Our Work

Offering Fellowships

Applications for the 2021 Fellowship are now closed.  You can learn about this year’s Fellowship cohort here.

Voqal knows that taking risks with innovative, progressive ideas is necessary to advance social change. The Voqal Fellowship is an investment in people as individuals and budding entrepreneurs; a talent accelerator aimed at giving those often overlooked by traditional funders a chance to enact their visions at center stage.

Voqal seeks social justice-oriented leaders, thinkers, doers and believers who have a big idea for a new way to organize communities — for a new way to bring about equitable social change. Any progressive idea is allowed, so long as it addresses a specific issue and the applicant can explain how the idea will address the issue through an equity lens.

Voqal Fellowship Perks

  • Be one of eight social changemakers embarking on a personal and professional learning journey.
  • Receive a $30,000 stipend so you can dedicate six months to think through your idea for social change and put it into motion.
  • Attend two in-person convenings, the first to get to know your cohort and the second to present your growth at the annual Netroots Nation conference.
  • Access monthly one-on-one and group coaching sessions.
  • Get exclusive resources and networks for starting and growing a social enterprise.
  • Get personal guidance through an exclusive and unique curriculum.

Voqal Fellowship Curriculum

Voqal centers the Fellowship learning around multiple levels of storytelling. This approach allows each Fellow the opportunity to connect with any audience of any size and to showcase why they, as an individual, have the experience and knowledge to enact their vision for a better future.

Voqal provides professional guidance for moving through each level, working with Fellows as they take on emotional and technical challenges throughout the six months. This curriculum includes:

  • Story of Self: Explore your personal journey to this point and how your idea developed. Receive personalized insights into your personal and professional habits.
  • Story of Venture: Connect with experts on starting a social enterprise. Explore how your venture’s story is a community’s story.
  • Story of Future: Determine how to sustainably grow and adapt your idea. Realize how to shift to a futurism mindset.

Voqal Fellowship Criteria

  • Idea Stage: Funding should be used to develop a great idea that has not yet been tried or produced by the applicant. Fellows will use the fellowship to develop a business plan, business model, working prototype and/or to network and fundraise.
  • Organizing: The project should engage a certain constituency in identifying a problem and mobilizing them to act to apply a solution. The final product should integrate information and service with a way for the community to organize itself.
  • Media or Technology: Funding should be used to develop a new media or technology product, system, or structure including but not limited to television, radio, music, movies, magazines, comics, websites, apps, social media and gaming.
  • Progressive: The project should increase equity and advance progressive, social justice values, including but not limited to a more representative government, social rights and civil liberties, media democracy, fair laws and courts, and civic engagement.
  • Disruptive: The project should attempt to dismantle the policies and practices that perpetuate oppression within society’s structures and systems. The project should work to build political power with and in communities that have traditionally had power used against them.
  • Innovative: Funding should be used for an original idea or product that proposes new ways to achieve social justice. If the final product is similar to other existing products, the market shouldn’t be saturated and/or there must be a plan for the product to stand out.
  • Representative: Strong, intelligent, creative and resilient people who have lived experiences with social inequities often face significant difficulty when seeking funding. We aim to intentionally fund LGBTQIA individuals, women, indigenous people and people of color.

Be Bold

A lot of smart and ambitious people with great ideas may not apply after reading the Fellowship criteria because they and their project do not meet all of the characteristics. Voqal encourages you to err on the side of boldness! If you believe you are a good match for the Fellowship but don’t fit absolutely all of the characteristics listed above, you should absolutely apply. Just recognize the difference between being almost there and not even close.

Featured Fellows

Irene Romulo

Irene Romulo is a Chicago-born and raised Mexican. She started organizing seven years ago in Oakland around housing and immigrant rights issues. Since then, she has devoted herself to ending deportations and the criminalization of Black and Brown people in Chicago.

Romulo’s project, Cicero Independiente,  is focused on creating a hyperlocal space for civic engagement rooted in accessible news production by and for people of color, non-English speakers and those who are excluded from traditional media models.

Richard Wallace

Richard Wallace is a Chicago native and dually an organizer and artist in the fight to end economic violence and anti-Black racism. He is a graduate of Roosevelt University, where he received its prestigious Matthew Freeman Social Justice Award and founded Roosevelt University’s student chapter of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

Wallace’s project, Equity and Transformation (EAT) is an organization that uses an innovative approach to community organizing that harnesses the voices of Chicago’s informal economy to advance social change locally and increase equity for those who are the most excluded politically, economically and socially.

Alicia Nieves

Nieves is the co-founder and project lead at Streetwide. Before founding Streetwide, Alicia was a legal fellow with Justfix.nyc, a housing tech nonprofit in New York City where she helped low-income tenants use the Justfix web application to build affirmative legal cases against their neglectful and abusive landlords.

Her project, Streetwide, is a nonprofit project leveraging technology and data for immigrant communities.