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New CGI Fellowship strengthens entrepreneurship pipeline, offering yearlong social impact curriculum, mentorship, and more

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Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton sits with students at a table at the Clinton Global Initiative University 2023 Meeting.
Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton talks with alumni at the Clinton Global Initiative University 2023 Meeting.
  • CGI University alums discuss how early support was critical to scaling their work
  • Applications are live for the new CGI Fellowship Program: clintonglobal.org/fellowship
  • Deadline to apply is March 15, 2024

As an undergraduate at Cornell University in 2012, Karim Abouelnaga launched a program from his dorm room called Practice Makes Perfect – a seven-week summer intensive program designed to give low-income students equitable education access.

From that idea, Abouelnaga has built a mission-driven company that has since become the largest direct-service operator that supports emerging urban-educated leaders within New York City’s public school system, alongside school districts in Delaware, Michigan, Florida, and Texas. 

One early launching point was his participation in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) University Class of 2012, where he leveraged the CGI University network and mentorship opportunities to grow his organization. He credits his  participation in CGI University and the broader CGI community as critical to his success. 

“The impact of CGI University on me was profound and formative,” Abouelnaga said. “The opportunity to meet students from all corners of the country during my college years was a truly unique experience.”

Abouelnaga is one of many changemakers who took an idea at CGI University, built it into a proven approach, and took it to scale. Following his work with CGI University, Abouelnaga was invited to CGI’s Annual Meeting in 2015, where he was able to connect with more seasoned social entrepreneurs – which he says showed him that he could make a career out of solving problems and helping his community. 

The CGI Fellowship joins CGI University and CGI Greenhouse as the latest program in the CGI entrepreneurial pipeline. CGI now offers options for all levels of experience – CGI University for current students in the ideation stage; the CGI Fellowship for emerging entrepreneurs ready to implement; and CGI Greenhouse for growth-stage entrepreneurs looking to scale.

CGI is now cementing its commitment to individuals like Abouelnaga by curating a robust community of innovators and leaders. “For CGI, fostering innovative social entrepreneurs is integral to tackling the urgent global challenges of today,” said Ragina Arrington, Chief Executive Officer of CGI University. 

There has never been a more critical moment to invest in the entrepreneurship pipeline – helping young and emerging leaders turn good ideas into actionable solutions. Last month, the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship released a new report urging this investment.

“To maintain our global advantage and competitive edge, the U.S. must recruit, cultivate, and train a diverse set of future innovators,” the report stated. “To sustain the entrepreneurial businesses of tomorrow, the U.S. must also provide the infrastructure and support services to unlock more of its skilled talent workforce nationwide.”

CGI’s new Fellowship program is another investment in this effort to support future innovators; selecting 25 emerging leaders and entrepreneurs to develop CGI Commitments to Action – new, specific, and measurable projects that advance solutions to critical challenges including the climate crisis, global health inequity, and humanitarian crises. CGI Fellows will launch their commitments at the CGI 2024 Meeting.

Participants have benefitted from CGI’s entrepreneurial pipeline, which stands to be strengthened by the fellowship. As reflected by Abhilash Mishra, a member of the CGI University class of 2016 who also attended the CGI Annual Meeting in 2016:

“After participating in CGI University, I was excited to continue my engagement with CGI by attending the annual meeting and connecting with alums through the wider CGI network. The CGI network is a great way to learn, forge partnerships, and most importantly to find true fellowship with other leaders working to shape a better future,” said Mishra.

Mishra is the founder and Chief Science Officer of Equitable Ventures –  a global fellowship of emerging innovators who want to use technology to tackle societal challenges. Since 2020, Equitable Ventures has built a network of 200+ innovators from 50 countries, including the U.S.

Reflecting on his CGI University experience, Mishra said that he found mentors and friends through the CGI University network, which allowed him access to a supportive network  — especially critical for early stage entrepreneurs, he said.

“CGI University was transformative in my journey in social entrepreneurship,” Mishra said. “Without the CGI University network, our work at Equitech Futures would not have been possible.”

“While our programs equip entrepreneurs with a virtual curriculum where they develop essential skills to launch their commitments, the true catalyst lies in peer support, mentorship, and community building,” Arrington said. “CGI’s commitment to nurturing these aspiring innovators not only fosters their growth but I believe it ignites a ripple effect of positive transformation in the entrepreneurial landscape.”