.   Social innovators and the innovations they develop exist in all three sectors (public, business, or non-profit).

Do you have examples of socially-innovative projects?

The most relevant examples of social innovation are past New Challenge Winners.

Examples of social innovation, although not necessarily representative of the scope expected in the New Challenge competition, include Zipcar  (changing the idea of personal car ownership to address changing urban transportation and environmental needs) and Grameen Bank  (providing financial services to individuals and businesses disenfranchised from traditional banks). Other social innovations include fair trade, timeshares, hospice care, and more.

For more examples of social innovators and their innovative approaches to addressing social and environmental challenge see Ashoka Fellows or  Echoing Green Fellows.

New Challenge welcomes projects with much smaller initial scopes than these!

What do you mean by “innovation”?

Innovation means, at its most basic, creating something that is new.

Innovation can imply coming up with an idea that’s completely new in every way, or it can be applying an idea from one context in a totally different context, using an existing medium to address a new problem, or even redefining the problem itself.  The aspect of your New Challenge proposal that is innovative can be a thing, a method, a context, an understanding of the problem, or all of the above.

Understanding what other people in your field have done and are currently doing, is necessary to determine whether or not your idea is innovative.


Submitting Your Application

Are there any opportunities to receive feedback on my application?

During the academic year, we encourage students to seek feedback on their applications from peers, colleagues, faculty members, and advisors.

Due to the volume of applications received each year, the New Challenge Team is generally unable to provide direct feedback to applicants prior to the formal submission of a proposal. The New Challenge Team is glad to provide technical support for submitting an application and information that clarifies the application process.

Winning projects receive significant, ongoing support and feedback.

Will we get confirmation that our application was received?

Yes. Upon submitting an application via the New Challenge Application Form, applicants will receive an email notifying them that their materials have been received.

If you think you have submitted your application, but did not receive confirmation or are unsure of your application’s status, please contact us at

Does the picture submitted have to be my own?

Yes, or you need to have permission (via Creative Commons copyright, written legal permission of its owner, etc) to use the photograph.

Can I submit additional materials to the application?

In general, we discourage applicants from submitting additional materials. Your text based answers should stand alone as a means for judges to evaluate your proposal.

However,  we recommend that you use available resources online (such as Vimeo, YouTube, or Photobucket) to host images and videos that you would like to share with judges. Links to such materials should be included in your text answers submitted via the New Challenge Application Form. Print materials will not be able to be shared with judges.

If you feel that supplemental materials are essential to assessing your application and these materials can not be accommodated via text answers, please contact us at well before the application deadline to discuss your specific request.

Does everything need to be submitted at one time?

The New Challenge Application Form allows you to save your work and return to your application to complete it at a later time. Once an application is submitted, it may not be edited. Everything must be submitted at one time.

We highly recommend drafting your answers in a separate document ahead of time and then pasting them into the application when you are complete.

How many applications are received each year?

The number of applications received each year varies. Last year, approximately 70 applications were received, involving hundreds of New School students.

What kind of financial information is requested in the application?

All applicants are asked to provide two proposed budget, one for $2,500 in funding and one for $10,000 in funding. New Challenge recognizes that these budgets may change. If awarded a New Challenge prize, winners will submit a revised budget that is reviewed by the New Challenge team before funds are disbursed.

Can applications be submitted for an internationally focused project?

New Challenge accepts proposals for both domestic and international projects.


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