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Application Guidelines:

The 2022 summer fellowship application is now closed.

We will open up for the next fellowship towards the end of 2022.

Before you proceed, please read all of the guidelines and FAQs below. 

Email us at [email protected] if you have any questions. 

WG 4_credit Joe copy

Before you proceed, pease read all of the guidelines and FAQs below. Email us at [email protected] if you have questions.

Wild Gift is a nonprofit organization that supports the next generation of social and environmental entrepreneurs through a unique wilderness-based fellowship. Over 70 Wild Gift fellows are now working around the world in conservation, community development, education, energy innovation, public policy, sustainable agriculture, and affordable housing.

The 2022 Wild Gift fellowship is a 13-week experience composed of three parts. Participation in all three parts is a mandatory requirement of accepting the fellowship, including:
  • Three-week guided deep wilderness backpacking trek (August 2022; arrive in Sun Valley, Idaho on August 15).
  • 10-week virtual fellowship (June-August 2022). The virtual fellowship will meet once per week for two hours per session. Sessions will include a combination of business and leadership workshops designed to support venture development and sessions dedicated to fellow development. 
  • A virtual and/or in-person celebration with Wild Gift donors and our broader network (date and time TBD following trek). 
All fellows are also encouraged to attend the annual wilderness alumni retreat and celebration (timing TBD).

In addition to offering leadership opportunities, the three-week trek also serves as an uninterrupted space to work on your venture. Structured workshops and unstructured conversations with your guide, facilitator and class of fellows follow full days outdoors and end by a fire or in a tent or yurt. The trek aims to create an enduring community and connection to place that together helps sustain you and your social venture.

COVID-19 UPDATEDuring the pandemic, Wild Gift has run several safe and successful treks and we continue to work closely with our outfitter to build appropriate safety precautions into our deep wilderness trek. Examples include sleeping in individual tents, shifting how we eat meals, and maintaining access to emergency services if necessary.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

The

Fellowship

What is “Wild Gift” and what will I receive if selected?

If you are selected as a Wild Gift fellow, your fellowship will include a:

  • Three-week guided deep wilderness backpacking trek (August 2022; arrive in Sun Valley, Idaho on August 15).
  • 10-week virtual fellowship (June-August 2022). The virtual fellowship will meet once per week for two hours per session. Sessions will include a combination of business and leadership workshops designed to support venture development and sessions dedicated to fellow development.
  • A virtual and/or in-person celebration with Wild Gift donors and our broader network (date and time TBD following trek).
  • Lifetime membership in the vibrant Wild Gift Network that includes alumni, mentors, and supporters. All alumni are encouraged to attend the annual wilderness alumni retreat and celebration (timing TBD in Fall).  

Your

Commitment

What commitment will I be making as a fellow?

If you accept the fellowship, you will be agreeing to the following:

  1. Participating in the three-week guided deep wilderness backpacking trek (August 2022; arrive in Sun Valley, Idaho on August 15) and the 10-week virtual fellowship (June-August 2022). The virtual fellowship will meet once per week for 2 hours. Sessions will include a combination of business and leadership workshops designed to support venture development and sessions dedicated to fellow development.
  2. Meeting all deadlines including communicating with Wild Gift, updating your Wild Gift fellow profile, scheduling travel, etc.
  3. Willingness to engage in a virtual and/or in-person celebration with Wild Gift donors and our broader network (date and time TBD following trek).
  4. Encouraged to join annual alumni wilderness retreats and celebrations (Timing TBD in Fall).
  5. Pay it forward. Serve as a mentor, board member, and/or donor following your fellowship.  
 

*The wilderness trek is a 3-week backpacking trip in April/May (Spring Trek)  or August/September (Fall Trek). During the pandemic, Wild Gift has run several safe and successful treks and we continue to work closely with our outfitter to ensure the safest trip possible. As a fellow, you will be required to follow a COVID safety and risk reduction protocol to this end. Thanks for joining us in being flexible and adaptable!

Eligibility

No. While your venture can be located anywhere in the world, you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, or Canadian citizen to apply.

Yes, you must be between the ages of 21 and 35 as of September 1 of the year you will participate in the trek.

We work with entrepreneurs with a germ of an idea to a fully operational social or environmental ventures. At a minimum, you should have written plans for a social or environmental venture that serves the Wild Gift mission.

Yes, as long as you meet our other eligibility criteria.

Yes. Wild Gift seeks applications for innovative entrepreneurs creating high-impact social and environmental change, regardless of business structure.

Yes, as long as you and your social or environmental venture meets our eligibility criteria.

Yes. You may apply for our fellowship Program while you are a full-time student. However, you must have completed your studies by the beginning of your fellowship period. If you are awarded a Wild Gift fellowship, you are agreeing to make your social or environmental venture a primary focus during the fellowship.

No. Unfortunately Wild Gift does not provide scholarship money or fund research.

Not as a general rule. Wild Gift funds ideas for creating sustainable social and environmental ventures; we do not fund discrete projects.

Yes. If your venture meets all eligibility criteria and you are prepared to make it your primary focus, you may apply. Please note that if you are awarded a Wild Gift fellowship, you are expected to commit no less than 20 hours per week to your venture.

No, you do not need to establish 501(c)(3) status or register your organization before you apply.

Yes. Wild Gift believes in identifying and supporting talented, yet unproven social and environmental entrepreneurs.

No. Only one founder may apply per organization. As a result, please choose only one individual to represent your organization for this fellowship application. However, this does not require you to change your internal leadership structure. Even if only one founder can be a Wild Gift fellow, you can have as many people leading your organization as you see fit.

Preference will be given to applicants who come from diverse personal, professional, and cultural backgrounds and experiences including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education level, culture, religion, venture-focus, disability, physical appearance, or other differences.

The Wild Gift

Wilderness Expeditions

The fellowship includes three experiences:10-week virtual fellowship, 3-week deep wilderness backpacking trek, a virtual and/or in-person celebration with Wild Gift donors and our broader network (date and time TBD following trek) and all fellows are encouraged to attend annual alumni wilderness retreats and celebrations (Timing TBD in Fall).

In the uncharted field of social innovation, character, courage, and grit – the ability to persevere amid challenges and setbacks – are as important as the ability to write a good business plan.

Lessons learned in the challenging, unpredictable environment of a wilderness expedition have direct applications to today’s business world. The Wild Gift—an extended wilderness expedition in the Idaho backcountry—challenges fellows physically and emotionally, takes them out of their comfort zone, and connects them to the natural world on a very personal level. Fellows unplug, incubate ideas, envision their work and lives, and gain the courage, resilience, balance and grit critical to effective leadership. This experience has a bonding effect, inspiring a collaborative spirit and a holistic worldview.

Awareness of Interconnectivity. Changing part of any system has consequences. Experiencing first hand the ecosystems of wild nature, the delicate balance of all things and how change of one thing impacts another is a powerful way to consider how everything fits together.
 
Leadership Development.​ In the wilderness, today’s leader is tomorrow’s follower, and yesterday’s follower is today’s leader. Each fellow must step outside titles like CEO to meet the challenges of the environment, such as crossing a fast-moving river or setting up a tent in high winds. The trek offers opportunities to practice making decisions, then reflect on and learn from the outcomes. 
 
Teamwork​. In an expedition group, or in an organization, you can play a variety of roles, often simultaneously: designated leader, active follower, peer leader, and self-leader. Effective teamwork rests on knowing how and when to step into each role. Leadership means getting along in a diverse group, cooperating with teammates, effectively resolving conflict, and keeping yourself and others motivated and forward thinking. This is tested over and over on the trek.
 
Keep Calm.​ Starting a company is very tricky; there is no blueprint, no road map, and no well-established track you follow. On expeditions and in business, people often become paralyzed when they find they must scrap not only Plan A but also Plan B. Leadership involves planning for things you can control, letting go of things you can’t, preparing for the unexpected, and maintaining composure when unforeseen circumstances arise. Problems are best solved with calm deliberation. 
 
Disconnect to Connect.​ The fast-paced, high-tech world of work wreaks havoc on our ability to engage in careful, strategic thinking. Getting out into nature achieves what has been referred to as “attention restoration.” Being in the outdoors effectively resets our brains, allowing us to analyze problems, map strategies, and dream big.
 
Personal Development.​ Living in the unfamiliar conditions of a wild place away from the distractions of modern civilization fosters self-reliance, judgment, respect, and a sense of responsibility for our actions. ​Nothing stays the same, and wilderness often challenges us to come back with a greater, better version of ourselves.
 
Self Confidence, Humility and Grit​. Negotiating an unfamiliar environment is physically and mentally challenging and it tests our personal boundaries, fears, insecurities and inner strength. The wilderness makes us deal with our aversion to change and overcome challenges. ​The trek requires resourcefulness, pushing our boundaries, working together and a renewed sense of self from accomplishing what seemed impossible.

Resilience​, Perspective and Vision​. Wilderness responds to and recovers from stress and change, and it demands the same of its visitors. Like regrowth following a wildfire, new ideas often grow from difficult experiences. We re-examine where we are now and where we want to go. Change requires awareness of our interconnectivity and an enduring personal vision.

Yes. They are mandatory for fellows. The trek and alumni retreat are at the heart of our wilderness curriculum.

Wild Gift will run the trek when all of the following are true: the outfitter we partner with to guide the trek is open and operational, national forests are open and wilderness adventures are encouraged, backcountry rescue resources are available, and interstate and air travel are safe.

During the pandemic, Wild Gift has run several safe and successful treks and we continue to work closely with our outfitter to ensure the safest trip possible. Flexibility and fluidity are two of the core skills required for entrepreneurship; here at Wild Gift we are practicing them as an organization now and appreciate your willingness to practice them with us.

In line with safety recommendations, if selected, you will be asked to follow safety and risk reduction protocol. Wild Gift reserves the right to require that selected fellows utilize Coronavirus-related antibody testing, vaccines and/or other emerging technology to help keep our trip participants and guides safe. By submitting an application via this portal, you agree to comply with these requests. 

Each Wild Gift group is unique, and we’ll adapt to meet each other’s personal goals in a safe, supportive environment while challenging ourselves daily in the mountains. The core group will consist of an experience guide, one or two Wild Gift facilitators, and five Wild Gift Fellows. 
 
SPRING TREK (April/May): Southern Utah’s wildly diverse and pristine landscape makes it an ideal setting for a springtime backcountry experience. The prehistoric beauty of the arches, canyons, and buttes, along with the desert-adapted flora and fauna provide endless opportunities for exploration and immersion in a breathtaking wilderness setting. The route includes a mix of day hiking from remote basecamps to multi-day backpacking. No prior backpacking or canyoneering experience is required; however, we encourage participation from folks open to adventure and willing to be continuously awestruck by the incredible topography and landscape! 
 
FALL TREK (August/September): The Wild Gift basecamp in Sun Valley, Idaho is the gateway to the largest wilderness and roadless areas in the lower 48 US states. Far from major population centers, this remote wilderness is the domain of abundant wildlife flora and fauna, a blank canvas for engagement in one of nature’s most dynamic mediums. The route follows a gentle progression from rolling sub-alpine terrain to the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountain ranges. No prior backpacking, snowshoeing, or skiing experience is required. Fellows will quickly develop the skills to travel safely, proficiently and joyfully. The adventure starts in a backcountry “hut” and progresses out into the wilderness traveling over several mountain ranges over a distance of 40 miles with close to 14,000’ of elevation gains and loss.

Wild Gift partners with Sun Valley Guides, and Sun Valley Trekking both are established outfitters and guiding service and are responsible for all the trip logistics and safety and will guide accepted fellows through selecting the gear and clothing appropriate for your trek. Guides are licensed and certified with extensive avalanche forecasting, rescue training, and years of teaching experience in the outdoors.

All that’s required is a good level of physical fitness and desire to learn and participate in all aspects of expeditionary life. We recommend preparing for the trek with long walks, hill hiking or running. Participants will be expected to carry a backpack weighing approximately 30-40 pounds for 3-6 hours a day in mountainous terrain. The more fit you arrive, the more fun you will have!

No prior experience in backcountry trekking is required. 

The immersion in deep wilderness provides the opportunity for participants to unplug from the distractions of daily life, relate in a new and more intimate way with the wilderness environment and gain deeper insight into natural resource issues on both a local and global scale. You will receive in-depth experience in backcountry trekking, expedition planning, route finding, terrain selection and management, decision-making and wilderness survival throughout the trek. In addition, there will be plenty of time to work on individual social and environmental venture business plans with the benefit of group feedback.

Section

Criteria

We select social and environmental entrepreneurs who not only have a breakthrough idea but also demonstrate the ability to grow a sustainable enterprise, execute a business plan, and make a significant impact on the problem they are trying to solve. The selection committee considers various criteria including:

  • What are your background and credentials?
  • Do you have passion and vision around this issue?
  • What is your approach to leadership and collaboration?
  • Do you have the ability to bring the venture to fruition (including grit/resilience)?

  • Will the Wilderness Trek and wilderness retreats contribute to your growth?
  • Will mentoring contribute to your growth?
  • Will collaboration within the Wild Gift Network contribute to your growth?

  • How relevant is the venture to Wild Gift's mission?
  • What challenge does it address?
  • How feasible and scalable is it? 
  • What is the potential social, environmental and economic impact of this venture?
  • How innovative is your proposed solution and its potential to be system-changing?

  • Will this idea leverage resources from other sources?
  • Will it generate excitement and energy within a broader community?
  • If successful, can the venture be scaled for even greater impact?

The fellowship is intentionally broad and social and environmental ventures are considered on a case-by-case basis. We want to generate interest and creative thinking among young visionaries about what can make our world better. Our intention is to give resources to talented innovators with groundbreaking ideas.

No. Any extraneous materials submitted will not be reviewed.

We expect to announce the Fellows by late February (Spring Trek) and early June (Fall Trek).

We celebrate selected fellows on our website, in our newsletters and on social media platforms.

Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications, the Selection Committee is not able to provide feedback to individual applicants.

Application

Process Overview

Before applying for a Wild Gift Fellowship, go to our website and take a look at what our fellows are doing.

Do your research, consider your timing for applying, and in particular whether you are ready to make a commitment to our program (including the Wilderness Experience) requirements and the launch of your social venture.

Your application must be fully completed and uploaded to our website no later than 5 pm Pacific Time on the deadline. You will receive an email acknowledgment when we receive the full application. Incomplete or late submissions will not be considered.

Completed applications will be submitted to our selection committee, which is made up of Wild Gift board members, alumni, and friends. You will be notified if further information is required.

Interviews are granted by invitation only. The interview plays a central part in our final selection process. Once you contact us to accept an interview, we will arrange a day that is convenient for both parties. Where possible, they will be conducted by Skype or Google Hangout.

References for finalists will also be contacted by members of the selection committee.

The selection committee will announce the new class of fellows in 1-2 weeks before the start of the spring or fall virtual fellowship begins. 

Other

Tips

Proofread, Review and Revise: Often, you are too close to your application. We recommend that you ask a colleague or partner to review your full application before it is submitted.

Give Yourself Ample Time: Given the number of applications, we cannot give extensions for application submissions.

Keep It Simple: Write in plain language for someone who does not know anything about your work or field.

Follow Directions: Be sure to keep within the character count and font requirements and all deadlines. NOTE: character counts include spaces. All short answer questions on the application have a character limit provided after each question. These limits are inclusive of spaces.

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