New Haven Civic Innovation Prize

New Haven Civic Innovation Prize

The New Haven Civic Innovation Prize awards up to $10,000 to the best student- or community-led venture or project focused on benefiting the City of New Haven.

The Prize aims to catalyze student- and community-led innovations that address, and are informed by, community priorities. Community members, students, or teams of students and community members who are working on projects in key areas of community development, particularly related to the health and economic crises causes by the COVID-19 pandemic, are welcome to apply.

The competition provides participants with constructive feedback from experienced professionals, mentorship from relevant experts, and chances to meet social entrepreneurs and civic leaders. The judges will award a total of $10,000 in prizes and may elect to allocate the prize amount to a single winner, or between two teams.

Criteria for Applicants:

  • Opportunity: The problem the venture/organization/idea seeks to address is clearly defined, and there is evidence that there is a target population who considers it important.
  • Viability: The team has developed a clear solution to the problem, has a realistic path for getting the solution to the end user, and can continue to deliver the solution in a way that is financially and operationally sustainable. In short, the idea seems like it could work.
  • Innovation: The idea is truly innovative. It presents a new model, product or service that fills a unique gap and/or applies an existing model to a new context.
  • Team: The team has the knowledge, skills, passion, energy and ability to execute.
  • Catalytic-ness: The prize will be meaningful in driving the team/project forward in ways that may otherwise not have been possible as quickly or at all.
  • Impact: The project addresses key areas of community development, particularly related to the health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • March 21, 2021: Startup Yale application deadline
  • April 11, 2021 (approximately): Finalists selected
  • April 29, 2021, 4:30pm: Finalists participate in a live pitch event as part of Startup Yale.
  • Register for Civic-Innovation Pitch-Off Event

About Dwight Hall at Yale

The New Haven Civic Innovation Prize is managed by Dwight Hall at Yale, Center for Public Service and Social Justice, an independent, social-profit organization whose mission is to nurture and inspire students as leaders of social change and to advance justice and service in New Haven and around the world. Dwight Hall’s values include a commitment to the common good, compassion, diversity, growth and learning, partnership, critical reflection, and student initiative.

Change Happens Here. At Dwight Hall, we believe in change. We believe that change is possible and worth fighting for. And in these uncertain times, we believe change has never been more important. That is why we do everything we can to make social change a reality.


Startup Yale

The 2021 New Haven Civic Innovation Prize is part of Startup Yale, a collaboration between the Yale Center for Business and the EnvironmentInnovateHealth Yale, Dwight Hall, and the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. On April 29 - May 1, this event will virtually bring together Yale’s entrepreneurs in three days packed with pitches, prizes, and world-changing ideas. Over $125k of prizes will be awarded to the finalists, including:



Ready to apply?  You can preview the application questions here

You must submit your team’s application using the Startup Yale common application via the online Qualtrics survey that can be found here.

Teams led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), immigrants, women, and LGBTQ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

Past Recipients

The inaugural New Haven Civic Innovation Prize was managed by the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale and prizes were awarded to Havenly Treats and DreamKit in 2020.

Information and Technical Guidance Sessions

Friday, March 5, 1:00pm EST - Register here.

Thursday, March 11, 1:00pm EST - Register here.

Monday, March 15, 7:00pm EDT -  Register here.

Friday, March 19, various times by appointment.


Please email Johnny Scafidi, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: The application asks me for my Yale Affiliation, but I have none.  What should I do?

A: You do not need a Yale Affiliation to apply for the New Haven Civic Innovation Prize.  Simply write N/A, none, or enter a dash (-) in this field.

Q: Is preference given to applicants who seek  general operating funds, project-specific funds, or capital campaign funds?

A: There is no preference.  However, your application should clearly convey how the prize money will impact your ability to meet the criteria for the prize.  Whether the prize money goes towards staffing, equipment, capital purchases, etc. is up to the applicant.  We advise that you indicate this in relevant questions on the application.