Reflections from Dubai

Pauline Nguyen is a volunteer who recently participated in an Acumen Fund presentation in Dubai, where Blair Miller presented her experiences managing the Acumen Fund Fellows Program.

I will be the first one to confess that I was pessimistic for the turnout at Blair Miller’s presentation about the Acumen Fund Fellows Program.   The feeling had nothing to do with Blair herself (who is quite fabulous in real life) but rather the type of people and lifestyle that exist in Dubai.

Professionals come to Dubai to work tax-free, live in luxury housing, enjoy fancy brunches, and travel to exotic destinations on the weekend.  In my honest and ugly opinion, Dubai is not a place with a lot of community-minded individuals.

Therefore, it felt very surreal to sit in a theatre in the Mall of the Emirates (Dubai’s excessive mall with its own indoor ski lodge) listening to Blair Miller, Talent Manager at Acumen Fund, promote the Fellows Program to an audience of 45 young professionals.

It was a tall order but even I, comfortable in my own luxury high rise, was inspired by her presentation to think deeply about applying for the Fellows Program.  The key highlight of Blair’s presentation was the focus on Acumen’s past Fellows.  The stories about the Fellows were easy to relate to as they were of the same age and stage in life as most of the audience members. I will assume (by the number of suits and Blackberry devices) that we were an audience between our late 20s and mid 30s, composed mainly of bankers, consultants, and other frustrated people working for the “man”/government. Basically, we were an audience who could use a change and some inspiration in our lives. Blair was telling us more than a story about a Fellow’s work- she was offering an opportunity to change our lives, to be that Fellow that builds more LifeSpring hospitals to bring safe birthing facilities to Indian women. Most expatriates eventually leave Dubai, but the question is:  Where to next?  Acumen’s answer:  Be a Fellow and make a tangible contribution to combating poverty in the developing world!

Another captivating part of the Acumen Fund Fellows Program was the calibre of the chosen participants.  It seemed that every Fellow had at least an expensive MBA and years of outstanding experience on their resume.   While I was a little intimidated, I still understood the message:  Acumen Fund wants the best financial and business minds (i.e. fanatic modelers welcome) to be their representatives in the field.  The Fellows Program is not asking volunteers to go to Africa and hold or adopt babies (no offense to those who do).  Rather, Fellows develop business plans, complex financial models, and contribute their business skills to make a tangible difference in a local social enterprise. Amazing stuff to think about!  Personally, I think it is much cooler and self-rewarding to be able to say “Yeah, I totally modeled five scenarios on how to alleviate India’s water scarcity problem” instead of “Yeah, I modeled five scenarios of a debt equity ratio that would yield the highest IRR.”

I would like to thank the Dubai for Acumen Volunteer Group for reaching out and inspiring us towards a more rewarding lifestyle. The Acumen Fund Fellows presentation was the second event organized by the Dubai Chapter.  I am excited for the Chapter’s next event which will be Acumen Fund’s Inaugural Fundraising Event to be held on April 7th at Cuadro Art Gallery in DIFC (for more information please email DubaiforAcumen@acumenfund.org). The event will be an opportunity to learn more about Acumen Fund and will feature a musical performance, good food and drinks.

I am eager to meet more individuals interested in Acumen Fund’s work, and hope to see you there!


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]

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 and Canada.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training. [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]