Overview of the Fellowship

The Commonwealth Fund invites promising mid-career professionals — academic researchers, clinicians, managers, government policymakers, and journalists — from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom, to apply for a unique opportunity to spend up to 12 months in the United States as a Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. Fellows work with leading U.S. experts to study a critical issue on the health policy agenda in both the U.S. and their home country. A rich program of seminars organized by the Fund throughout the year further enhances the fellowship experience (described in the Fellowship Seminars section.)

Fellows can expect to gain an in-depth understanding of the U.S. health care system and policy challenges, enhance their methodological skills, and develop valuable contacts and opportunities for ongoing cross-national exchange and collaboration.

In addition to the opportunity to conduct a research study in the U.S., the Harkness Fellowships provide space to think and reflect without the pressures of day-to-day job responsibilities.

Building on their fellowship experiences, Harkness Fellows have moved into prominent positions within academia, government, and health care delivery organizations, making valuable contributions to health policy and practice at home and in the United States. Harkness Fellows also become part of a strong international network of health policy researchers and practitioners, developing important contacts for ongoing international exchange and collaboration.

Each fellowship provides up to U.S. $130,000 in support (which covers roundtrip airfare to the United States, a living allowance, funds for project-related travel, research, conferences, travel to attend The Commonwealth Fund program of fellowship seminars, health insurance, and U.S. federal and state taxes) for 10 to 12 months. Please note that fellows from New Zealand are required to stay for 10 months. Fellows from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom are required to stay a minimum stay of ten months, and can choose to stay for up to 12 months.

Individually tailored, the fellowships allow flexibility to accommodate professional commitments and personal circumstances. Products of the fellowship may include a peer-reviewed journal article or policy report for Health Ministers and other high-level policy audiences, as well as Issue Briefs, Op-Eds, and Blogs. Other products, more relevant to frontline delivery system innovation, are also encouraged.

Applicants must demonstrate a strong interest in health policy issues and submit a formal application that includes a research proposal which falls within the scope of The Commonwealth Fund's goals to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable. 

Up to 11 Fellows are selected annually, typically one from Australia, one from Canada, two from France, one from Germany, one from the Netherlands, one from New Zealand, one from Norway, and three from the United Kingdom.

Once selected, the Commonwealth Fund will assist Fellows in developing and shaping their research proposals. The Fund will introduce Fellows to U.S. policy experts, with whom they will be encouraged to discuss their projects to gain further feedback. Through its extensive network of contacts, the Fund will help identify and place Fellows with mentors who are experts in the policy areas to be studied. In the United States, the Fund will place each Fellow with a mentor who is based at a university, think tank, health care organization, or government agency. Mentors supervise Fellows' research, provide technical expertise and guidance, and facilitate access to data, colleagues, and organizations.

Harkness Fellows arrive in the United States in August or September to start the fellowship year. During their tenure in the U.S., Fellows identify and collect data, conduct site visits or interviews, and meet with experts, as they undertake a substantive research study addressing critical issues of policy and practice related to the U.S. and their home country. Fellows present project findings at a final reporting seminar held in June of the fellowship year.

Informational Webinars

Commonwealth Fund senior staff and Harkness Fellowship representatives and alumni discuss the Fellowship experience and U.S. health reform and answer questions from prospective applicants. 

Harkness Fellowship Webinars Recordings:

Archived Webinars:

Fellowship Seminars

The fellowship experience is substantially enriched by program seminars and other activities organized by the Fund during the year.

  • Orientation for New Fellows. Held at The Commonwealth Fund in New York City, the four-day orientation features an in-depth seminar on the U.S. health care system and current health policy issues, as well as site visits to exemplar health care provider organizations.
  • Qualitative Research Methodology Workshop. A half-day workshop on effectively conducting qualitative research, which covers topics such as designing a qualitative study, developing a qualitative instrument, addressing bias and sampling issues, and verifying conclusions.
  • International Symposium on Health Care Policy. The Commonwealth Fund's Annual International Symposium, held in Washington, D.C., brings together Health Ministers and leading health policy-thinkers from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The meeting is a unique, invitation-only policy forum that fosters high level cross-national exchange and showcases international innovations.
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Meeting. Fellows spend a day in Boston at the world-renowned IHI, hearing firsthand from IHI staff about pioneering work in health care quality and safety, and networking with IHI quality fellows.
  • Washington Policy Briefing. A four-day briefing held on Capitol Hill with key stakeholders — including members of Congress and senior government officials, think tank researchers, political strategists for the Republican and Democratic parties, lobbyists, and prominent journalists — to highlight the U.S. political process and current issues on the health and social policy agenda.
  • Innovations in Health Care — California Site Visits. Fellows have the opportunity to visit California to understand health care at the state level through meetings at the California Health Insurance Exchange and with the California Secretary of Health, as well as a visit to Kaiser Permanente, a leading integrated delivery system. Fellows also travel to Silicon Valley to meet health care entrepreneurs and hear first-hand from "big data" powerhouses including Google.
  • Leadership Seminar Series. Fellows participate in a series of dynamic roundtable exchanges that examine the core concepts of leadership. The seminars provide an opportunity to learn from the real-world experience of invited guest speakers who are U.S. health care leaders drawn from government, politics, health care organizations, and academia.
  • Final Reporting Seminar. Fellows present project findings to the Fund and leading health policy experts.
  • AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting. Fellows attend the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, an event that brings together more than 2,000 academic health services researchers, policymakers, and industry decision-makers for discussion of policy issues and new research findings. Fellows are encouraged to submit abstracts of their project findings for inclusion in the AcademyHealth program.

Fellowship Award

Each Harkness Fellowship awards up to U.S. $130,000, which covers:

  • Roundtrip airfare to the United States;
  • A fixed monthly stipend for U.S. living expenses;
  • Set up and shipping allowances;
  • Support toward the portion of the project conducted in the home country, if appropriate;
  • Funds for project-related travel, case studies, conferences and research expenses;
  • Travel funds to attend seminars including: Harkness Fellows Orientation, Commonwealth Fund International Symposium on Health Care Policy; Washington Health Policy Briefing; Final Reporting Seminar; and AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting;
  • Institutional allowance for U.S. mentor/placement;
  • Health insurance coverage while in the United States;
  • U.S. and state taxes.

A supplemental allowance of approximately $60,000 — including roundtrip airfare, living allowance, and health insurance — is also provided to Fellows accompanied by a spouse and/or children up to age 18. Please note that for New Zealand, families may participate at their own expense. For New Zealand families that accompany the Harkness Fellow to the United States for the full duration of the fellowship (10 months), U.S. health insurance will be provided. For New Zealand families not joining the Fellow in the U.S. for the full term, a $15,000 USD travel supplement will be provided.

Salary support from the applicant’s home country employer is encouraged, particularly for those from for-profit organizations. In some cases, Fellows may opt to arrange paid leave from their home institution in lieu of the fellowship monthly stipend to maintain their current income. Where partial home institution salary support is provided during the fellowship, a monthly supplement is available.