The Exploring Social Innovation (ESI) Program brings together 20-25 university students and young professionals from across Asia. In this 2-week program, discover new possibilities for your future, learn innovative ways to make the world the better place, and meet a diverse and passionate group of changemakers from across Asia. You will experience hands-on workshops, visits to innovative companies and exchange ideas with local leaders and global friends.
To get even more perspectives on ESI, check out our YouTube playlist of videos that follow our aspiring changemakers from across Asia as they travel through San Francisco visiting innovative social change organizations and learning how to harness their luck and embrace their failures!
Whether you are new to social innovation or want new ideas for taking your idea to the next level, the diverse and supportive community ESI will help you think more deeply about who you want to become and how to connect your future with your skills, passion and an international network.
|Program fee includes:
||Costs NOT included in the program fee:
Successful applicants for this fellowship will receive a $500-1,500 award towards the program tuition. In order to apply for the fellowship, you must submit a video essay (instead of typed essays) in your application. To learn more about the Enlight Fellowship requirements, please click here.
Refer a Friend Award:
We’d love to know if you have friends or siblings/relatives who you think would be a great match for the ESI program. If you and someone you recommend is accepted to the program, you will receive a $100 award that will be applied to your program fee.
Note: Awards cannot be combined – successful applicants will receive either a scholarship, a fellowship or an award, but cannot receive more than one.
“In this program, I could deeply understand myself and what kind of person I would like to become. I also learnt that everyone has a chance to change and become a person he wants to be and make a big change in society.” ESI 2016 participant from Japan
“I am very happy and lucky to be a part of this family. There are three things that I would like to share about VIA ESI. First, meeting with the leaders from different social institutions is a unique chance to explore new ideas for my own project. Moreover, lessons about social innovation and design thinking is very useful and effective when we want to address social problems. Finally, meeting people from different countries and different background is a great chance to learn more about the international communities and the world. I feel like being a part of VIA ESI community is a milestone for my life and a stepping stone for my future goal. This is one of the happiest moments in my life.” ESI 2016 participant from Myanmar
Before coming to San Francisco this time, I had a dream to become an English teacher. After this coordinator experience, I wondered why I limited my possibilities—I can do even more! Of course, English is an indispensable communication tool all over the world. I would like to tell the importance of a global language “English” to students. However, proficiency in English is not enough exactly—the most important thing is how we use English for interaction with foreigners. English has huge possibilities towards “Education” such as VIA program, so I don’t have to separate English and other ‘Education”. So, I want to think about “Education” from many aspects like VIA, for example, “Design Thinking” is a great process for students to think about themselves. Now I am able to utilize this method thanks to this coordinator experience, I could have more confidence in being an inspiring and effective educator. Click to read more… – Kazuya Aoshima – ESI 2015 Participant, ESI 2016 Coordinator
“I see ESI as a unique program that provide necessary foundation for young changemakers to take their baby steps and empower those who keep asking questions and try to solve them” Click here to read more about Apiwan’s personal story and ESI journey!
ESI participants have a variety of talents and passions. Yuichi is a winner of 6 national championships for calligraphy in Japan and has developed innovative workshops to harness the power of calligraphy for teambuilding and healing.
General Application Timeline
- Application Period
- Mid-September: Applications open
- October – November: Information sessions in mainland China, Taiwan, and Japan
- Application Deadlines
- October 20 (Japan Time): VIA online application deadline for applicants from Meiji University (Students must complete Meiji University’s application by October 15. Please contact the International Student Office for more information.)
- November 17 (US Pacific time): Round 1 application deadline for all other applicants
- December 1 (US Pacific time): Round 2 application deadline for all other applicants
- December 7 (Japan Time): Application deadline for Kyoto University applicants
- Application Review
- October 22-24 (Japan time): Meiji interviews
- November 18-22 (US Pacific time): Round 1 interviews
- December 2-6 (US Pacific time): Round 2 Interviews
- December 10-13 (Japan Time): Kyoto University interviews
- Acceptance Notification
- Late November: Round 1 successful applicants notified
- Early December: Round 2 successful applicants notified
- Mid-December: Kyoto University applicants receive results
- December – January
- Participants begin pre-travel checklist
- Payment, agreement form deadline; start visa application process, if applicable
- Complete visa or ESTA application to travel to the US
- Submit flight and insurance information
*Preparation activities and deadlines may be added/modified any time before the program
In the application, you can share about yourself [in English] in 3 sections:
- Background & Contact Information – Tell us some basic information about yourself and how to reach you.
- Deeper Questions – Share your story & show your personality through short essays OR video* by answering the following questions:
- Why do you want to participate in a program focusing on social innovation?
- What do you hope to gain or improve by participating in this program?
- We would like to get to know you better. Please tell us a little about your hobbies or passions, your character, and your plans for the future.
- If you are applying for a scholarship, you MUST make a video [no more than 5 minutes]. Click here for video tips.
- Interview: The final step will be a 10-15 minute Skype/phone interview with the Program Director. In this application, you will be asked to reserve an interview time. If your application is selected, you will receive confirmation of your interview time shortly after the application deadline.
Click the “Apply” button to get started!
If you are unable to access the online application linked above, please download the Word document version of the application, complete it, and email it to melissa|at|viaprograms.org by the application deadline: ESI Feb 2020 Application.