Breakthrough Generation is an initiative in the Breakthrough Institute’s research program, founded in 2008 to foster the development of a new generation of thinkers and writers capable of finding pragmatic new solutions to today’s greatest challenges in the areas of energy, economy, and environment.
Every summer from June to August, Generation offers a small number of paid ($600 per week), highly competitive, ten-week fellowships to recent college graduates and postgraduates from around the world. Additional travel and housing assistance stipends are available upon acceptance based on an as-needed basis.
The first two weeks of the summer are dedicated to Breakthrough Bootcamp, an intellectual crash course involving intensive reading, writing, and an expert lecture series designed to provide a grounding in the broad-spectrum thinking that informs Breakthrough's policy agenda. Topics covered include modernization theory, social psychology, aspirational politics and philosophy, economics and innovation policy, and technology policy.
For the remainder of the fellowship, fellows work in small teams divided between three program areas: Energy, Cities, or Food & Farming. Supervised by policy staff, fellows produce policy white papers, reports, and memos. Previous projects have been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time Magazine, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Law and Policy Journal, among others, as well as in Congressional testimony.
In addition to research and analysis, fellows attend the Breakthrough Dialogue — an opportunity to interact with the leading thinkers, writers, and scholars in the study of society and the environment, as well as attend talks, debates, and working groups within Breakthrough’s different program areas.
How To Apply
Who can apply?
Final-year undergraduates, college graduates, and postgraduates are eligible to apply for the fellowship. Fellowships are open to applicants from any country.
How do I apply?
When applications are open, you can apply through our online application form. You will need to provide your basic information, a cover letter, resume or CV, references, and three writing samples (see details about these below). All uploaded documents must be in PDF format. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
When is the application deadline?
The application for our 2021 fellowship is now closed.
When will I hear back?
We review applications as they come in, but we do not make final decisions about acceptances until after the final deadline. You will hear back from us within two to four weeks after the application deadline. There are two rounds of phone interviews before final decisions are made.
When and where does Breakthrough Generation take place?
Breakthrough normally hosts the Generation Fellowship in our offices in Oakland. However, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for the safety of fellows, we hosted the 2020 fellowship remotely. As of December 2020, all Breakthrough employees are working remotely, and we are in the process of securing a new office space in the Bay Area. Our hope is to host the Breakthrough Generation Fellowship in person again in 2021, but we will adjust our plans according to the latest public health guidelines.
Please indicate at the top of your cover letter which of the three research areas you wish to be considered for: Energy, Cities, or Food & Farming. An excellent cover letter will display a thorough understanding of Breakthrough's work and ideas and will discuss at least one of our publications, An Ecomodernist Manifesto, or Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus's book, Break Through. Please limit your cover letter to one page maximum.
Please limit your resume or CV to two pages maximum.
Three Writing Samples
1) A 500-1000 word argumentative essay or op-ed (does not have to be published) on a subject of your choice that demonstrates an ability to make a focused argument in a clear, convincing, and accessible way. This writing sample is evaluated for evidence of critical thinking and general writing skills. For examples of opinion pieces written by Breakthrough staff, see here, here, and here.
2) A research paper, preferably between 15-20 pages. This does not need to have been published but should demonstrate an ability to research and analyze a subject in more depth. It is recommended, but not required, that the topic of the research paper be relevant to the program area you are applying to.
3) An additional writing sample of your choosing — this can be an opinion piece, a research paper, a policy memo, or any other piece of writing that complements the first two samples.
Please submit a minimum of three professional references with contact information.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are welcome but not required. Recommendations will only be accepted if the author of the letter, not the applicant, sends the letter directly to Breakthrough. Letters should be attached to your application or sent separately to fellowships [at] thebreakthrough [dot] org with the subject “[Last Name] Generation Application References”
Any other questions or concerns?
Please email fellowships [at] thebreakthrough.org.
Breakthrough Institute is an equal opportunity employer.