Remarkable People

EA Felllows Program, Photos by Teddy Mitchener (271)

Photo of the Week: The future of East Africa is in good hands

“The future of East Africa is in good hands”: This was my tweet following the opportunity to sit on the selection panel for the Acumen Fund East Africa Fellows Program on 21st May, 2011. Leaving the venue, my mind was awash with the hope, positivity and sheer wonder at the innovation that characterized that Saturday’s events. I often think about, and sometimes write about issues around governance, and particularly leadership. For a long time in Kenya, and to a greater extent Africa, we have taken issue with the quality of our leadership. Here, I was surrounded by the stuff that leaders are made from! A room full of mostly young (I confess to a bias for youth) people from across East Africa who were applying their minds and skills to transforming the conditions in their respective countries. These innovations were mindful of the challenges we face as a continent, and as such ranged from renewable energy to agriculture to provision of affordable health services.

In a region sometimes dominated by politics, it was most refreshing to experience leadership redefined: a group of people actively working to effect social change, and in so doing, demonstrating that leadership does not only emanate from the political sphere, but comes in a variety of shades, shapes and sizes. It is unlikely that all the finalists considered themselves leaders, but in my view, they most certainly are. Each and every one, without exception, has made a personal sacrifice to seek solutions to societal challenges. This is the kind of leadership East Africa yearns for: servant leadership acting in the interest of the public, and identifying sustainable solutions to East Africa’s problems.

Looking back, I must have made quite a sight wearing a strange grin on my face throughout the day (despite being confined indoors on a Saturday). From the elevator pitches to the group and individual interviews, I couldn’t help but smile in recognition of the events unfolding before my very eyes. Faced with these challenges, most people would think “…wouldn’t it be nice if someone could sort that out”, and barely give it another moments thought.  Not this group! They are those who not only dare to dream, but then act on those dreams as well!

Never before had I come across such an inspirational group of people in one place! The level of commitment on the faces of each of the finalists was plain to see. One thing, however, set this group of finalists apart. Each and every one of them was passionate about their work and social change project. Passion was their driving force, guiding them to seek to become Acumen Fund East Africa Fellows. I feel a distinct privilege to have played some small role in the proceedings that day, inspired and enriched by not only the innovation in content, but also the diversity of ideas and individuals. All those selected as finalists should feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment, as their selection is an achievement in and of itself! With this kind of leadership, the future of East Africa really is in good hands!

Tom Mboya is a governance and anti-corruption specialist with Ni Sisi!, a nationwide movement uniting Kenyans to form a collective identity to drive transformation in leadership and maisha. Check out his blog here.

Click here for previous Photos of the Week.

Photo by Teddy Mitchener.


Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]


Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]

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]

Give Impact Investing Time and Space to Develop

Impact investing has captured the world’s imagination. Just six years after the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term, the sector is booming. An estimated 250 funds are actively raising capital in a market that the Global Impact Investing Network estimates at $25 billion. Giving Pledge members described impact investing as the “hottest topic” at their May 2012 meeting, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the potential of the sector at the most recent G8 summit.  Sir Ronald Cohen and HBS Professor William A. Sahlman describe impact investing as the new venture capital, implying that it will, in the next 5 to 10 years, make its way into mainstream financial portfolios, unlocking billions or trillions of dollars in new capital. [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]