The Global Fellows Program trains the next generation of social impact leaders

Gain world-class leadership training. Serve in the field with a social enterprise. Join a cohort of emerging leaders who will change the world.

About the Global Fellows Program

Fellows Shot (Bryan)Program Overview

Established in 2006, the Global Fellows Program is a 12-month fellowship for individuals dedicated to serving the poor and who have the business and operational expertise, and moral imagination needed to effect long-term social change. The fellowship begins with an eight-week training program in the Acumen New York office, where Fellows learn about business models for the poor, hone their leadership skills, and learn more about Acumen.

After training, each Fellow works for the CEO or senior management of an Acumen investee on a critical business issue facing the organization. Fellows have worked on projects ranging from leading operations of a new business unit at a cotton ginnery in Uganda, to expanding the clinic network of a pharmacy company in India, to developing branding strategies for a microfinance institution in Pakistan.

Since 2006, we have received more than 4,400 applications from 100 countries and trained 63 Fellows from 21 countries. After the Fellowship year, Fellows continue to create social change, with 85% of the alumni currently in leadership positions at socially progressive organizations such as, Bridge International Academies, Endeavor, Bamboo Finance, New Island Capital, We the Change Foundation, Living Goods, Ashoka, Omidyar Network, and The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.

Fellowship Year Overview

Leadership Training

September to mid-November

The Global Fellowship begins with two months of intensive training at the Acumen offices in New York.  The training curriculum is based on the three core principles of moral imagination, financial expertise, and operational expertise. Acumen partners with some of the foremost organizations to deliver this leadership curriculum.

Field Placement

Mid-November to August

For nine months, Fellows work at one of Acumen’s portfolio companies as key staff members. Fellows work directly with entrepreneurs, interact with customers, and grapple, first-hand, with the complex issues of addressing the needs of the poor.

Debrief & Beyond

September & Onwards

Fellows return to New York to share their experiences and lessons learned with the Acumen staff and community.  Fellows receive career development support to assist with their post-Fellowship career plans.  After the Fellowship, Alumni remain connected through bi-annual gatherings, newsletters, participation in future selection processes, and other opportunities.

The Application Process – Applications are Now Closed

There are four parts of the initial application:

  • Background Information
  • Your Resume/CV
  • Applicant Summary and Overview
  • Essay Questions

The Selection Process

  • December 13, 2013: Applications are now closed
  • December – January: phone interviews
  • February- March: In person interviews
  • April- May: Final candidates selected and offers made

Who Becomes a Global Fellow



Applications for the Global Fellowship are highly competitive. While our Fellows have diverse backgrounds and each brings a unique skill set to the Fellowship, we have identified some key traits:

  • Strong business experience: finance, operations, sales, marketing, and/or consulting
  • Demonstrated passion and commitment to creating positive social change
  • Proven track record of leadership and management responsibilities
  • Experience living and working in emerging markets
  • Grit, courage, and perseverance
  • A minimum of 3 years work experience

Global Fellows Training

The Global Fellows Program is a one-year full-time program that begins with two months of intensive training in New York followed by a 9-month field placement with a social enterprise in South Asia or Africa.

Global Fellows Training CropThe Curriculum

The curriculum is based on Acumen’s Leadership Model, which consists of three foundational components: financial skills, operational skills and “moral imagination.” It is at the intersection of these three core components that the Acumen Leader maximizes his or her ability to drive, sustain, and scale social innovation.

Our curriculum is highly experiential and requires the Fellows to get out of the building, roll up their sleeves and dive in during the eight week training in New York. No day is the same, but each module is designed to provide the Fellows with new tools that will enable them to hit the ground running  during their field placements and to drive social change for the long-term. These include modules on Adaptive Leadership, financial skills, Business Model Canvas/Lean Launchpad, design thinking, people management, storytelling and strategic communications.


The Trainers

Acumen partners with key thought leaders and some of the foremost organizations to deliver our leadership curriculum, including Cambridge Leadership Associates, TEDx, The OpEd Project, Virtuozo, General Electric, Ariel Group, and among many others.

Training At a Glance

Week 1:      Knowledge transfer with graduating Global Fellows
Week 2:      Adaptive Leadership and  Group Development
Week 3:      Moral Imagination and the Foundations of Leadership
Week 4:      Financial Skills
Week 5:      Operational Skills
Week 6:      Good Society Seminar
Week 7:      The Art of Influence
Week 8:      Preparing for the Field and Beyond

Global Fellows Field Placement

At the core of the Global Fellows Program is the 9-month field placement, providing each Fellow with on-the-ground experience working for a social enterprise in Acumen’s portfolio.

Where Fellows are Placed

Fellows spend nine months working for an Acumen investee company in the regions where Acumen invests. The focus of each company is as varied as Acumen’s portfolio, ranging from agriculture, to education, to energy, to health, to housing, to water.

Acumen makes placement decisions based on the expertise of the Fellows and the needs of the companies.


IMG_7494What Fellows Work On

Global Fellows report directly to senior management of the investee company and provide critical strategic and management support aimed at building and scaling the organization.

Examples of Fellows’ responsibilities include: overseeing a team of 35 to build and manage the first-ever sesame business for Gulu Agriculture Development Company; leading international market expansion for Orb Energy; developing the rebranding and marketing strategy for Pharmagen Healthcare; and developing standard operating processes for the scale up of the LifeSpring maternity hospital chain.


Beyond The Fellowship

Fellows wrap up their year with a 1-month debriefing at Acumen’s New York office. But the Fellowship does not end there.

TAI featureDebrief and Transition

Fellows conclude their year with a debrief at Acumen’s New York office to reflect on the year and plan for the future.

During this time, the Fellows reflect on their experience, receive feedback from Acumen and their investee, share key insights from the field with the Acumen team and broader community, and reconnect with each other and with leaders in the private, non-profit, and public sectors.

Fellows are also supported in their transition into new careers and welcomed into the Acumen Alumni network.

Fellows_GADCBeyond the Fellowship Year

The Global Fellows Program is not just a one year program; it is a community of emerging leaders that Acumen is investing in for the long-term.

Acumen seeks to help alumni stay connected beyond the fellowship year in a number of different ways, including formal and informal events, a quarterly Alumni Newsletter, and by creating platforms for information sharing (i.e. job/funding opportunities) across Regional and Global Fellows cohorts. Click here to check out the latest Alumni Newsletter.

Alumni are also very active  representatives of the Fellows Program, participating in the recruitment process, presenting at conferences, and speaking to diverse audiences on behalf of the Global Fellows Program. In addition, some of our Alumni are working together on creating new businesses and social impact initiatives.

Global Fellows Program Partners

The Brinson Foundation • Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women • The Harnisch Foundation • King Khalid Foundation • The Partridge Foundation • The Tokyo Foundation • The Woodcock Foundation