Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize

Website: Grinnell College


The Social Innovator in Residence will participate in a five- to seven-week residence program on campus, during which they will interact with Grinnell’s students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the wider community. Through a range of programming and activities, the social innovator will have the opportunity to work on their project and engage with the community to create lasting social impact. 

The social innovator will receive an award and stipend as follows:

  • A $25,000 award to be paid at the commencement of the residence period; and
  • A residency stipend to be paid according to the length of the residence period, as follows:
    • $15,000 for a five-week residence period; or
    • $25,000 for a seven-week residence period

The College will cover the cost of the Social Innovator’s travel to Grinnell College for a residency planning visit and to and from Grinnell College at the commencement and completion of the residency period. The Social Innovator will be responsible for all travel costs associated with any partner, family members, and/or guests who accompany the Social Innovator during the residency period.



  • Applicants must be over 18 years of age.
  • Citizens or permanent residents from any country (applicants from countries outside the United States must hold a valid passport and be able to obtain a J-1 Visa even if they are currently in the United States). Please contact Vicki Nolton if you have any questions about your eligibility.
  • Applicants must have demonstrated their impact and be recognized in their community and/or field as a leader in social innovation work in their field.
  • Applicants must be proficient in English to ensure the ability to exchange ideas with our campus and/or broader community.
  • Applicants must be able to live off-site from their work for five to seven weeks in the fall of 2024.
  • Alumni and friends of the College are encouraged to apply, but applicants do not need any affiliation with Grinnell College to apply.
  • Eligibility is open to US citizens, US Permanent Residents, or to citizens from other countries who are eligible for J-1 Exchange Visitor status in the “Specialist” category. J-1 Specialists will be hosted by the CLS in collaboration with Grinnell College’s Office of International Student Affairs.
Student Type
  • freshman
  • sophomore
  • junior
  • senior
  • graduate
Citizen Type
  • US Citizen
  • Permanent Resident
  • International or Other Visa Status
  • Undocumented
  • Responses to each of the application essay questions about the issue you are addressing and your approach to addressing that issue;
  • List and descriptions and/or links to educational presentations, workshops, etc. that you have led related to your work and/or social innovation approach; 
  • Description of what you hope our students will learn from you during a residency;
  • Description of your goals during a residency;
  • A current resume or CV (not to exceed three pages);
  • Names of three people who are very familiar with your work and who can speak to how you would benefit from this residency opportunity. (If you are selected as a semi-finalist for Social Innovator in Residence, your references will be contacted and asked to provide a letter of reference by October.

The Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize, or the Grinnell Prize, directly reflects Grinnell’s historic mission to educate men and women “who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.”

Grinnell was founded in 1846 by a group of transplanted New Englanders with strong Congregational and social-reformer backgrounds. They organized as the Trustees of Iowa College — originally in Davenport, Iowa. In 1859 the trustees moved the College to newly settled Grinnell, Iowa, where their abolitionist sentiments were more welcome. At the time, Grinnell was an important stop on the Underground Railroad that secretly transported slaves to freedom.

Grinnell’s social consciousness blossomed during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, when graduates Harry Hopkins 1912, Chester Davis 1911, Paul Appleby 1913, Hallie Ferguson Flanagan 1911, and Florence Stewart Kerr 1912 became influential New Deal administrators.

Today, Grinnell’s commitment to social justice continues through a strong philosophy of self governance and personal responsibility, as well as programs and initiatives that encourage students to learn about the world beyond the campus and effect positive social change.

For example, Grinnell’s Social Justice Action Group works towards peace, justice, and positive social change with efforts that fight hunger, promote volunteerism, and build understanding. The Wall Alumni Service Awards provide financial support for Grinnell alumni to engage in service projects, programs, and organizations dedicated to improving the lives of others. Under Grinnell’s Expanding Knowledge Initiative, the College has introduced curricular innovations in the areas of environmental challenges, human rights, and human dignity. The Liberal Arts in Prison Program, a collaborative effort by Grinnell students, faculty, and staff, engages incarcerated adults in courses in the liberal arts. 

With the creation of the Grinnell Prize, the College is extending its educational mission beyond the campus and alumni community to individuals anywhere who believe innovative social justice programs create a better world.

Through student internships and staff fellowships, student and staff members have the opportunity to work with the Prize winners and their organizations. Explore the Past Winners pages to learn more about these opportunities and Grinnellians' experiences working with these outstanding individuals and organizations.

President Kington elaborates on the Prize's creation and other innovations on his blog.

Service Agreement

The Social Innovator must live on-site in Grinnell, Iowa (United States) for the duration of the residence period which will be either 5 or 7 weeks. In advance of the residency, the College and the Social Innovator will develop an agreement outlining the specific goals, responsibilities, policies, resources, and terms of the residency. Responsibilities may include teaching workshops, presentations, research or community projects, and meetings with students, faculty, staff and/or community partners. They will be classified as a short-term employee of the college and will be expected to follow the college employee policies and procedures.

Contact Information

If you have additional questions about the Social Innovator in Residence program or application process, please contact Vicki Nolton, assistant director for social innovation partnerships and education, at  

Grinnell College reserves the right to modify the number of prizes awarded annually based on, but not limited to, the quality of nominations and financial considerations. The College also reserves the right to modify the criteria, requirements, and procedures as it deems necessary.