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Design Fellowship, our four-month, immersive fellowship, will help innovators like you design and scale equity-centered solutions to DC’s most pressing educational challenges.

During the fellowship, you will receive customized tools, coaching, and financial support to design, test, adapt, and scale a right-sized pilot solution. After the fellowship, you will have ongoing access to our tools, a vibrant community of designers, and the wider CityBridge network to help you implement and scale your idea. You will also be eligible to apply to Stage 3 of our programming, the CityBridge Design Residency program.

Design Fellowship is the second of three stages in the CityBridge Incubator aimed at creating excellent and equitable schools and educational ventures.

The CityBridge Incubator will be accepting applications from teams working on non-school ventures, teams working on new start charter applications, and existing school teams. However, we will only accept applications from existing school teams hoping to build, iterate, and implement new models that will solve one of the two problems:


Evidence-based instruction in early literacy

  • The Problem: Effective reading instruction unlocks life opportunities for students. The inability to read fluently by 3rd grade can have a significant impact on a student’s academic success and if unaddressed, life-long outcomes. In DC, the reading proficiency gap between at-risk students and their peers grew significantly during the pandemic and likely will increase throughout an even more uncertain path to recovery. As gaps widen, the responsibility of our instructional approach must also meet the new demands. The Science of Reading, or the “ever-evolving” research and knowledge of how children learn how to read, is inconsistently and incoherently applied to how reading is taught.
  • Your Solution: In our quest to reimagine the future, we are inviting leaders to address the widening gaps in early literacy in (K-3rd grade) by applying an evidence-based approach to literacy instruction within their existing schools. We are eager to fund teams of leaders who aim to address one of the many challenges to implementing this approach.

Social and emotional well-being of secondary students

  • The Problem: When students are emotionally well, they are better able to learn and thrive—out of school and in the classroom. The increased stressors of the pandemic only exacerbated the otherwise expected mental health needs of adolescent students. Despite this widely accepted knowledge that social and emotional learning must be built into the fabric of school, practices are inconsistent and varied. This deprioritization of meaningful social and emotional learning as core to the learning experience is seen even more so at the secondary level, which in some cases is plagued by the adultification of Black and Brown students and a lack of appreciation for this developmental stage.
  • Your Solution: In our quest to reimagine the future, we are inviting leaders to design solutions that address limited and inconsistent social and emotional support within the 6th-12th grade learning environment. We are eager to fund teams who aim to address one of the many challenges to secondary students’ social and emotional well being.


Do I need to have experience addressing one of these problems to apply to the spring Fellowship?

Yes. We are looking for participants, working in existing public schools, who have experienced the problem and made attempts, even minor, to solve it. Our goal is to help participants capitalize on their existing knowledge of the root causes of the problem and the contextual challenges of implementation in order to catalyze more robust piloting while in the program.

How do we define the Science of Reading?

It is the evidence-based body of research and knowledge of how children learn to read. It is grounded in brain science, theory, and phonology. In practice, literacy instruction includes the five evidence-based components of reading as defined by the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Why are the problem areas focused solely on designing solutions in existing schools?

We want to decrease the barriers to early piloting which oftentimes includes the inability to access educators and students. Additionally, we hope the resulting solutions that emerge from piloting have immediate “school homes” as the problems we have selected are urgent.

What does it mean to have access to a “network of experts”?

We are currently cultivating local and national researchers and practitioners to bring greater insight and knowledge about the problems to our program participants. There will be opportunities for our participants to attend convenings and receive dedicated feedback and coaching to increase the rigor and sophistication of the solutions they design.





  • Explore and define a student-centered problem and the conditions that shape it 
  • Design two pilots to test, adapt, and scale innovative and equity-centered solutions
  • Learn and collaborate with a like-minded community of educators, entrepreneurs, and leaders


  • Four dynamic workshops 
  • Individualized coaching 
  • Grant funding of $5,000 per team, or up to $7,500 for existing school teams focused on one of the two problem areas
  • Custom design tools and methods 
  • Access to a vibrant and committed community
  • Ongoing support to continue piloting during the semester following the workshops
  • Additional supports for school-based teams focused on a priority problem area 


  • Teams of entrepreneurs and educators interested in starting a new education venture or charter school in DC 
  • Teams of educators based in existing DCPS or charter schools interested in addressing evidence-based instruction in early literacy or social and emotional well-being of secondary students 
  • Participants who are able to commit four to six hours between each monthly full-day workshop to apply the tools with students and the school community, and to work with their team and CityBridge coach


The exact dates for Design Fellowship will be finalized in late fall. Fellowship workshops are on Thursdays once per month.

  • November 3 – Priority Application Deadline
  • December – Final cohort selected
  • Kickoff – December 8, 9, or 10 (morning) 
  • Workshop 1 – January 20 (full day)
  • Workshop 2 – February 10 (full day)
  • Workshop 3 – March 24 (full day)
  • Workshop 4 – April 21 or 28 (full day)

The Fellowship is designed for teams, not for individuals. We encourage teams consisting of three members.

Frequently Asked Questions