GWupstart - GW's Social Innovation Hub



GWupstart is GW's central hub for social innovation training, mentoring and funding. It builds on GW’s strength as an institution that fosters the next generation of citizen leaders. Approximately $75,000 in funding is available every year. In addition, we provide mentorship and support to students to turn their ideas into practical action that makes a measurable, sustained difference.

The Nashman Center defines social innovation as creative approaches to addressing social problems. All projects supported by GWupstart strive to be ethical, creative, systematic, sustainable and created in partnership with community organizations and the residents who will be affected by the project.





GWupstart Grant Details


The deadlines to apply for the 2023-24 academic year are:


Public Service Grant Commission

The Public Service Grant is awarded 4 times each academic year.

Round 1: September 15, 2023
Round 2: November 8, 2023
Round 3: February 7, 2024
Round 4: March 8, 2024


Clinton Global Initiative University

Deadline: January 3, 2024 


Eco-Equity Challenge

Deadline: November 8, 2023


Projects for Peace

Deadline: November 8, 2023


Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service Learning

Deadline: May 24, 2024


Julian Clement Chase Community Impact Award

Deadline: May 24, 2024


Craft your proposal with the help of our workshop series!


Through our four-part workshop series, which is part of Nashman Center's Civic Leadership Dialogues, explore the art and science of design thinking's 4D model to discover, define, develop, and deliver your social innovation project proposal. Whether you have an established project, have a social issue you feel strongly about, or simply are in the ideation phase, join us to learn how to craft a change-making project to receive funding. From initial brainstorming to project execution and all the development details in between, workshop attendees will participate in interactive processes to produce and successfully lead a social innovation project proposal. 


Social Innovation I: Design Thinking | October 10, 2023 @ 5pm 

Get an overview of the 4D process and begin discovering your social issue.

Social Innovation II: Discovery & Definition | October 18, 2023 @ 3pm

Learn to define and nuance your research to hone in on your "what".

Social Innovation III: Develop with Community Partnership | October 23, 2023 @ 3pm

Discover how to consider solutions and collaborations to inform your "how".

Social Innovation IV: Deliver—Writing your Proposal | November 2, 2023 @ 11:30am

Master how to formalize your project budget, timeline, and narrative.


Note: While it is not required for you to attend all 4 sessions—it is highly recommended you do for a holistic design thinking process to successfully prepare your social innovation project proposal.






Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of funding available at GWupstart?

GWupstart offers various programs for students to engage in community service. As such, it provides a wide range of opportunities to further community engagement and service. Each program gets awarded a specific amount depending on the program, and students can apply to other grants and fellowships at the same time.  


The Clinton Global Initiative University - Commitment Maker Challenge 

Eco-Equity Challenge                             

Projects for Peace 

Public Service Grant

Knapp Fellowship


What should I do before beginning my application?

Applying for any program takes time, energy, and organization. Before you begin your application, draft a planning calendar with specific steps to start your application process making it more manageable to execute.  

  • During your application drafting process, think about who your audience is and the community you will engage. Think about the issue you are trying to address and do research to learn more about resources already available and how your project fits the community/organization needs.   

  • About a month before submitting your application, schedule an appointment with a GWupstart mentor. 

  • Also, request feedback on your drafts from faculty, peers, and community partner (if possible). Consider their comments and revise accordingly. Get as many reviews as possible so you can anticipate the questions and critique of the commission, address these as you write subsequent drafts.  

What are the components of a complete GWupstart application?

Applicants must submit the following information through GW Serves: 

Please note that Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) grant will have their own application, but the GWupstart can still support you in the application process.

If I am not awarded, can I apply for the same grant again?

Yes, students are encouraged to apply again for the next grant deadline.

Do I need a community partner?

Yes, all students need a community partner and need to submit a letter of support from the community partner.  

  • Community-engagement focuses on the needs of communities to develop projects fitting community input.  

  • Before submitting your proposal work alongside community partners to define relevant research questions and if your proposed research or project fits their needs.  

  • Community entities are important to build deep connections in order to make a significant change in your community.  

Examples of helpful information you might to send to your community partner organization: 

  • Request a meeting with the community partner to find out more about their needs and the needs of the community. 

  • Share a summary of the project the grant will fund and ask them for any suggestions or modifications. 

  • Explain why partnering with their organization is important to you. 

  • Explain how the project intersects with the goals and mission of the partner organization. 

Can I apply for multiple grants for the same project?

Yes, you can! However, you will have to submit seperate applications for each of the grants you are applying to.

How much detail should my application and budget include?

We encourage all applicants to submit as much information as possible. We understand that every application is unique and focused on specific issues or communities.  

  • Know your audience, it is crucial to know the intended audience. 

  • Know your purpose.  

  • Include the community in all aspects of the project. Ask them questions about their issue or visit town hall meetings to have an idea of what their problems look like.  

  • Create a concise timeline.  

  • Provide details in the application. It is essential to provide as many details as possible because the reviewers will have many questions if your project is not clear.

  • The budget worksheet needs to have as much detail as possible and include a justification for each expense. For example, personal costs and expenses for the project must be separated.

What if a student misses the deadline to apply?

Unfortunately, after the deadline has passed, students will not be able to submit their application. However, you can always apply for a different grant.Only students applying for the Public Service Grant may apply multiple times during the calendar year.

Can part-time students participate in GWupstart?

Any GW enrolled student is eligible to apply for grants and both undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to apply and participate in GWupstart programs. 

Is feedback available for a declined GWupstart application?

Yes, all applicants will be encouraged to schedule a meeting with a GWupstart representative to discuss their application.  

What does the award agreement entail?

Grant recipients agree to:  

  • Provide a brief written report of their project with photos/videos of what they accomplished 

  • Participate in presentations to showcase the work they are doing alongside the community 

  • Have a monthly check-in meeting with a GWupstart representative 


Stories from Grant Recipients