First offered in 1925 and envisioned as a “reverse Rhodes Scholarship,” the Harkness Fellowships are the Commonwealth Fund’s longest-running program. Nearly 100 years later, they remain a flagship of the Fund’s International Health Policy and Practice Innovations program. Today, the Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice provide a unique leadership development experience for midcareer professionals — policymakers, researchers, clinical leaders, health care executives, and journalists — from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.*
During their year in the United States, Harkness Fellows conduct internationally comparative research on a key health care delivery or policy issue with mentorship from leading U.S. experts. They gain an in-depth understanding of the U.S. health care system and policy landscape, engage in leadership development activities, and build a robust network for cross-national exchange and collaboration. Perhaps most important, the Harkness Fellowships give future leaders the space to think and reflect.
Tapping into its extensive network in the United States, Commonwealth Fund staff work closely with all selected fellows to identify potential mentors who are experts in their area of interest. Mentors supervise Fellows’ research, provide technical expertise and guidance, and facilitate access to relevant data, contacts, and organizations. Through their mentors, Fellows are affiliated with an institution — whether a university, think tank, health care organization, or government agency — that serves as their home base for the year.
Applicants must demonstrate their commitment to advancing health policy and practice in line with the Commonwealth Fund’s mission to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, and people of color. The Fund is committed to becoming an antiracist organization, and all prospective Harkness Fellowships applicants should review our Vision and Pledge to Promote Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
Harkness Fellows are expected to disseminate the results of their research. Products may include a peer-reviewed journal article or report for a high-level policy audience, as well as issue or data briefs, op-eds, blogs, or audio/video recordings. Depending on the nature of the research, we also encourage the creation of other products more relevant to frontline delivery system innovation.
Building on the fellowship experience, Harkness Senior Fellows (alumni) have moved into prominent positions within government, academia, and care delivery organizations, making valuable contributions to health policy and practice both at home and in the United States. Senior Fellows also become part of a strong international network of health policy researchers and practitioners, enjoying continued opportunities to engage with the Commonwealth Fund.
*A typical fellowship class comprises one Fellow from Australia, one from Canada, two from France, one from Germany or the Netherlands, one from New Zealand, one from Norway, one from Singapore, and three from the United Kingdom.
Throughout the year, Harkness Fellows participate in a rich program of seminars organized by the Commonwealth Fund. The following is a representative sample of Harkness seminars.
Orientation: Held at the Commonwealth Fund headquarters in New York City, the orientation seminar introduces Harkness Fellows to each other and the Fund and delves into current delivery system and health policy issues in the United States.
Communications and Public Narrative Training: Communication skills are key to effective leadership. Harkness Fellows engage in a series of interactive trainings that address a variety of topics, including crafting a public narrative, writing and placing op-eds, and speaking to policymakers.
Washington Federal Health Policy: Designed to give Fellows a firsthand understanding of how health policy is developed and implemented, this seminar is an opportunity for dialogue and exchange with key policy actors. Fellows are immersed in current issues on the health and social policy agenda through meetings in Washington, D.C., with members of Congress, experts in Medicare and Medicaid policy, leaders of political advocacy organizations, and political strategists.
California State Health Policy and Innovation: With more than 40 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state, making it a fascinating place to explore health care at the state level. Traveling around Northern California, Fellows meet with leaders in policy, advocacy, and health technology. They learn about the state’s policy development and implementation process and the private sector’s role in the innovation of health care delivery.
Biweekly Meetings and Leadership Conversations: Throughout the year Fellows participate in a series of virtual biweekly meetings designed to build community among the class and delve into hot topics in health policy and care delivery. These meetings (as well as the seminars described above) also include conversations examining the core concepts of leadership. Fellows meet influential people in U.S. health care and hear their thoughts on what is takes to be an effective leader. Speakers, who are drawn from care delivery organizations, government, industry, and academia, are asked to share insights from their professional experiences.
Final Reporting: Toward the end of the fellowship year, Fellows present their learnings to Commonwealth Fund staff and other health policy experts, in preparation for returning home and disseminating their findings more broadly.
The fellowship award provides dedicated research funding and a monthly living stipend (approx. USD8,000), plus round-trip airfare, support for relocation, health insurance coverage, and payment of U.S. federal and state withholding taxes. An additional family supplement is provided to Fellows accompanied by a partner and/or children under the age of 18. Exact terms of the award may vary by country.
Fellows are encouraged to seek salary support from their home-country employer, particularly if they are coming from a for-profit organization. In some cases, Fellows may opt to arrange paid leave from their home institution (in lieu of receiving the monthly living stipend) to maintain their current income. If partial salary support is provided by a Fellow’s home institution, it will be supplemented by the Commonwealth Fund to meet the amount of the monthly living stipend.
Learn More About the Harkness Fellowships
2024–25 Harkness Fellowship Information Sessions have now been held and the recordings will be posted here shortly. For the time being, you can view recordings from the 2023–24 information sessions, but please note some details have changed.
Recordings of the 2024–25 information sessions can be viewed using the links below:
- Session for applicants from France featuring Ines Gravey (2019-20) and Catherine Pollak (2022-23)
- Session for applicants from Canada featuring Jennifer Zelmer (2002-03) and Onil Bhattacharyya (2015-16)
- Session for applicants from Europe featuring Ruth Thorlby (2008-09) and Jan Frich (2013-14)
- Session for applicants from Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore featuring Andrew Old (2018-19) and Anne-marie Boxall (2019-20)
If you would like receive email updates about future application cycles, please join our email list.