Small Change, Better World

Calling all creative minds and changemakers!


This grant program provides up to $3000 of funding so students can gain experience designing and implementing projects that matter.  Unleash your creative power or problem-solving skills, and help build a more just, equitable, and sustainable future.

Projects can be carried out anywhere in the world. They must be completed within one year. Both graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to apply.

A group of six young students in Dar Dalam, Kedougou, Senegal, showcase new school supplies made possible through a Small Change Better World grant. Two hold signs saying "Merci"
 Young students in Dar Dalam, Kedougou, Senegal, sitting at desks using new school supplies made possible through a Small Change Better World grant.
The Story of SCBW

Millennials and post-millennials want to be involved in service and philanthropy, but there aren’t many mechanisms designed to support young people—even though they have an abundance of skills, energy and passion.

Students who have completed our online course on Global Poverty and Inequality, an immersive field study experience, or our Global Scholars Program are often inspired and enthusiastic about taking further action, but lack the capital to tackle concrete, outcome-focused projects. As a result, the Blum Center has decided to introduce a new model for harnessing student passion and capacity to achieving measurable gains along clear trajectories.

The SCBW model was conceived a decade ago by three humanitarian workers—Michael Beevers, Richard Matthew and Renard Sexton—working in Sierra Leone. After visiting many villages impacted by a decade of civil war, they realized that most existing programming cannot undertake very small projects, even when these are important to the community and require some external support. From replacing lost musical instruments to finding the parts to a piece of heavy equipment donated from abroad, opportunities exist for small changes to create a better world.

SCBW seed grants give students an opportunity to meet tangible needs in their own communities or in places they have visited and worked in. We hope that the experience gained through these projects will inspire students to continue to take actions to address 21st century challenges in ways that are effective, fair, and appropriate.

Read about some of the inaugural recipients on our Medium, or view a map of projects.

Funding Tracks


Small Change, Better World applications are accepted in four distinct tracks. Read about each opportunity below to find the best fit for your idea.

Track 1: Amplify Change: The Power of Music

Our new Power of Music track empowers students to employ music to tackle the pressing social, environmental, and health issues of our time. We are looking for music-based projects that:

  • Raise awareness about critical social, environmental, or health issues
  • Spark conversations and ignite critical thinking 
  • Take action towards positive change 

Example projects:

  • Compose and perform an original piece addressing racial injustice.
  • Develop or outfit a community music program that uses music education to break down social barriers.
  • Create a multimedia project that combines music with documentary elements to highlight environmental issues.
  • Compose and orchestrate a piece that explores the themes of mental health and well-being.


Track 2: Creative Expression for Change

Are you an artist  (visual arts, performing arts,  literature, film, multimedia, etc.)? This track encourages you to leverage your artistic voice to:

  • Raise awareness about important social, environmental, or health issues
  • Spark public dialogue and critical thinking.
  • Take action towards positive change.

Example projects

  • Design a public art installation raising awareness about mental health stigma.
  • Create a short film exploring the challenges faced by refugees.
  • Develop a workshop teaching your peers about disability rights and inclusion.

Track 3: Youth-Led Social Solutions

Do you have innovative ideas for tackling social challenges? This track empowers you to develop practical solutions and engage your community. We’re looking for projects that:

  • Promote social justice, equity, and inclusion.
  • Address issues such as poverty, homelessness, or educational disparities.
  • Empower communities to create a more just and sustainable society.

Example Projects

  • Organize a campus drive to collect resources for a local homeless shelter.
  • Design a community mentorship program connecting youth with career professionals.
  • Develop a mobile app that empowers users to register voters and promote civic engagement.
  • Lead a workshop educating local residents about their rights and advocacy strategies.

Track 4: Youth-Led Climate Solutions

Do you have innovative ideas for tackling climate change? This track empowers you to develop practical solutions and engage your community. We’re looking for projects that:

  • Promote renewable energy sources and sustainable practices.
  • Build community resilience to the impacts of climate change.
  • Encourage behavior change that contributes to a healthier planet.

Example Projects

  • Develop a youth-led social media campaign promoting sustainable living practices.
  • Organize a campus campaign promoting energy conservation.
  • Design a community garden project that fosters sustainable food production.
  • Develop a mobile app that empowers users to track their carbon footprint and make sustainable choices.
  • Lead a workshop educating local residents about climate-friendly landscaping practices.


We offer grants up to $3000 to support project development, production, and community engagement.

  • Applications should be for a finite or one-time, limited scope projects that address a specific need. Think one-time input with a lasting legacy!
  • Funded projects should be achievable within a relatively short period of time.
  • Applications are open to currently enrolled UC Irvine undergraduate and graduate students. Applicants who receive funding must be in good academic standing and remain students through the duration of their project.

How to Apply

Proposals are accepted in two application windows per year.
  1. April 15th – May 30th, 2024
  2. September 1st – November 15th
Full details can be found in the application form. Components of the proposal include:
    • A description of your proposed project and what social or environmental challenge this project addresses. Include how your project aligns with the track you are applying under and your motivation for doing so.
    • An explanation of the expected impact and legacy of your one-time/short-term project. 
    • A description of any partners you will be working with to implement the project and how they are involved. Partnerships should be pre-existing and any approvals from the partner organization must be in-hand before applying. 
    • Budget narrative – How much you are applying for and how the funds will be spent. Include the rationale for each expense. [Template coming soon]
    • Do you have any other funding sources for this project (e.g. GoFundMe)? Explain, briefly, how these funds will be used and whether there is any overlap with potential Small Change/Better World funding. 
    • A timeline for the project with major milestones. Will the proposed project be completed within 10-15 weeks of receiving the award?
    • A short personal bio.
    • Evidence of good academic standing (GPA, unofficial transcript) 

    Selection Criteria

    • Track selection: Be sure to choose the track that best aligns with your project.
    • Clarity and strength of your proposal in addressing a social issue.
    • Highlight the power of art or youth engagement in addressing social issues or climate change.
    • Creativity and innovative spirit of your project (i.e. for Track 1 and 2) and/or the practicality and impact of your solution (i.e. for Tracks 3 and 4).
    • Potential for community engagement and impact on campus or your local community.
    • Feasibility and clarity of your budget.

      See the legacy of past Small Change, Better World projects around the world.

      “Today I handed over activity books for 76 students of Roman Catholic Tamil School Rajagiriya from Grade 1 to 5 based on the principals request. This will enable them to do more activities in the classroom with the teachers and share knowledge with other students. Thank you SCBW for your support in making it possible.”

      Danushi De Silva, The Literacy Project

      “With funds received from SCBW, we were able to replace and refresh medical equipment and supplies needed to ensure we take accurate vitals and help monitor the conditions which our patients face at our monthly free clinic in the El Niño community of Tijuana, Mexico.”

      Dean K. Wong, Flying Samaritans at El Niño Clinic



      What types of projects can receive funding?

      Small Change, Better World provides funding to a variety of project types. See examples of previously funded projects on the SCBW Map.

      For the newly relaunched program, projects that emphasize the role of music , arts, and/or youth engagement in addressing social and environmental issues are eligible.



      What is the expected project and funding timeline?

      Students are expected to complete their project within one quarter of receiving funding, and must remain a UCI student through the duration the quarter in which they implement their project.

      For example, a student who applies for the May 30 deadline can expect to hear results by early June. Students being offered funding will receive an offer letter; if the offer is accepted, the disbursement of funds is initiated by mid-June. The recipient will then be expected to complete their project over the Summer quarter, and submit a post-project survey by November 25.


      How much should I ask for?

      We’re looking to fund projects that cost under $3,000. You will need to provide an itemized cost estimate to justify the total amount requested.


      What types of costs should I itemize?

      Your itemized budget will be unique to the goals of your project. Budget should include reasonable estimated costs for any necessary materials, supplies, equipment, taxes, transportation, shipping, delivery, etc.


      What is the purpose of the student survey included in the application?

      The Blum Center is committed to providing effective programs that make a difference for UCI students and the communities we serve. To help us assess the program, all applicants are required to complete a survey as part of the application process.

      The purpose of the survey is to allow Blum Center staff to assess the effectiveness of the program as a whole. We do not use the survey to evaluate individuals, and your survey responses have absolutely no impact on how we review your application. In fact, we won’t even look at your survey responses until after grants have been awarded.


      I’m not sure if my project is a good fit. What else is available?

      There are many resources at UCI and beyond for funding and support. Depending on the type of project you have in mind, you may want to consider:


      I’ve implemented this project, and there’s still a need. What’s next?

      You may be able to utilize Zotfunder, a UCI fundraising platform. Contact the Blum Center staff at to discuss whether Zotfunder is the right fit for your project.