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Western Union Foundation Fellowship

Equipping courageous leaders and entrepreneurs supporting highly marginalized, refugee, or displaced communities to create systemic change.

 

The priority deadline has passed. Applications are now reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis. Apply by June 21st, 2024.

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Catherine Nakayemba, 2024 Western Union Foundation Fellow

The Western Union Foundation Fellowship is a leadership and venture development program for entrepreneurs and community leaders from and/or working with highly marginalized, refugee, and forcibly displaced communities around the globe. This virtual and global program is designed to equip next-generation entrepreneurs and leaders with the skills and experience to increase access to economic opportunity, build valuable networks and resources, and transform their communities.

This is a fully-funded program thanks to the support of the Western Union Foundation.

Dates & Details

  • Dates: August 8th, 2024 to November 19th, 2024 (16-weeks of programming).
  • Format: Weekly virtual workshops with localized gatherings and events when possible (8-10 hours per week time commitment). Sessions are held Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30am – 10:30am in Mountain Time Zone (GMT-6).
  • Immersive & Orientation: 2-week virtual Immersive starting August 8th, 2024 (20–25 hours per week time commitment).
  • 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: 1-3 day Fellow-led workshops hosted in each Fellow’s community, to ideate solutions, design business models, and compellingly communicate their businesses and organizations to an external audience.
  • Summit: Culminating celebratory event, where select Fellows pitch to local and global leaders, potential funders, and renowned entrepreneurs (November 19th, 2024).
  • Venture Development Stipend: A pool of $36,000 in venture development stipends will be distributed among select Western Union Foundation Fellows, based on progress and impact throughout the Fellowship.

Eligibility

  • Who You Are:
    • You are an entrepreneur or community leader from and/or working with highly marginalized, refugee, and forcibly displaced communities around the globe.
    • You have an entrepreneurial spirit, a growth mindset, and are driven to grow as an effective leader within your community. The ideal venture stages for this fellowship are Problem-Solution Fit or Product-Market Fit phases, with engaged customers or beneficiaries, and demonstrated outcomes in both impact and revenue.
    • You are able to commit to the 16-week program including a 2-week virtual immersive. We prioritize individuals who are fully committed to actively participating in the entire  program. At the heart of the 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.

    Where You Create Impact: Applicants located in and/or creating impact in the following locations:

    • United States, Uganda, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, United Kingdom, Germany, Lithuania, Japan, Philippines, Colombia, Mexico,  Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil.
    • Preference is given to applicants from the following locations: Uganda, Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan and the United States.

    What You Are Looking For: You are looking for expert-led entrepreneurial training, access to funding opportunities, and a vast network of mentorship to accelerate your leadership skills and venture impact.

What You Will Accomplish

 

With the unwavering support of the Western Union Foundation and 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 deadline for application submissions is June 1st, 2024.

2. First Round Review: The 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.

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

5. Acceptances Announced: Notifications of acceptance will be sent out during the week of July 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 August 8th, 2024.

Program Elements

The Western Union Foundation Fellowship provides award-winning training, committed mentorship, and a powerful community of peers to equip Fellows with the tools and knowledge they need to support their venture’s continued development and impact.

Pay the Impact Forward: Empower Your Communities through Basecamps

 

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

Basecamp, a term coined by Watson Institute, refers to a 1-3 day Impact Workshop led by each Fellow. They are designed to help rising entrepreneurs and leaders from Fellows’ communities to ideate solutions, design business models, and compellingly communicate their businesses and organizations to an external audience. The Watson Institute team facilitates training workshops, shares the Watson Institute Basecamp curriculum and planning materials, and provides a financial stipend to help organize and facilitate Fellow-led Basecamps. Fellows are empowered through their training to tailor the Basecamp structure and outcomes to their desired participant community.

As a key deliverable of the Western Union Foundation Fellowship, all Fellows will facilitate a Basecamp event during their time in the program.

The Western Union Foundation Fellowship is designed to educate, empower, and drive impact, with each element of the program contributing towards the long-term impact of the Western Union Foundation Fellows and their communities. Basecamps stand as a pillar of this journey. Fellows who have led successful Basecamps have unlocked opportunities for new partnerships, additional funding avenues, media exposure, and have created a ripple effect of deeper impact within their communities.

Learn More

To date Western Union Foundation Fellows have impacted over 6,000 participants through Fellow-led Basecamps.

1,200 Participants attended a singularly-hosted Basecamp (the most to date) by Western Union Foundation Fellow, Francis Obanijesu, from Nigeria in 2024.

Western Union Foundation Fellows are Making an Impact

 

The 120 Western Union Foundation Fellowship Alumni represent 24 countries globally and have reached 6,012 earlier-stage entrepreneurs and community leaders through their Basecamps.

 

Education

Vivek Kaushik ’24, India

Claylab is a non-profit dedicated to bridging the gap in children’s exposure and awareness to career pathways by offering one-to-one mentoring for Grade 10 students aged 15-16. With the goal of creating a large-scale volunteer model, Claylab began with 100 volunteers in 2021 and has now engaged over 1,000 mentors, with plans to onboard 100,000 mentors by 2030. To date, they have reached over 3,000 students, with data showing improvements in educational continuation, self-learning, employability skills, and decision-making; they have also raised $72,000 in grants and donations to support their efforts.

 

Access to Water

Francis Obanijesu ’24, Nigeria

AquaMax is dedicated to manufacturing and selling affordable point-of-use water purification systems that filter water from any source to 99.9% germ-free water, benefitting underserved and low-income communities grappling with water scarcity, contamination, and waterborne epidemics. With 1,931 units sold, over 12,400 people across 43 municipalities have gained access to clean water, resulting in reduced waterborne diseases, child mortality rates, rural hunger, and living costs. To date, the venture has also generated $16,000 in revenue.

Women Empowerment

Titilope Adedokun ‘24, Nigeria

Sisterly HQ is revolutionizing media representation by providing Nigerian women with a platform to share their narratives authentically. Their website and social media channels bridge the accessibility gap, offering opportunities and resources to empower Nigerian women from diverse backgrounds. Since 2021, they’ve showcased 35 Nigerian women’s stories, amassing over 27,000 views, with their current website drawing 1,300 unique monthly visitors. Their Instagram, LinkedIn, and newsletter have fostered a community of 3,600+ women positively impacted by their work.

 

Western Union Foundation 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?

  • You are from and/or working with highly marginalized, refugee, and forcibly displaced communities around the globe.
  • Your venture is in Problem-Solution or Product-Market Fit Stage.
  • You are located and/or creating impact in the United States, Uganda, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, United Kingdom, Germany, Lithuania, Japan, Philippines, Colombia, Mexico,  Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil.
  • You are able to commit to attending a majority of the workshops that are hosted on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays from 8:30am to 10:30am MT.

The Western Union Foundation 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 the  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 $36,000 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 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 meet up with other program Fellows in their locations.

What is the application review timeline?

We understand the substantial interest in Western Union Foundation Fellowship and strive to provide prompt responses. Decisions will be dispatched no later than July 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 the geographies listed above. However, we run numerous programs a year and are likely to have an opportunity for you in the future. We encourage you to check back regularly and reach out to Watson Institute’s team members for more information.

I have another question and need assistance.

For all other questions, please reach out to Angelique Newhouse at angelique@watson.is.

The Western Union Foundation is a separate charitable corporation from The Western Union Company that receives support from The Western Union Company, its employees, agents, consumers, and business partners. Watson Institute is the leading impact fellowship for next-generation entrepreneurs. Watson Institute shares Western Union Foundation’s belief that education is the surest pathway to economic opportunity. To date, the Western Union Foundation Fellowship has supported 120 Fellows and over 6,000 earlier-stage entrepreneurs through the Basecamps they run around the world and initiatives they help lead.