What is an Idea Lab?

Since 2010, the Blum Center has been proud to support “Idea Labs.”  Idea Labs are student-led groups that help students investigate complex problems through a multidisciplinary lens, share knowledge, brainstorm solutions, and identify opportunities for action. In partnership with the Blum Center, these organizations unite students from diverse disciplines to collaborate on broad issues of global significance related to poverty and inequality, the environment, digital transformation, health, national security, human rights, and more. 

Each IdeaLab is unique — reflecting the goals and passions of the students who launch, participate and lead it. Idea Labs set their own agenda, hosting regular discussions and events where students gain new perspectives, share ideas, and work together with peers they might never meet in a classroom. Members hail from a wide variety of disciplines, in fields such as economics, environmental science, literature, history, political science, social welfare, engineering, business, and international affairs. IdeaLabs are geared toward connecting student leaders who can explore interdisciplinary solutions to critical challenges.

The Blum Center provides space, seed funding, mentorship and guidance — but an IdeaLab’s theme and program, and indeed its very existence, is determined by the students themselves. 

Idea Lab Eligibility

To date, students have launched IdeaLabs that focus on a wide range of topics, including safe water, rural energy, climate change, human trafficking, biofuels, and point-of-care diagnostics.
While broad in scope and diverse in character, these student-led organizations have the following attributes:
  • Register as an ASUC student organization
  • Represent a broad issue of global significance 
  • Advance an interdisciplinary exploration of their IdeaLab theme, via creative programming, events, and student activities 
  • Foster interdisciplinary student collaboration: 
    • Minimum of 5 student members, from at least 3 different majors 
    • Efforts to connect graduate and undergraduate students through programming and events 
  • Managed by an IdeaLab Lead & Co-Lead
    • These individuals serve as the main point of contact with the Blum Center to complete the application, coordinate use of Blum Center resources, track expenses (if allocated funding), and submit annual reports. 
  • Secure a Faculty Advisor (Preferred) 
    • For a competitive application, IdeaLabs are encouraged to seek sponsorship from a Faculty Advisor with expertise related to IdeaLab theme. Your advisor is responsible for meeting with the IdeaLab Leads at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters to review programming. Once you find a professor who has agreed to be an advisor, he/she must review your application and sign the Faculty Advisor agreement.   If you need help identifying a Faculty Advisor, please let us know.
  • Must submit an annual report for Blum Center review. Renewed funding and IdeaLab status is not guaranteed, and is contingent upon a groups’ past activities and successes. 

Support for Blum IdeaLabs

The Blum Center supports IdeaLabs with:  
  • Seed funding. Upon successful completion of an application with a workplan and budget, student groups are eligible to receive funding to support a specific event or program (up to $300/semester) 
  • Space in Blum Hall (subject to availability) to hold meetings and events 
  • Promotion of Idea Lab events and activities via Blum Center, Global Poverty & Practice, Development Engineering, and Big Ideas Contest newsletters 
  • Mentorship from the Blum Center to support processes, program development, and campus-community collaboration.
  • Access to the entire Blum Center network, including student ecosystem, faculty, and campus partners


Students can submit IdeaLab applications on a rolling basis.  Applications are reviewed by a committee of Blum staff and faculty. Apply here

Supplemental Application Materials: 

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Host and Fellow Responsibilities

Host Organizations

  • Identify staff supervisor to manage I&E Climate Action Fellow
  • Submit fellowship description and tasks
  • Engage in the matching process
  • Mentor and advise students
  • Communicate with Berkeley program director and give feedback on the program.

Berkeley Program Director​

  • Communicate with host organizations, students, and other university departments to ensure smooth program operations

Student Fellows

  • Complete application and cohort activities
  • Communicate with staff and host organizations
  • Successfully complete assignments from host organization during summer practicum
  • Summarize and report summer experience activities post-fellowship