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Top of the Mountain

HOW IT WORKS

For its inaugural 2024 cohort, Mountaintop will place 12+ Fellows across 9+ countries. To see a list of publicly announced 2024 Fellows, see here. The application for the 2024 fellowship is now closed. More information will be provided on the 2025 fellowship in the second half of 2024.

To learn about host led fellowships (placements serving with a predetermined NGO, social venture, or government agency), click here.

To learn more about applicant led fellowships (independent projects proposed by the applicant), click here.

1) PLACEMENTS

Mountaintop provides host led fellowships and applicant led fellowships. For 1) host led fellowships, Mountaintop partners with high-impact government agencies, NGOs, and social ventures in low-income communities around the world to address a critical community need. Hosts determine a stipend for a one-year full-time position equal to the annual salary of comparable employees on their team. For 2) applicant led fellowships, Fellows apply for a stipend to lead a high-impact independent project anywhere in the world outside the United States. In all cases, Fellows can only serve in their home community or country.

2) RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION

Mountaintop coordinates with hosts, universities, and leadership networks to recruit outstanding emerging professionals to serve in fellowships in their home communities and countries. ​Mountaintop selects exceptional emerging professionals who are committed to serving their home communities over the course of their careers and who have a demonstrated track record in public service and/or entrepreneurship. There are no age restrictions. For host led fellowships, hosts participate in Finalist interviews and approve all selections.

 

For those who struggle with English, candidates can complete the application in their native language and selected Fellows are given a complimentary online English course before beginning the Leadership Institute. Those who do not have access to cheap, reliable Internet can download the application and submit responses (written or typed) via email at info@mountaintopfellows.org.

3) TRAINING

In July before their placements, Fellows attend a free two-week Leadership Institute at Harvard's Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mountaintop covers all expenses associated with the Leadership Institute, including travel, lodging, meals, and visa fees. The Leadership Institute trains Fellows on Mountaintop's transformational leadership curriculum, which includes: moral leadership, or living by higher values while inspiring others to do the same; systems leadership, or impacting culture, ecosystems, policies, and other fundamental levers to contribute to sustainable change; public leadership, or working with governments as an elected official, civil servant, or advocate to strengthen democratic institutions and make large-scale impact; and collective leadership, or cultivating the capacities and leadership skills of fellow community members. Fellows also receive personalized coaching sessions based on individual Fellow needs, and are given training to complete an optional "listening tour" of their communities to map challenges and opportunities facing a diversity of local stakeholders to inform their local leadership.

 

The Institute will begin with a 2-night outdoor leadership retreat to sharpen moral leadership skills and strengthen relationships amongst the Fellows. The outdoor leadership retreat will be conducted in partnership with Cairn Leadership. These outdoor leadership retreats require no prior outdoors skills, and can accommodate people of all physical abilities (including those who use a wheelchair). The Institute will be facilitated by world class partners from academia, public service, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and ministry who will represent the diversity of the globe in geography, culture, ethnicity, and ideology. Current partners include the Aspen Institute incubated Center for Expanding Leadership & Opportunity, Harvard's Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics, and faculty at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. In addition, selected Fellows will have the opportunity to provide input into what they would like to emphasize during the Institute, helping shape the training and customizing it for their needs.

4) MENTORSHIP AND CATALYST FUNDS

Once their placements begin, Fellows meet with a mentor who is an expert in their field once a month, and can access the "office hours" of other mentors throughout the fellowship. Fellows can also apply for up to $2,500 in competitive Mountaintop Catalyst Funds to invest in projects developing "human infrastructure" in order to strengthen their communities.

5) ALUMNI BENEFITS

For alumni, Mountaintop provides lifetime support through mentorship, job support, and access to grants to help them stay rooted in their communities. For hosts, Mountaintop provides ongoing trainings, a network of practice, and access to funders to help them deepen and scale their work.

Mountaintop Executive Fellowship

Designed for mid and senior level professionals, Mountaintop offers a limited availability executive education program for exceptional emerging leaders at high-impact organizations to strengthen their commitment to their local communities and accelerate their ability to make transformational impact. Executive Fellows receive the same benefits as other Fellows, including the two week Leadership Institute at Harvard. The cost for accepted Executive Fellows is $6,000, and can be paid via employer sponsorship or directly by the Fellow. Learn more about the application here

Dramatic Sunset over the Mountains

What We Look For

Mountaintop is seeking individuals who we believe have the highest potential to be transformational leaders in their home communities long term.

Mountain

Eligibility

  • Committed to serving their home country over the course of their career. For larger countries, we look for commitment to home community or home state/province.

  • Committed to attending a full-time in-person training event on Harvard's campus in Cambridge, USA July 13th-26th, 2024.

  • Committed to serve 40 hours/week on their fellowship project for the duration of the fellowship. Jobs, classes, parenting, or other responsibilities must not interfere with this full-time commitment.

  • Note that there are no general age or degree requirements, but specific host led fellowships may have additional eligibility requirements.

Mountains

Transformational Leadership Potential

  • Outstanding track record driving meaningful impact in leadership, public service, and/or social entrepreneurship.

  • Innovative, systems oriented, collaborative, ambitious, and innovative.

  • At the early stage of their professional careers. Can demonstrate that the Mountaintop Fellowship can meaningfully accelerate their trajectory as a transformational leader and help them stay in or return to their home community or country.

Mountain Peak

Values Alignment

  • Universal Compassion: Empathizing with the suffering of others, regardless of who they are.

  • Unconditional Love: Loving others unconditionally, even those we deeply disagree with.

  • Visionary Wisdom: Making imaginative, effective, evidence-based, and historically informed decisions and striving to understand diverse perspectives.

  • Long-Term Dedication: Committing over the course of a career or lifetime to a particular community or cause.

  • Selfless Courage: Acting for the greater good even in the face of uncertainty, complacency, inconvenience, risk, or danger.

Lone Mountain

2025 Fellowship Application Timeline

The 2024 application is now closed. See below for a preview of the 2025 application timeline. More timeline details are coming in summer 2024.

Application: Due Fall/Winter 2024/2025 (Deadline TBA)

Finalist Interview: Fall/Winter 2024/2025 (Time TBA)

Includes a resume and written responses. Applicant led fellowship candidates also submit project proposals.

Virtual Finalist interview that includes Mountaintop staff. Host led fellowships will also include the host supervisor. Selection notifications made by November 17, and Fellows must accept offers no later than December 1.

Leadership Institute: Summer 2025 (Time/Place TBA)

Fellowship Service: August 1, 2025 - July 31, 2026.

Alumni Programming: August 1, 2026 and Beyond

The Leadership Institute takes place for two weeks in person. In 2024, it will be held at Harvard University's Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fellows work full-time (40 hours/week) on their fellowship project. Note that a limited number of host led fellowships may start earlier. Specific timeline information will be provided on each host led fellowship's profile.

After their fellowships, alumni receive ongoing support to build public minded ventures, advance into positions of leadership in governments, nonprofits, and business, launch movements, and run for elected office.

Stream and mountains

WHAT MAKES THE FELLOWSHIP SPECIAL

  • What are all the benefits for Fellows?
    Stipend, Benefits, and Work Authorization A stipend. Hosts determine a stipend amount for their placements in line with what comparable employees make (see host led fellowship profiles for exact stipend amount). For placements where applicants propose their own placements, Mountaintop will determine a scholarship amount between $3,600-$7,200 based on Fellow need and regional cost of living. Opportunity to apply for competitive Catalyst Funds of up to $2,500 USD during the fellowship to invest in local human capital development. Fully paid health insurance (either directly covered, as a stipend/reimbursement for premiums, or an emergency fund in countries without an established health insurance system; varies by placement). Fully paid visa and work authorization support as necessary. Training All-expenses-paid two week leadership institute at Harvard's Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics in Cambridge, USA. This includes covering the cost of flights, lodging, meals, ground transportation, and visa fees. Amplification Mountaintop will amplify the stories of its Mountaintop Fellows through blogs, press coverage, and connections to relevant partners and funders. Mentorship 1:1 mentorship sessions on a monthly basis with an expert in the Fellow's field, and access to office hours with the larger mentorship community. Alumni Alumni will receive ongoing support from mentors and Mountaintop staff to build public minded ventures, advance into positions of leadership in governments, nonprofits, and business, launch movements, and/or run for elected office. Alumni will be eligible to apply for Mountaintop seed grants to support their work on critical challenges within their communities. Alumni will be eligible to apply for future in-person meetups. Alumni will be eligible to apply to support Mountaintop with the selection of future Fellows. Lifelong Friendship Beyond regular in-person events, Mountaintop will build a virtual community to facilitate lifelong, mutually supportive, and loving friendships to support Fellows’ leadership development and strengthen learning.
  • How many Fellows are selected each year?
    For our inaugural class, we will be selecting 12+ Fellows from 9+ countries. We plan to grow significantly over time.
  • Can I have other employment during the fellowship? Can I attend school during the fellowship?
    The fellowship is a full-time (40+ hours/weeks) commitment. Fellows are permitted to have part-time commitments such as school, parenting, or another job, but these should not infringe on full-time fellowship responsibilities. Note that candidates for the applicant led fellowships are still eligible even if they complete the fellowship while holding a separate full-time job if the fellowship would help them to refocus their work on an independent, high-impact project within that job. For example, a Fellow could be working at a health ministry in their home country, and the fellowship could support them to spend their time on a new public health community engagement initiative that they are leading as part of that job. Candidates applying under this scenario will be asked to show written proof of approval of their project proposal from their current supervisor if invited to a Finalist interview.
  • What happens at the training events?
    The Mountaintop training events are intended to prepare Fellows for transformational local leadership. To elaborate, the objectives of the training is to: Cultivate deep, lifelong friendships of like-minded leaders from around the world. Build moral, systems, public, and collective leadership skills. Strengthen commitment to social impact in one's home community and country. Learn how to access networks, professional development, and financial resources through Mountaintop's lifelong fellowship community. Provide personalized leadership development sessions based on each Fellow's individual goals. Leadership Institute: The two week Leadership Institute will take place at Harvard's Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The training curriculum, shaped by input from Fellows and hosts, focuses on four components: moral leadership, or living by higher values while inspiring others to do the same; systems leadership, or impacting culture, ecosystems, policies, and other fundamental levers to contribute to sustainable change; public leadership, or working with government bodies as an elected official, civil servant, or advocate to strengthen democratic institutions and make large-scale impact; and collective leadership, or cultivating the capacities and leadership skills of fellow community members. The Leadership Institute will also give significant time for personalized leadership development sessions for small groups of Fellows based on each Fellow's individual goals. The Institute will begin with a 2-night outdoor leadership retreat to sharpen moral leadership skills and strengthen relationships amongst the Fellows. The outdoor leadership retreat will be conducted in partnership with Cairn Leadership. These outdoor leadership retreats require no prior outdoors skills, and can accommodate people of all physical abilities (even those who use a wheelchair). The Institute will continue with hands-on leadership simulations, workshops, personalized mentorship sessions, peer-to-peer strategy sessions, and classes in partnership with faculty at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. Curriculum will include study of historical examples of moral leaders, world religion and moral philosophy, frameworks for analyzing world challenges such as the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), and cultivation of leadership skills including public speaking, consensus building, systems thinking, community outreach, and management. Mid-Fellowship Retreat: The 2-day virtual mid-fellowship retreat will continue the transformational leadership training, with a special focus on troubleshooting current challenges faced by Fellows and their hosts. Virtual Graduation: The 2-day virtual graduation retreat will provide a final wrap-up of the key learnings throughout the fellowship. Fellows will also complete their final projects, which will include: 1) A written and oral presentation on their fellowship achievements and leadership lessons, 2) An presentation of their life theory of change; and 3) A public speech on their leadership journey which will include a call to action for the world. Mountaintop will record the presentations and speeches.
  • What is a Listening Tour?
    Fellows are given training to complete an optional "listening tour" of their communities to map challenges and opportunities facing a diversity of local stakeholders to inform their local leadership. The Listening Tour serves four key objectives: It helps Fellows develop a deeper understanding of their community and impact area, and where help is needed. It helps Fellows identify how they might shape their work in their community and impact area long term. It gives Fellows a large network of friends and mentors to learn from after their fellowship ends. It allows Fellows to activate others toward their missions. The Listening tour, completed in the first six months of the fellowship, asks Fellows to meet with 50 stakeholders that are either from the placement community, related to the Fellow's cause area, or both. At least 25 of the stakeholders are usually based in the placement community. All Fellows are trained on how to complete their Listening Tours during the Leadership Institute.
  • What is the outdoor leadership experience?
    All Fellows will participate in an outdoor leadership adventure for the first three days of the Leadership Institute at a location near Boston with Mountaintop partners Cairn Leadership (https://www.cairnleadership.com/). Required gear — including tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and warm clothes — will be provided. No prior outdoors experience is needed, and this opportunity is made accessible for people of all abilities, including those with physical disabilities. All Fellows will participate in either a rock climbing, backpacking, or canoeing adventure.
  • Do hosts provide housing to Fellows?
    In most cases, Fellows are responsible for procuring and covering the cost of their own housing. If the host is providing housing, then this will be indicated on the host's fellowship description.
  • For applicants proposing their own fellowship projects, what is Mountaintop looking for?
    Note that Mountaintop has both "host led" fellowships, where applicants apply for an identified project scope under supervision of a predetermined host, and "applicant led" opportunities, where applicants propose their own fellowship projects. The below describes the requirements for the applicant led fellowship project proposals. Project Proposal Requirements 1) Strengthening "Human Infrastructure." The project must directly support projects that help a community flourish long term by strengthening its people. Specifically, we look to support projects focused on improving one or multiple of the following community assets: 1. Right Abilities: The skills and knowledge most needed for the community to flourish. 2. Right Mindsets: The values and attitudes most needed for the community to flourish. 3. Right Relationships: People from within the community and outside the community have the mutually enhancing, respectful relationships most needed for the community to flourish. 4. Right Activities: People are working on the right jobs, civic initiatives, and social impact projects most needed for the community to flourish. 5. Right Places: People live and work in the locations most needed for the community to flourish. 6. Right Power: There is a balance of power of institutions both within the community and outside of it to best help the community flourish. i.e., the people themselves are empowered to make meaningful decisions about their own futures. 2) Connection. You are serving in a community (ideally at the neighborhood/village/town/city level, but could include the province/state level or country level) where you already have a strong personal connection, and where you hope to commit to serving over the course of your career. Mountaintop believes that moral leaders forge their character through deep engagement with a specific community, and that such leaders can have outsized impact in the places they know best, even if they ultimately expand their work to broader geographies over time. In cases where the political situation of one's home community, province, or country would make service there untenable (refugees, internally displaced persons, etc.), exceptions can be made, as long as the project proposal is still rooted in a community or cause area to which the candidate has a deep personal connection. 3) Leverage. You could not complete the project scope without this fellowship. Note that the project does not have to be for entirely new organization or program. It can absolutely be to grow or strengthen an existing initiative as long as it is clear how the fellowship would provide unique help in achieving this. 4) No Research or Campaigns. Your project scope activity cannot be primarily for conducting academic research, nor can it be running for office or campaigning for political candidates. Due to election laws, Mountaintop cannot actively contribute to campaigns. However, you can run for office on your own time during the fellowship, or run as an alumnus. Project Proposal Selection Criteria Fellows are asked to use "first principles thinking" to craft their project proposals. The project proposal should be connected to their broader theory of change of creating transformational impact, explaining how the one-year project will allow the Fellow to make progress on the challenge while also cultivating their leadership experiences to amplify their impact on the challenge in the future. The challenge to be addressed could span the domains of policy, economics, technology, culture, or a combination of these domains. The project proposal could be to support a for-profit venture, non-profit venture, or an individual project. Mountaintop evaluates project proposals based on the following criteria: 1) Ambitious. The problem you are concerned with should be large in scale, meaning that if your life theory of change was successful, it would meaningfully benefit the lives of thousands or millions of people. This doesn't mean that the one-year fellowship should be large in scale, but rather that the project proposal allows you to make a meaningful difference while building relevant experiences and leadership skills to work toward larger-scale work in the future, while serving others simultaneously. While the first year of the fellowship should be in your hometown, home province, or home country, it is possible that the scale of your theory of change may require you to eventually expand your work across national borders. 2) Systemic. The project proposal has a strategy for how the work will contribute to long-term, sustainable, fundamental changes within the proposed community. 3) Filling Gaps. The project proposal should fill a gap in the proposed community, either by replicating a proven initiative in a new area, or starting a new initiative that is clearly needed based on local knowledge. 4) Compelling. The project proposal should clearly and logically link the problem, theory of change, and fellowship project. It should be easy to see how the fellowship will help serve the ultimate end of solving the problem, and how the candidate has the potential to succeed with the right support. The project proposal should describe why the Fellow has the right background and experiences to achieve their goals. 5) Integrity. It should be clear throughout the application as a whole how the candidate plans to lean into Mountaintop's values of universal compassion, unconditional love, visionary wisdom, long-term dedication, and selfless courage as they embark on their lifelong journey to help their communities flourish. At Mountaintop, we believe the means are just as — if not more — important than the ends.
  • If I am proposing my own fellowship project, do I need to be certain about my project proposal when I submit my application?
    No! We understand that plans can change as we learn and gather new information. Project proposals can change up until the final day of the fellowship. However, we do expect that the project proposal is thoughtful, authentic, an honest reflection of your current plans, and compellingly linked to your broader theory of change within your application.
  • What if I don't need money for a living stipend and want to apply my funds to my project?
    Applicant led Fellows will receive a stipend in line with the cost of living of their community, and they may choose to spend those funds as they wish. This could include covering living expenses or project expenses. Fellows also have the opportunity to apply for competitive Catalyst Funds during the fellowship which are intended to support project expenses.
  • Can I be an applicant led Fellow even if I plan to continue holding a full-time job separate from my fellowship project?
    Candidates are still eligible for the applicant led fellowship even if they complete the fellowship while holding a separate full-time job if and only if the fellowship would help them to refocus their work on an independent, high-impact project within that job. For example, a Fellow could be working at a health ministry in their home country, and the fellowship could support them to spend their time on a new public health community engagement initiative that they are leading as part of that job. Candidates applying under this scenario will be asked to show written proof of approval of their project proposal from their current supervisor if invited to a Finalist interview. Those with an outside source of full time income at the same time as the fellowship will not be eligible for the living stipend from Mountaintop but can still participate in all other benefits of the fellowship, including applying for up to $2,500 USD in competitive Catalyst Funds to support their initiative. In order to prioritize candidates who can give a full commitment to their fellowship projects, candidates who plan to keep separate full-time job are not eligible for the applicant-led fellowship if their project is completed outside of their existing employment.
  • Can my applicant led project be growing or strengthening an existing initiative?
    Mountaintop gives preference to applicant led Fellows who could not complete the project scope without this fellowship, but that does not mean the project must be for an entirely new organization or program. It can absolutely be to grow or strengthen an existing initiative as long as it is clear how the fellowship would provide unique help in achieving this. Mountaintop is most interested in ensuring that Fellows are able to make a long-term systems-changing impact on their communities. Many times it is more sustainable and effective to continue developing an existing project than to start a new project to please a funder. Mountaintop is aware that donor biases can distort the incentives of local leaders who know their communities best, so we aim to listen to our applicants to tell us what sorts of projects would be most impactful in the long run, including whether to start something new or invest more heavily in something already existing.
  • Can my project be national or international in scope?
    We recognize that the work of many applicants goes beyond their individual communities. We celebrate this and welcome projects that have a wider scope. However, as we believe in the transformative power of local leadership, Applicants should be clear how they stay rooted in the communities that they serve. All applicants should have deep personal connections and live in at least one of the countries that they serve.
  • I see the selection criteria on the website. But can you go into more detail?
    We aim to give candidates as transparent as possible of a look at how Fellows are chosen. Thus, we have put together a more nuanced list of qualities that we use to evaluate our candidates' potential for systems-changing local leadership. Leadership Experience. We look for candidates who have a demonstrated track record of impactful leadership, especially experiences outside of the academic context. We look for candidates who have gone beyond holding a title, engaging on social media, or having conversations to coordinate action that has changed people's lives in profound ways. Leadership experience is not just about quantity but also quality. People of all ages can have outstanding leadership experience, and we do not discriminate based on age. Impact. We look for candidates who center the impact in their responses (as opposed to titles they have held or other distinctions), and can illustrate how they have had both breadth and depth of impact on people within their communities. We also look for candidates who already have meaningful experience in the work that they would be doing during the fellowship, and can make an immediate impact. For host led fellowships, this is mostly evaluated by the hosts during the interview process. Proximity. We look for candidates who have deep personal roots in the community that they aim to serve. This usually means having lived in the community for many years, often having spent a large part of their childhood there, but we understand that local proximity can mean different things to different people, especially immigrants, refugees, and internally displaced people. Human Infrastructure. We look for candidates who clearly understand the role of human infrastructure in creating sustainable systems change, and have a track record of building it up within their local communities. Commitment. We look for candidates who can fully commit to the expectations of the fellowship. In the case of the applicant led fellowship, this means being able to focus on the applicant led project full time and being committed to serving their community long term. In the case of the host led fellowship, this means being able to focus on the host led project full time, being interested in being employed by the host after the fellowship ends, and being able to be physically present in the office for all the times required by the host. Value Add. We look for candidates who are able to demonstrate why this fellowship will have a transformational effect on them, both in terms of their trajectory as a leader and how it will allow them to live and work in the community that they know best. Individuals who either are unlikely to be prepared for the rigor of the fellowship or are already advanced leaders that might not gain much from the fellowship are less strong fits. Humility. We look for candidates who are deeply humble, who have a growth mindset, and who know their own weaknesses and blind spots. Individuals who appear to be less collaborative or more self interested are less strong fits. Courage. We look for candidates who have taken major risks in their life or career in order to better serve their community. This could include returning to their community after having the chance to live somewhere else, serving a marginalized population, standing up to authority figures when doing so risks retribution, or taking a pay cut in order to better serve one's community. Sustained Passion. We look for candidates with a "fire" within them to commit to the challenging and courageous work of local leadership. And as we know many local leaders suffer from burnout, we look for candidates who are actively taking steps to manage their mental health so that they are able to sustain their passion long term. Ambition for Systems Change. We look for candidates who have an ambitious vision for the future of their community or country. This could include long-term plans to scale up human infrastructure, create innovative new solutions, or influence paradigms in policy, culture, academia, or activism. Candidates with Less Opportunity. Candidates who may have had less opportunity for experiences like the fellowship due to circumstances outside their control are given a second look. Depending on the community, this could include a variety of factors such as gender, class, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc. Decisions are never made only based on a candidate's circumstances, and Mountaintop never uses quotas, but this information is used to more holistically evaluate the candidate's potential for future leadership.
  • Who would Mountaintop consider to be a successful alumnus?
    Mountaintop would consider alumni who go on to make transformational systems change, help their communities flourish, and change the hearts and minds of their people to be successful. A few modern-day examples of well-known transformational local leaders include Leymah Gbowee, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, and Bryan Stevenson. We would also consider many Nobel Peace Prize laureates and winners of the Right Livelihood Award to be ideal examples. That being said, there are many outstanding individuals who will never get the international recognition that they deserve because they work in overlooked or particularly challenging environments, or simply don't bother to spend time promoting their accomplishments — we are not looking for people most likely to get public recognition, but those who are most likely to be deserving of public recognition.
  • Does Mountaintop favor Fellows from any particular backgrounds? Or Fellows serving in particular countries?
    To strengthen mutual learning across the fellowship cohort, Mountaintop strives to have diverse representation of Fellows across continents, cultures, faiths, ethnicities, ideologies, and socioeconomic status. Mountaintop also aims for a diversity of project proposals spanning the spectrum from government, nonprofits, entrepreneurship, creative media, and movement building. As for location, Mountaintop focuses its work in vulnerable low-income communities that suffer from brain drain. However, we recognize that there are particularly vulnerable communities even in countries that are middle or upper income. We review all applications holistically based on where we think a Fellow can do the most good in the context of their community.
  • Can I be a Fellow if I struggle with English?
    Yes! While fluency in English is required by the time of the Leadership Institute, to make the fellowship as accessible as possible we support Fellows for whom English is not a familiar language. For those who struggle with English, candidates can complete the application in their native language, and conduct a Finalist interview in their native language with a Mountaintop-hired translator. We advise those those who struggle with English to copy and paste the application text and follow-up emails into Google Translate and respond to the prompts in the language for which they are most familiar. Selected Fellows who struggle with English will be given a complimentary online English course before beginning the Leadership Institute.
  • I wasn't the best academically. Should I apply?
    Mountaintop is seeking future transformational local leaders, and weighs leadership experiences and character much more heavily than academic success. Academic scholarship is just one of many indicators to demonstrate outstanding potential, and significantly less important than past leadership experiences, moral character, commitment to community or cause, and a compelling theory of change.
  • I am from X country. Can I apply for the fellowship?
    For host led fellowships, we have placements in a select number of countries. For applicant led fellowships, Mountaintop accepts applications to serve in low-income communities in any country outside of the United States, with the exception of the following places due to United States sanctions: North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Russia, and the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. By "low-income community," we mean that the community is a large number of people in the community suffer from serious material deprivation compared to a well-off person living in a rich country. This could also be a subgroup of people within a larger community, such as an informal settlement or a persecuted minority enclave living in a wealthy city. In compliance with U.S. law, Mountaintop does not work with individuals and entities on the Specially Designated Nationals ("SDN") list. For more information on these laws, click here.
  • Can I only apply to serve a community where I grew up?
    Mountaintop believes that transformational leaders can have outsized impact in the places they know best, even if they ultimately expand their work to other places over time. Further, historical leaders often forge their character, values, and worldview through committed service to a particular place. That is why we look for Fellows who have a strong personal connection to the place they will serve. Ideally, this means a community, state/province, or country where they have lived for a significant amount of time, but strong personal connections may look different for different people.
  • Can I apply if I am a refugee, asylum seeker, or internally displaced person and cannot return home?
    Yes! If serving in your home community is not possible due to forces outside of your control, you are still eligible for the fellowship. In this case, we are looking for Fellows who are able to work full time on a project that benefits their home community or country, even if they are unable to be there physically, or a project that benefits their current community if they now have strong personal roots in their new home.
  • I do not have access to or cannot afford the cost of data to submit my application materials through the portal or participate in an interview at the Finalist stage. Can Mountaintop help?
    Yes! We are committed to working with any candidate for whom Internet accessibility would be a barrier to applying. Applicants in this situation can download the application materials and email written or typed responses to info@mountaintopfellows.org. We also have a limited budget to support candidates with the cost of Internet data if the above process would be too expensive or inaccessible, as well as to cover the Internet cost for interviews over Zoom for applicants that are named Finalists. While we cannot guarantee that we can cover the cost of all applicants, please email us at info@mountaintopfellows.org if this accommodation would be necessary to apply, or if you have further questions.
  • I have a physical or mental disability. Can I request an accommodation for the application or fellowship experience?
    Yes! We aim to make the application and fellowship experience as inclusive as possible. Please email us at info@mountaintopfellows.org for assistance.
  • I have lived in many different places. Where should I apply to serve?
    Mountaintop knows that “home” can mean something different for everyone, especially for people who have lived in multiple communities. For Mountaintop, we most want to support you in serving a place where you have a strong personal connection, and a place you hope to serve long term, even if your leadership eventually expands to include a larger region.
  • Can I apply for both host led and applicant led fellowships?
    Yes! There is an option to select both fellowship types in the application. Candidates choosing this option will have additional materials to submit on the application.
  • As an applicant led Fellow, would I have to start and end my project in line with the fellowship duration?
    Fellows can absolutely start their project before the fellowship begins and end their project after the fellowship ends. Mountaintop's fellowship focuses its support on emerging leaders with transformational potential, and gives flexible support for Fellows to either grow existing projects or launch new projects based on what they think is best.
  • Does it help to apply before the deadline?
    No. All applications will be reviewed after the deadline. There is no advantage to applying early.
  • I had an emergency. Can I submit my application late?
    Mountaintop cannot make blanket changes to application deadlines, nor can we guarantee that any accommodations are possible. Such blanket changes would prevent Mountaintop from meeting its own deadlines for making selection decisions and informing all applicants of outcomes. However, unexpected and emergent events such as natural disasters, political unrest or armed conflict, and widespread internet or power outages may make it impossible for applicants from an entire region or country to meet an application deadline. Prospective candidates from affected regions or countries are encouraged to reach out to Mountaintop at info@mountaintopfellows.org. When possible, Mountaintop will work with prospective applicants on a case-by-case basis.
  • How do I know you have received my application?
    When submitting either the registration form or the full application, candidates will receive a confirmation email within 5-10 minutes. If you did not receive a confirmation email in your inbox or in your spam folder within one hour of submission, please email info@mountaintopfellows.org letting us know.
  • Can I resubmit my application?
    Yes! If you made a typo or want to send updated information, you can apply again and we will only review the application submitted later.
  • Who will be involved in the Finalist interviews?
    Finalist interviews will be led by Mountaintop staff. Finalists for host led fellowships will also include representatives from the host site. If Finalists are not comfortable with English, the interviews can be completed in the candidates' native language using a translator.
  • Does Mountaintop ask for references?
    We typically do not ask for references, but we may ask for references on a case-by-case basis at the Finalist stage.
  • Where can I find an overview of the hosting process?
    Please read this document.
  • What organizations can host a Fellow?
    Mountaintop host organizations are government agencies, NGOs, and social ventures focused on making a positive social impact in local communities.
  • What is the role of a host?
    Provide Meaningful, Challenging, and Engaging Work Mountaintop Fellows are talented, smart, hard-working, and already have strong professional skills. Fellows are ready to learn and apply their skills to benefit their community, and thrive when put in positions of leadership. Be a Mentor Fellow-Host relationships work best when Hosts view their Fellows as long-term investments in their community. We ask hosts to help Fellows build networks, understand the local landscape, and cultivate an actionable vision for a better community. Host organizations are expected to designate a mentor who will be directly responsible for overseeing and mentoring a Fellow. Scope a Project Before a Fellow begins their full-time role, Hosts develop a Fellowship Project, outlining the Fellow's position description. Fellowship Projects focus on the community challenges a Fellow will be tasked to help address, their basic responsibilities, and key outcome objectives. Fellowship Projects are designed to fit within the scope of work conducted by the host organization, the skills/interests of the Fellow, and support community empowerment in a significant way. Have a Welcoming Team Environment We ask that your organization welcome Fellows as full members of the team, not as interns. Make an Effort to Retain Fellows Mountaintop recruits and selects the best homegrown leaders. We want to work with hosts invested in finding ways to retain these leaders in their community long-term. That could mean making a full-time offer post-fellowship, or connecting them to other career-building opportunities.
  • How do I become a host? What does Mountaintop look for in hosts?
    First, read this document and review all Host FAQs on the Mountaintop website. Second, complete this Interest Form. Third, complete the host application that will be emailed to you once you have completed the Interest Form. After that, Mountaintop will review your application and be in touch within seven days regarding next steps. Note that Mountaintop anticipates having much higher demand for fellowship hosts than we will be able to accept, so Mountaintop selects hosts based on the following criteria: Commitment to sustainable community development. Mountaintop prefers hosts with a good plan in place for how impact will be sustained long term, including by empowering local community members and providing ongoing support to their Fellows. Strong track record of local impact. Mountaintop prefers hosts that have a proven impact on improving the communities which they serve. Compelling fellowship project. Mountaintop prefers projects that seem impactful, give major leadership responsibilities to Fellows, and are filling a critical gap within the community that could not otherwise be served. Financial commitment. Mountaintop requires hosts to pay a fee equal to the annual salary of other employees with a similar level of experience as required of your fellowship position. Host scholarships are unavailable at this time due to budget constraints. Responsiveness and adaptability. Hosting a Fellow requires responding to Mountaintop communications within 24-48 hours, having time for regular check-in meetings, and having a positive mindset to adapt to occasionally necessary changes regarding everything from applicant interviews to data collection.
  • How much does it cost to host a Fellow?
    The cost of hosting a Fellow is equal to: 1) a base fee of however much the host would typically pay for an employee with 3-5 years experience plus health care benefits, determined by the host; 2) starting August 28, 2023, a service charge equal to 10% of the base fee to partially offset programmatic costs. Mountaintop can offer a discount on its services by partnering with philanthropy to cover the cost of Fellow training, host professional development, recruitment and selection, and administration. To determine the Fellow salary, the host proposes an amount that is locally competitive with other entry-to-mid level staff (typically with 3-5 years of experience), with final approval from Mountaintop. Once the salary has been determined, the cost of Fellow health care is included in the final cost to hosts. Note that Mountaintop will refund host contributions on a prorated basis if the fellowship is cut short for any reason, with a full refund if the fellowship placement never starts.
  • Is the host application open?
    To check whether the host application is open, please complete the Host Interest Form. You will then receive an email that provides more information about the host application timeline.
  • Can I apply to be both a host and a Fellow?
    Yes! You should submit both applications separately.
  • Why do Fellows serve for only one year?
    Our aim is for our Fellows to become long term systems-changing leaders in their local communities. In order for this to happen, it greatly helps for them to establish full-time employment in their communities as soon as possible. From our experience, by encouraging our hosts to hire our Fellows or by helping them find other employment after the first year, we can help our Fellows get the stability that allows them to become more firmly rooted and progress in their local leadership. With all Fellows in host led fellowships, our first priority is for them to be hired by their hosts after the first year if it is a good fit on both sides.
  • Can my project change once the fellowship begins?
    Yes! We understand that needs can change quickly in the social impact field. However, we require that you check in with Mountaintop to receive approval on the project changes before informing the Fellow.
  • Is the Mountaintop stipend taxable?
    For host led fellowships, the form of payment, such as whether the Fellow is paid by Mountaintop or the host, varies based on each host site. Review each host led fellowship profile for more information. If the Fellow is paid a non-employee stipend by Mountaintop or the host, then it is up to the Fellow to determine their personal income tax liability based on the laws of their community and country. If the Fellow is paid a salary as an employee of the host, then the Fellow's tax liability will be determined by employee tax laws in the specific community and country. For applicant led fellowships, the scholarship is paid in monthly installments, and it is up to the Fellow to determine their personal income tax liability based on the laws of their community and country. More details about stipends and other benefits will be provided at the Finalist stage, as well as once Fellows are selected.
  • How are visas and work authorization handled?
    As Fellows serve in countries where they already have strong personal ties, in most cases Fellows will already have authorization to live and work in the country where they will serve. In situations where this is not the case, Mountaintop supports with the visa and work authorization process from start to finish. Mountaintop will also support with the visa process for travel to the Leadership Institute. Note that training events are all-expenses-paid (including travel, lodging, and meals), and Mountaintop can provide verification of this to visa processing authorities as necessary. Mountaintop will collaborate with selected Fellows to submit all necessary paperwork, but we cannot guarantee that visas will always be successfully approved as decisions are made independently by the US Department of State. If a Fellow's visa to attend the Leadership Institute is denied, the Fellow will have the opportunity to attend a multi-day virtual Leadership Institute instead. If you are concerned about your visa status, please contact us at info@mountaintopfellows.org before submitting your application so we can go over the details.
  • Do Fellows have employment benefits?
    Employment status will vary for host led fellowships, but in most cases Fellows will be contractors, not employees. See specific details for each host led fellowship placement. For applicant led fellowships, Fellows will not have employment benefits. For all Fellows, Mountaintop guarantees basic health care coverage, either through directly insuring Fellows, providing an additional stipend to cover premium costs, or reserving a health care emergency fund in countries without established health insurance systems. With some host led fellowships, the host provides health care coverage as opposed to Mountaintop. For host led fellowships, specific details about health care is available on each fellowship profile. For applicant led fellowships, Mountaintop will share specific coverage details at the time of selection.
  • How is the stipend paid?
    The stipend will by default be paid electronically in monthly installments, but this may vary by country or with certain host led fellowships. More information will be provided at the time of selection.
  • How is the fellowship program affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic?
    Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, our training opportunities for Fellows may adapt to a virtual environment given public health considerations at that time. That being said, Mountaintop's current plans are for all training events to take place in-person while following health precautions to ensure a safe environment for all.
  • How does Mountaintop track impact?
    Mountaintop will prioritize transparently evaluating its effectiveness by rigorously tracking the impact on: Fellows and Alumni. Mountaintop compares Fellow and alumni impact, career trajectory, and commitment to home community to the counterfactual of those who were Fellow finalists or who were selected but did not participate in the program. In addition, the organization will compare impact to other leadership and education initiatives. Hosts. Mountaintop tracks fellowship impact on increasing host capacity and completing projects that otherwise would not have been possible. Community. Mountaintop tracks the impact on the larger community's development by evaluating the effectiveness of its fellowship projects.
  • What is Mountaintop's funding model?
    Fellow hosts pay the full cost of Fellow compensation plus a small additional fee, while philanthropy, corporate CSR, or government aid agencies cover costs of training, enrichment, and operations.
  • How were Mountaintop's five values selected?
    From conversations with and study of moral leaders, world religions, academic literature, and the achievements of current-day leaders worldwide, we believe that the five values of universal compassion, unconditional love, visionary wisdom, long-term dedication, and selfless courage are critically overshadowed by selfish, zero-sum, power-hungry cynicism in our society, and have a key role to play in creating a just, loving, and peaceful world. Mountaintop is continuously receiving input from leaders across the world to inform and improve upon these values.
  • Is Mountaintop a faith-based organization? Is Mountaintop a partisan organization?
    Mountaintop takes primary inspiration from the wisdom of faith leaders and philosophers spanning several major religions, and the lives of inspiring moral leaders throughout history, including the life of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. We are not a faith-based organization, but rather see our values and philosophy as a synthesis of some of the best in moral philosophy and religion. We believe that by welcoming engagement of a rich diversity of secular and spiritual perspectives we can build a more accessible, inclusive, and universalizing movement. Mountaintop is a nonpartisan organization. Further, Mountaintop believes that the current hyper-polarization of politics worldwide is destructive on several dimensions: 1) It causes gridlock that prevents collaboration on mutually shared goals; 2) It endangers democratic norms; and 3) It fosters anger, hatred, and cynicism, perpetuating a vicious cycle.
  • How does Mountaintop identify candidates for the fellowship?
    Mountaintop shares its application with universities, entrepreneur networks, governments, NGOs, and scholarship programs around the world. Mountaintop also partners with regional nonprofits globally to identify extraordinary future leaders who might otherwise be overlooked due to language barriers, levels of educational attainment, or socioeconomic status.
  • How does Mountaintop decide who to accept donations from?
    For anyone to be in a position of influence in the organization (e.g. staff, Fellows, board, or major funders), Mountaintop will carefully vet full alignment with our five values. Mountaintop will not select, hire, or accept material funding from anyone who does not pass this review.
  • Why does Mountaintop focus on a full-time fellowship?
    Changing Life Trajectories The Mountaintop Fellowship only select Fellows where we believe we will see the biggest "delta," meaning Fellows would be much more likely to become transformational local leaders after going through our program. This is why we focus on extraordinary individuals who already have a strong track record but are at the start of their careers — their life trajectories are much more malleable. Thus, an investment at this stage could have 40+ years of exponential returns. In the application, Mountaintop favors candidates who otherwise could not or would not choose to work in their home country or work full-time on the challenges for which they are most passionate without the fellowship. An unpaid or shorter fellowship would be much less likely to sway high-potential individuals away from their current paths. New High-Impact Positions on the Most Critical Challenges The fellowship creates newly created full-time positions on the most critical challenges around the world, building critical capacity on everything from public health interventions in sub-Saharan Africa to climate resiliency in Southeast Asia. This wouldn't be possible without a full-time fellowship. A Platform for a Larger Movement Fellowships are inherently high-touch and hard to scale. That is why Mountaintop plans to cap the global fellowship at a reasonable size and use the fellowship as a springboard to initiatives that can touch more lives, such as supporting regional fellowship initiatives and launching shorter part-time fellowships for senior public service leaders and other education, media, and policy initiatives.
  • What are historical examples of leadership programs that Mountaintop admires?
    Mountaintop is partly inspired by the Highlander Folk School, which trained some of the most transformational leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Diane Nash. Beyond providing practical leadership skills, the Highlander Folk School inspired public service minded individuals to stand up for what they believed in within their home communities, to reach their full potential to impact systems, and to change hearts and minds.
  • Does Mountaintop have success stories?
    Mountaintop launched in September 2022 to adapt Lead For America, a successful fellowship model in the United States, to other countries. Mountaintop's first cohort of Fellows start their fellowship in July 2024, and their profiles are available on our website. Since 2019, Lead For America has placed almost 500 Fellows in 35+ states. Lead For America Fellows have gone on to be the youngest City Councilors in their hometowns, run for State House, receive Schwarzman Scholarships, and advance into senior city government leadership positions. One Fellow alumna returned to her tribal community in Utah and helped raise nearly $20m to distribute food, supplies, and PPE to over 500,000 people in the Navajo and Hopi Nations during the Covid-19 pandemic, and was featured in a commercial during the Academy Awards. To learn more about Lead For America, see here.
  • I see that most fellowships are in Africa. Is Mountaintop an Africa focused organization?
    Mountaintop serves leaders in low-income communities around the world. And while many of our earliest partners have been in Sub-Saharan Africa, we also have fellowships in Asia and Latin America. Mountaintop believes in the power of building a globally diverse community to share profound learnings across cultures, and thus Mountaintop will continue to strive to build programs that bring together leaders from low-income communities worldwide.
  • Does Mountaintop help people immigrate?
    No. Mountaintop helps emerging leaders who want to benefit their local communities. Fellows stay in the United States for two weeks for the Leadership Institute, but otherwise spend their fellowships in their home countries.
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