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.


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, Canada and Malaysia.  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]

Why We All Need A ‘Rikki’

Caren Wakoli is an emerging leader in East Africa who has launched a foundation to support the next generation of female leaders for Africa. Caren applied twice for the fellowship and was not accepted, but she did not give up. Her resilience and grit allowed her to persevere, and this year we are proud to have her as an East Africa Fellow. Below she shares her story on why everyone needs a ‘Rikki,’ and failure is never final.  [Read More]

Acumen Joins Beyond the Grid as Founding Partner

Acumen is proud to be a founding partner of Beyond the Grid, an innovative framework under President Obama’s Power Africa initiative to increase energy access for underserved populations across sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond the Grid will leverage partnerships with investors and practitioners committing to invest over $1 billion into off-grid and small scale solutions for this underserved market. [Read More]

Life after Lean

In May 2013, Sabrina Natasha Premji & Afzal Habib participated in +Acumen’s inaugural Lean for Social Change course based on Lean Start-Up principles. Enrollment for the next session of the Lean for Social Change course is open now. If you are working on a social issue in your community, are interested in pursuing your own social venture, or are just interested in creating an impact in this world…Register today! Sabrina & Afzal joined the course with a simple idea and the passion to transform the childcare crisis in East Africa’s informal settlements. Seven weeks later, they had developed a customer-tested business model ready to pilot in Kenya’s densest slums. Read their story below. [Read More]