Public Service Center Grants

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Suggest a challenging service project for MIT students to work on

The MIT Public Service Center offers programs to support students who want to apply their skills, energy, and ingenuity to tackling challenges faced by communities around the world. These students collaborate with community partners to ensure that their projects truly match community needs.
We would like your partnership in finding projects for these students.  Please read the information below, and fill out the attached form in as much detail as you can.

Who are the students?

  • MIT students have a wide range of skills and expertise. Academically, many of our students major in engineering, management and business, architecture and planning, and life sciences. They are often good at organizing things, thinking through policy and systems, and many enjoy hands-on challenges and problem solving.
  • Students may work individually or in small teams, depending on the needs of the project.
  • We support both undergraduate and graduate students.

Who are the community partners?

  • Community partners include formal non-profits or NGOs, schools, informal community organizations, social entrepreneurs, government offices, and individuals who are motivated to bring positive change to their communities.
  • In general, our community partners lack access to particular resources that prevent their communities from reaching their potential. These might be villagers without clean-drinking water; high-school teachers who want to help their students understand the opportunities for college education; islanders who want to reverse the degradation of their marine resources; etc.
  • Community partners should have the capacity to provide some feedback and guidance to the students as they tackle their challenges.

What sorts of projects are suitable?

  • The projects are variable.  Many students work on technical projects such as improving wheelchair designs for developing countries, designing water treatment systems, or setting-up community computer labs. Others work on much more social projects such as teaching business skills to mixed groups of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers to bridge the ideological divide in Jerusalem, planning the redevelopment of Boston’s Chinatown in a way that will bring jobs and resources to the community, or establishing an entrepreneurship program for unemployed youth in Cairo.
  • Many of our students work on developing innovative solutions to community needs. So, if you are always wishing that someone would “invent something to…”, you could suggest that as a project.
  • Projects should be challenging but possible. The project scope should be suitable for a student to work on either intensively over a semester break (1-3 months), during a semester-long class, or in their spare time. Project suggestions should be well defined but must allow the MIT student to make significant contributions in planning, modification, and implementation.

Where and when can the students work?

  • Students may work almost anywhere in the world. In a typical year we might have students working in 20 different countries worldwide.
  • In most cases, students work on their projects in the communities they are serving, typically during the summer (June-August) or over the month-long January break.
  • In other cases, students work on their projects during the semester at MIT and collaborate with their community partners remotely.

How does this work?

  • You need to complete the attached form, telling us as much as you can about the proposed project. (Clicking this link will download a Word document, it will not open a new webpage.)
  • We will then consider which, if any, of our programs the project would be a good match for. In some cases, we advertise projects to students on our program websites, in other cases we present project ideas to classes – we will contact you for permission and to give you more information about the program before doing either of these.
  • The named contact person for the suggested project MUST be willing to talk with students during the vetting process. Students may contact your organization for more information and to discuss ideas and suggestions for projects based on the information you submit to us. Students will need feedback and resources, and we expect that you will be willing to provide them. We will not fund proposals from students who have not contacted their proposed community partner to discuss their project ideas.
  • Any interested students will apply to one of our programs for funding and other support. The proposal they submit must reflect their discussions with your organization.
  • You will be asked to write a letter of commitment for any students who apply to work with you so that we can ensure you agree to the work plan and will be committed to supporting the student throughout the project. If you do not wish to work with a student after reviewing the proposal or talking with them about your challenge, you can either tell them yourself or you can put this in your letter to us (we would keep this confidential.)
  • If a student who submits a proposal to work with you is funded through one of our programs, the named contact person at your organization will be the primary contact for the student on the logistics of the project for the duration of the semester and into the project implementation period. The contact person and the student will need to collaborate on issues such as: arrival date, transportation to your organization from the airport and daily transportation to and from your organization site, where they will stay for the duration of the project, etc.
  • We will facilitate the recruitment and advertisement of your opportunity to the MIT student community through our website and in print materials; however we DO NOT guarantee that a student will contact you. If a student contacts you about your project and submits a funding proposal to us, we also DO NOT guarantee to fund that student.
  • All our programs are competitive and we are not able to fund all proposals that we receive.

Why should I suggest a project?

  • MIT students are very creative, hardworking, and committed to bringing about positive change in the world.  They may be very effective collaborators for your work.