Fellows

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Fellows Departure

I’m writing this post on the 16-hr plane ride from New York to Mumbai (via Qatar), thinking about the hectic but exciting past ten days.

Near the end of our time in New York we learned how to shoot and edit videos. Initially, I thought that this video training – with a tough coach teaching us the surprisingly strict conventions for video shooting and editing – was going to be the most difficult part of the week.

But that was before we started the Acumen Fund investment case competition. We split up into two teams, each with five Fellows, and began carefully examining our (simulated but based on real-life) assigned venture’s financial data and business plan. Looking for a success story we could present — and loopholes the Investment Committee may pick up on — we did not leave anything to chance. Market study, risk analysis, social impact, and financial sustainability were just a few of the factors we looked at to convince the Committee to put their money in our investment. A tough, high-stress experience, but definitely one I won’t forget anytime soon.

The minute we closed our cases, while the verdict was still out on our respective investment proposals, we rushed to the Rubin Museum to rehearse our performance for the Investor Gathering the next day. Acumen Fund’s annual IG was the perfect way to end what has been a challenging but extremely rewarding two months in New York. Meeting all of our supporters in person at the IG has shown me just how close knit the community around us really is, and how, as one of our directors puts it, the community is an expression of the power of shared ideas and of uncompromising commitment. I am proud to be part of this organization.

Back here in my uncomfortable plane seat, already falling victim to jetlag-induced insomnia, I take a step back and attempt to give the Fellowship a broader view. While thinking about the future, I can’t help but look at the recent past, with 19 out of the 24 previous Fellows now working in 10 countries as professionals in the social sector. And as I reflect on how I got here, I think about the snowball effect this program has witnessed over the past few months, recently culminating with 568 individuals from 65 countries vying for the ten positions on the 2011 Fellows team.

But looking at the present moment, my thoughts are invariably drawn to my own cohort, all incredibly diverse individuals spanning national, economic, ethnic, religious, social, and political boundaries. As we make our way over to our investee placements, I wonder what they are all thinking on their own plane rides, and what expectations and apprehensions might be racing through their minds when their aircrafts finally touch the ground. For the time being, I am leaving you with a map showing where each of this year’s 10 Fellows will be spending the year.

Stay tuned.

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