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Announcing the Class of 2015 Acumen Global Fellows

Acumen Global Fellows are architects for the impact sector. They are innovators, game changers, visionaries, with various professional experiences looking to make substantial change in the world. They have thrived in companies such as Google; they have started their own companies in Sri Lanka, Canada and Malaysia.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training.

Over the past 9 years, thousands of individuals from around the world have applied for the Acumen Global Fellows Program in the hopes developing the moral imagination needed to push boundaries and create long-term social change.

This year, 13 people were selected from 1,200 applications in over 105 countries to immerse themselves in the 12-month fellowship. This class represents 10 countries, from Belarus to Nigeria and Australia. We have more entrepreneurs than ever before – seven of our Fellows have founded or helped co-found a company during their career. Their professional experiences range from risk management and international development to politics, and finance.

Please join us in welcoming the incredible Global Fellows Class of 2015! ​

Wale 5

Olawale (Wale) Ajiboye

Sitting on the lawn of Central Park in 2008, Wale knew that the time for change had come. Wale dreamed of a different future for West Africa and, despite large student loans, made the decision to leave his career in banking and apply his newly-minted MBA to development in his home country of Nigeria. In his words, “As Nigeria moves towards becoming a top economy, sacrifices must be made and mine just started.” Five years later, in 2013, Wale returned back to that same Central Park lawn, this time standing in front of 75,000 people to receive the Global Citizen Award from Professor Mohammad Yunus for Abuja Enterprise Agency’s work providing entrepreneurship and IT training to youth across Africa.

Now, Wale brings to Acumen 13 years of experience in social enterprise development, banking, public policy, community and youth development.  He has worked as Project Manager of Business Leadership at LEAP Africa, Principal Manager of at Abuja Enterprise Agency, Senior Banking Officer at GT Bank, and he holds an MBA from Hult Business School.

Wale will spend his Fellowship with energy investee d.light design in Lagos, Nigeria.


Nicolas Guillen

“Growing up in Quito, my older sister always said I would be President of Ecuador one day. My sister was biased, but what she saw was my passion for helping others. By the time my family and I moved to the US, my bags were packed with dreams and I was starving for opportunities to explore my impact in the world.” Nicolas moved from Quito to New York City when he was 15 years old and his experience being surrounded by those who were disadvantaged never left him, nor did his desire to shape his community.

Upon completing school, Nicolas was selected as one of 154 members worldwide to advise the Ecuadorian Department of Immigration on the needs of immigrant families abroad, through the Ecuadorian International Center. A dynamic self-starter with corporate banking experience as well, he spent five years working in risk management at Morgan Stanley and later, Nicolas launched his own software company. Nicolas comes to Acumen from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.

Nicolas will spend his Fellowship with sanitation investee Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya.

henry chim

Henry Chim

Passionate about harnessing humanity’s capacity for innovation in tackling today’s most pressing social challenges, Henry brings a unique set of business building skills to the Global Fellows Program. He launched two tech enterprises by the age of 20, is a Chartered Accountant, and served as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte’s Strategy and Operations practice in Vancouver, Canada. Over the past five years, he has applied his business skills to address critical development challenges in energy, consumer business, and the public sector. Most recently, Henry completed a half-year sabbatical in India with Dasra,where he provided critical support to emerging social entrepreneurs.

Henry will spend his Fellowship with housing investee AMC in Lahore, Pakistan.


Bailey (Bahareh) Vaez

While working as a productivity engineer at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Bailey was inspired to create efficiency through different means. “How can burnt-out and unhealthy employees be productive in an unsupportive working environment?” At age 24, this question paved the way for Bailey to leave behind a lucrative career and pursue her vision. Today, she is the founder of Proactive Movement, a company enhancing employee and organizational wellness.

Bailey’s success comes from her desire to challenge status quo, her vision when taking risks, and creativity when working with limited resources. Her industrial engineering skills honed during her years at GlaxoSmithKline and CIBC have also been critical to her ability to make positive impact.

Bailey was born in Iran and immigrated to Canada when she was 13. This move at such a young age enhanced her sense of purpose, gratitude, and drive to live a life of exploration and impact.

Bailey will spend her Fellowship with healthcare investee Asian Health Alliance in Hubli, India.

yuliaYuliya Tarasava

Yuliya arrived in the US from her native Belarus in her early 20s with an aspiration to continue her education, $200 in her pocket, and a scant English vocabulary. What she lacked in means did not stand in the way of her grit, resilience and audacity. In nine months, she taught herself English and gained acceptance into an American business school to study finance. That accomplishment is one in a long list of academic successes; Yuliya earned a perfect average at Belarus’ top university after finishing secondary school with the best score on a national math exam.

Yuliya brings to the fellowship a decade of business experience in the areas of portfolio management, market research, risk assessment, and investment strategy evaluation. She worked at Summit Rock Advisors and Managers Investment Group and is both a Chartered Financial Analyst and a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst charterholder.

Yuliya will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee Juhudi Kilimo in Nairobi, Kenya.

ramyaRamya Waran

When Ramya met with a young war widow from an impoverished region in Sri Lanka, this woman represented an alternate version of herself. Born to Sri Lankan parents who immigrated to Australia before the civil unrest in the 1980s, Ramya was humbled by how different the young woman’s life was from her own having not grown up there. After that meeting, she promised to return to Sri Lanka to understand and address the consequences of conflict on disempowered communities.

Ramya stayed true to her promise. After working as a financial management consultant, Ramya joined Palmera, a non-profit empowering vulnerable communities in Cambodia and war-torn regions of Northern Sri Lanka. She also started asocial business, It Starts with a Stitch, which donates 100% of its profits to war widows in Sri Lanka.

Ramya holds a Bachelors of Commerce and Science from the University of Sydney and brings strong management skills and a deep commitment to social impact to the Acumen Global Fellows Program.

Ramya will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee KZ Noir in Kigali, Rwanda.

TammyTammy Warren

Originally from a small town in rural Georgia, Tammy spent the last twelve years volunteering and working across three continents – in Guatemala, Kenya and Cambodia. Her natural curiosity, coupled with her deep sense of empathy, propelled her to travel to and work with under-resourced communities in different parts of the world, listening and learning from each experience abroad.

Tammy has over 15 years of consulting experience in the corporate sector, including her most recent role as Project Management Consultant for Target Corporation. She has worked on portfolio and risk management in many different industries including healthcare, education, retail and banking for CedarCrestone and Capgemini.

Tammy holds a BBA from the University of Georgia and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

Tammy will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee Mekelle Farms in Tigray, Ethiopia.


Saad Latif

Raised in Pakistan, Saad has a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges in Pakistani society. It was this exposure that drove Saad to apply his skills and education to create social impact and is what brought him to the Acumen Global Fellows Program.

Saad has a strong track record of leadership. He was the first President from the undergraduate program of the Students’ Council at the reputed Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). During his time at K-Electric (formerly Karachi Electric Supply Company) he developed strong technical and operational skills and was part of the team that transformed the utility that supplies electricity to over 20 million individuals. Saad is also passionate about storytelling and helped produce documentaries for the largest television network in Pakistan.

He holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and brings experience in project planning, research, analysis, and management in addition to strong leadership skills to the Acumen Global Fellows Program.

Saad will spend his Fellowship with energy investee Husk Power Systems in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

keeranKeeran Sivarajah

Keeran is committed to addressing the root causes of poverty through education and healthcare interventions. In 2010, he left a promising career in management consulting at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to co-found and lead Teach for Malaysia, an organization now serving thousands of children in the country.

Keeran is a seasoned entrepreneur and understands the challenges of starting, growing, and scaling a social organization. He comes to the Global Fellows Program having recently completed a graduate degree in international education and public policy at Harvard University, where he was a Wendy & Philip Kistler Scholar.

Keeran will spend his Fellowship with healthcare investee Ziqitza Healthcare Limited in Mumbai, India.

JoanneJoanne Schneider

Joanne is used to being an outsider and navigating new cultures. Over the course of fifteen years, she went from a Mandarin-speaking preschool in Singapore, to an international school in Switzerland, a rural high school in New Mexico, and college in New England. These diverse experiences fostered her strong sense of identity as well as her ability to build relationships with new communities across lines of difference.  Joanne brings this and her experience in entrepreneurship, product management, marketing, and communications to the Global Fellows Program.

A force in the tech sector, Joanne spent the last three years at Google working to build and bring products to market for small businesses. Whether it’s founding a healthcare startup, organizing a women’s hackathon, or helping an accelerator manage deal flow, Joanne is always pushing herself and others to create greater impact by leveraging technology to do more with less. She holds a BA in Environmental Economics and Latin American Studies from Dartmouth College.

Joanne will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee Esoko in Nairobi, Kenya.

John MundyJohn Mundy

“Meet people where they are,” a former employer and friend often said. To John, that means finding a better future with people rather than for people. It is his desire to fix the broken systems that perpetuate poverty that brought him to the Acumen Global Fellows Program.

For ten years John has explored the root causes and emerging solutions for poverty across the US, UK, Peru, and Belize. Seeking opportunities to be part of a collective future, he worked on President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and is a Starting Bloc Institute for Innovation Fellow. John has also worked with many non-profit organizations. He set up his own Foundation in Peru that manufactures and distributes low-cost water filter and clean cook stoves in remote Andean communities and has consulted the Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans on a new green jobs program for the Lower Ninth Ward with green economy pioneer, Majora Carter.

John comes to Acumen having recently completed his Masters in Social Entrepreneurship from the Goldsmiths College, University of London.

John will spend his Fellowship with agriculture investee GADCO in Sogakope, Ghana.

jamesJames Kassaga Arinaitwe

When James was a young boy and had been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, he heard about a government scholarship to attend school. Believing in the power of education, James was determined to seize this opportunity – no matter what it took. He sold a goat to buy a pair of shoes and made the trek from his village to Kampala to make an unannounced visit to the Ugandan President. Eventually, the First Lady agreed to meet with him and ultimately James received the scholarship he sought.

James’ persistence and audacity set him on a transformative course to becoming an international development practitioner and working on behalf of his own family and community to find solutions to poverty. After studying financial and managerial accounting and development economics in the US, James helped design Uganda’s largest youth scholarship program with BRAC and the MasterCard Foundation. He advanced youth development programs in the country, most recently managing Educate’s youth-based social entrepreneurship program in Uganda, serving over 250 schools.

James will spend his Fellowship with education investee Labournet in Bangalore, India.

stephanieStephanie Speirs

As a community organizer, entrepreneur, and a former Acumen Summer Associate in Pakistan, Stephanie brings a diverse set of management and policy experiences to the Acumen Global Fellows Program.

Stephanie’s work has been guided by two principles: a belief in social progress and the fundamental need to change politics to increase public welfare. She managed field operations in seven states for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007-2008 and served as Director for Yemen Policy at the White House during the Arab Spring. She has worked to expand low-income energy access through consultancies in India and co-founded a solar energy startup in the US.

Hailing from Hawaii, she holds bachelor’s degrees in History & International Studies from Yale University and a Master in Public Affairs, with a concentration in International Development, from Princeton University.

Stephanie will spend her Fellowship with energy investee d.light design in Gurgaon, India.


Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]

10 Books We’re Reading This Summer

What are you reading? It is a common question here at Acumen, an organization full of avid readers constantly trading favorite book titles that discuss leadership, impact, development and branding. Here are 10 stellar books we’re reading this summer. These books and others provide a framework of thinking, a spark of new ideas, a platform for debate. So, what are you reading? [Read More]

How Acumen Brought Back my Fire

Eda is an East Africa Regional Fellow from Nairobi, Kenya and is the Founder and Director of Halisi Trust, an organization that seeks to challenge the vices that plague society and encourage transformational development in Kenya’s youth. When Eda applied for the East Africa Fellows Program, she felt disillusioned and stuck. Below, Eda discusses how Acumen’s Regional Fellowship Program brought back her fire. Now, Eda has engaged nearly 6,000 people through outreach events and the Mkenya Halisi movement continues to grow. Acumen is currently accepting applications for the next class of East Africa Fellows. APPLY TODAY! [Read More]

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]

No, not silence again!

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below!  [Read More]

Welcoming Ajit Mahadevan as Acumen India Country Director

We are pleased to announce that Ajit Mahadevan will be joining Acumen as India Country Director. Ajit joins Acumen from Ernst & Young, where he has served as Advisory Partner & Leader (Life Sciences) for the past six years.  At EY, he was a strategic advisor to the leadership of some of the leading Indian and global life science and healthcare players with the focus being business transformation and growth.  Prior to his time at E&Y, Ajit was President of Piramal Healthcare, one of the leading pharmaceuticals companies in India, where he built the international business from inception in 2002 to $300M by the end of 2008. Ajit held multiple leadership roles across strategy, M&A and business leadership. During his tenure at Accenture’s Strategic Services practice in UK and India, he led the development of one of the firm’s largest and most successful internal projects – the Offshore Development Centre in 2001, which has now grown to about 100,000 people across multiple cities in India. Ajit has worked in an advisory capacity to Acumen in the past, most recently participating in Regional Fellows selection panels in Mumbai. [Read More]