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Ford Fund Fellowship

Empowering dedicated entrepreneurs to amplify impactful ventures.


Applications for the program are now closed.

                       “Maya Zaken, 2022 Ford Fund Fellowship”

The Ford Fund Fellowship is an intensive venture and leadership development program designed to empower entrepreneurs and community leaders to elevate the impactful ventures they are building. This fully-funded virtual program aims to equip these next-generation entrepreneurs with the essential skills and hands-on experience necessary to enhance their ventures, access invaluable networks and resources, and drive transformative change in their communities.

This is a fully-funded program thanks to the support of the Ford Motor Company Fund.

Dates & Details

  • Dates: March 4th to June 27th, 2024 (16-weeks of programming).
  • Format: Weekly virtual workshops with localized gatherings and events when possible. Sessions are held Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30am – 10:30am MT.
  • Immersive: 2-week virtual Immersive beginning March 4th, 2024 (10–15 hours time commitment each week).
  • Training: Weekly expert-led modules covering Foundations, Data & Metrics, Go-To-Market, Funding, Team Management, and Pitch.
  • Impact Series: Renowned leaders, entrepreneurs, and practitioners join the fellowships we empower to share their entrepreneurial journey and experience, as well as mentor the Fellows. See previous Impact Series Speakers here.
  • Basecamp: 2-day workshops designed and led by Fellows for their own stakeholders and communities.
  • Summit: Culminating community event where select Fellows pitch to local leaders, funders, and entrepreneurs (June 27th, 2024).
  • Venture Development Stipend: $40,000 in venture development stipends distributed among chosen Ford Fund Fellows based on their progress and impact throughout the Fellowship.


  • Who You Are:
    • You are an entrepreneur or community leader deeply committed to creating sustainable, scalable impact in your community.
    • You are at the helm of a social impact venture or community endeavor in its initial stages, showcasing a history of making a difference. Ideally, your venture is in the space of mobility, transportation, or accessibility.
    • You have an entrepreneurial spirit, a growth mindset, and are driven to grow as an effective leader within your community. The ideal venture stage for this fellowship are those in the Problem-Solution Fit or Product-Market Fit phases, with engaged customers or beneficiaries, and demonstrated outcomes in both impact and revenue.
  • Where You Create Impact: Applicants located in and/or creating impact in the following locations:
    • Global: China, Germany, Mexico, Romania, South Africa,United Kingdom (includes Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
    • United States: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Louisville, Memphis
    • If your location is not listed above, we encourage you to explore other fellowships powered by Watson Institute. We are currently recruiting for several impactful fellowship opportunities across a diverse range of locations.
  • What You Are Looking For: You are looking for expert-guided entrepreneurial training, a community of entrepreneurs to give you feedback that improves your venture, and a wide-reaching mentorship network to enhance your leadership abilities and the impact of your venture.

What You Will Accomplish

With the unwavering support of the Watson Institute team, you will receive a comprehensive roadmap to guide the growth and scalability of your work and impact. Additionally, you will facilitate an impactful workshop and training session (known as a Basecamp) in your community for your stakeholders, backed by a stipend, playbook, and team support to bring your vision to life.

Application Process

1. Applications Submitted: Complete the online application. This application should take approximately 45 minutes to fill out. The final deadline for application submissions is January 15th, 2024.

2. First Round Review: Our Admissions Committee diligently reviews all applications, seeking entrepreneurs who demonstrate strong leadership qualities and ventures that are both innovative and scalable. Applications received after the deadline will be assessed on a rolling basis as needed.

3. Interview: Qualified applicants will receive invitations for a 20-minute one-on-one Zoom interview. This interview allows us to delve deeper into your motivations for pursuing the fellowship and to gain a better understanding of your venture. Interviews will commence during the week of January 2nd, 2024.

4. Admissions Committee Review: The most promising applicant profiles will be shared with our external Admissions Committee for their final review and selection.

5. Acceptances Announced:  Notifications of acceptance will be sent out during the week of February 1st, 2024.

6. Fellows Confirm & Enroll: The final step to complete your enrollment is to confirm your commitment to the program. Upon confirmation, you will receive an invitation to participate in a “Meet the Cohort Webinar” event leading up to the program’s commencement. The program begins March 4th, 2024.

Program Elements

The Ford Fund Fellowship offers award-winning training, dedicated mentorship, and a dynamic peer community. We are here to to equip you with the skills and insights necessary to supercharge your venture and make a lasting impact.


Grow your leadership skills, build local partnerships, and expand your impact by facilitating a Watson Institute Basecamp in your community.

Every Fellow receives training, a playbook, and a financial stipend to facilitate a Basecamp—a one to three day intensive workshop—in their community, empowering them to drive positive change locally. As a key deliverable of the Ford Fund Fellowship, all Fellows will facilitate a Basecamp event during their time in the program. Fellows are empowered through their training to tailor the Basecamp structure and outcomes to their desired participant community.

Learn More

On average each Ford Fund Fellow leading a venture impacts 2,234 individuals in their communities.

Ford Fund Fellows are Making an Impact

41 Fellows have created impact for over 950 entrepreneurs, through the Basecamps they run around the world and initiatives they help lead.


Holistic Wellness

Yasmar Cruz ’22, United States

Yasmar Cruz is a Puerto Rican born artist and educator based in New York City. She is the recipient of the Community Impact Award, for her holistic wellness initiative dedicated to BIPOC women at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yasmar is also the Founder of Danzartes, and her mission is to equip women with the skills and techniques they need to better their emotional and physical health through a combinination of yoga, dance, meditation, and coaching.


Matias Acosta ’22, Argentina

Matias Acosta is a Latin American social entrepreneur and thought leader from Mar del Plata, Argentina. He is the Founder of Shaping Horizons, a social edtech venture that upskills young people and corporate talent using research-based e-learning materials and team projects with impact. Matias has published 50+ articles and been cited 3,000+ times during his appointments at the University of Cambridge and UNDP.


Maya Zaken ’22, South Africa

Maya Zaken is an innovative entrepreneur from Knysna, South Africa. She holds an Honors degree in Economic Science with a background in philosophy and politics, that led her to engage in the human and sustainable development space. Maya is currently setting up a Black Soldier Fly farm called Philafeed, which aims to use profit for the purpose of driving circular economic activities, promote organic waste recycling processes, and create a sustainable agri-feed market.

Ford Fund Fellows Summit

A high-profile event where Fellows share their impact and progress with a global audience

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the eligibility for this program?

  • Your venture is in Problem-Solution or Product-Market Fit Stage.
  • You are located and/or creating impact in China, Germany, Mexico, Romania, South Africa,United Kingdom (includes Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland).
  • If you are in the United States, you are located and/or creating impact in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Louisville, Memphis.
  • You are able to commit to attending a majority of the workshops that are hosted on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursdays from 8:30am to 10:30am MT.

The Ford Fund Fellowship seeks exceptional candidates who are entrepreneurs or community leaders currently at the Problem-Solution or Product-Market Fit stage, demonstrating a tangible history of impact and leadership within their community. This typically includes a track record of successfully raising funds through grants, investments, donations, or other means to support their ventures. Additionally, candidates might have a team of up to ten full-time members.

Furthermore, we prioritize individuals who are fully committed to actively participating in the entire four-month program. At the heart of our program is a strong sense of community, and its success hinges on the active engagement and enthusiasm of all participants, who are eager to both learn and share.


What are the eligibility requirements for the Venture Development Stipend?

Out of a $40,000 fund, Fellows have the potential to receive a venture development stipend of up to $6,000, contingent on their active participation in the program, leading a Basecamp, and successfully completing the workshop-related checkpoint assignments.

How selective is this program?

We receive a high volume of applications each year for this fellowship and have a 2% selectivity rate for this program.

What do the in-person components entail?

Fellows facilitate a Basecamp event in their communities during their time in the program. They will also have the option to have meet-ups with other program Fellows in their locations.

What is the application review timeline?

We understand the substantial interest in our program and strive to provide prompt responses. Decisions will be dispatched during the week of February 1st, 2024. Your patience during this process is greatly appreciated.

Can I apply if my country is not listed under the priority countries?

Unfortunately, we are not able to consider applications outside of the geographies listed above. However, we run numerous programs a year and are likely to have an opportunity to you in the future. We encourage you to check back regularly and reach out to the Watson Institute team member for more information.

I have another question and need assistance.

For all other questions, please reach out to Milena Kirillova at

How do you define early-stage?

For this program, we define early-stage as those who are in the Problem-Solution Fit or Product-Market Fit stages. See below for what that might mean:

  • You likely have raised some funds for your organization through grants, sales, investments.
  • You have no more than 10 full-time team members.
  • You have collected some pilot metrics for impact.

Ford Motor Company Fund is the corporate foundation and philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company. Watson Institute Fellowships are the leading programs for next-generation impact entrepreneurs. Watson Institute shares Ford Fund’s belief that the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs can transform their communities by joining a committed group of peers and mentors, receiving training, the potential to receive a venture development stipend, and building a global network. Through the Ford Fund Fellowship, we are excited to scale the impact of Ford Fund and Watson Institute’s partnership to date by empowering 41 Fellows and over 950 young leaders and entrepreneurs globally.