DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AN ACUMEN FELLOW? BE PART OF A NEW GENERATION THAT'S REDEFINING LEADERSHIP.
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.
Now in its 11th year, the Global Fellows Program is a 12-month fellowship for individuals dedicated to changing the way the world tackles poverty. We are looking for potential social sector leaders who embody service above self. Leaders who take a systems change approach to the world’s biggest problems and have the moral imagination to effect long term change. Leaders who are strong collaborators, are self-aware and adaptive. Leaders who are dedicated to addressing the problems of poverty and bring a blend of leadership capabilities and strong business skills to the table. Acumen Fellows are a different kind of leader. And one day, they’re going to change the world.
The fellowship begins with eight weeks of training in the Acumen New York office, where Fellows build their understanding of the problems of poverty, the current tensions in the sector as we explore solutions and understand the role we have to play. The 2 months are also an exploration and reflection on Self, Other, and System, requiring deep introspection, and a willingness to change our own values, beliefs, and behaviors, before we can effect change in the world.
After training, each Fellow is placed with a company within Acumen’s ecosystem where they work on a key business challenge. In the past Fellows have worked on projects ranging from leading operations of a new business unit at a cotton ginnery in Uganda, to leading operations at a coffee processing company in Rwanda, to building partnerships for a vocational skills training company in India.
Since 2006, we have received more than 5,000 applications from 110 countries and trained 97 Fellows from over 25 countries. After the Fellowship year, Fellows continue to create social change, with 85% of the Fellows currently in leadership positions at socially progressive organizations such as IDEO.org, Endeavor, Bamboo Finance, New Island Capital, Omidyar Network, MercyCorp, Gates Foundation, Andela and Silatech.
Fellowship Year Overview
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, operational expertise, and financial experience. Acumen partners with some of the foremost organizations to deliver this leadership curriculum.
Mid-November to August
For nine months, Fellows work at companies within Acumen’s ecosystem as key staff members. Fellows work directly with entrepreneurs, provide strategic input on pressing business challenges, 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 insights with the Acumen staff and community. The Fellowship culminates in an evening Fellows Celebration in mid-September to recognize and reflect on the work. After September, Fellows join a growing interconnected community. Fellows stay in touch through newsletters, a group listserv that shares updates and upcoming opportunities – whether job postings, fellowship or funding opportunities – and through regular happy hours, meet ups and gatherings in their local community. Fellows also participate and play an active role in future selection of Acumen Global Fellows.
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
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:
- Demonstrated passion and commitment to creating positive social change
- Proven track record of collaborative leadership and management responsibilities
- Experience living and working in emerging markets
- Grit, courage, and perseverance
- A minimum of 4 years work experience
- Strong business 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 nine month field placement with a social enterprise in South Asia, Africa or South America.
The curriculum is based on Acumen’s Leadership Model, which consists of three foundational components: moral imagination, operational skills, and financial skills. 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.
Acumen partners with key thought leaders and some of the foremost organizations to deliver our leadership curriculum, including Cambridge Leadership Associates, Design Gym, the Ariel Group, and Andromeda Solutions among many others.
Training At a Glance
Week 1: Knowledge transfer with graduating Global Fellows
Week 2: Group Development and Storytelling
Week 3: Moral Imagination and the Foundations of Leadership
Week 4: Adaptive Leadership
Week 5: Operational Skills
Week 6: Good Society Seminar
Week 7: Financial Skills
Week 8: Preparing for the Field and Beyond
Global Fellows Field Placement
At the core of the Global Fellows Program is the nine month field placement, providing each Fellow with on-the-ground experience working for a social enterprise in Acumen’s ecosystem.
Fellows spend nine months working for a social business in Acumen’s ecosystem 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 experience of the Fellows and the needs of the companies.
Global Fellows report directly to senior management of the 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 3 week debrief at Acumen’s New York office and an evening Fellows Celebration event marking the culmination of the year.
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 company, 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 become a part of Acumen’s wider family and community and remain connected to our work.
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 Fellows 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.
Fellows 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 Fellows are working together on creating new businesses and social impact initiatives.
Global Fellows in the News
Do you have what it takes to change the way the world tackles poverty?
Celebrating the success of d.light
Announcing Acumen’s 2016 Global Fellows
Meet the Global Fellows
Meet the next generation of social sector leaders.
“While working as a productivity engineer at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Bailey was inspired to create efficiency through different means. “How can burnt-out...” [READ MORE]
While working as a productivity engineer at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Bailey was inspired to create efficiency through different means. “How can burnt-out and unhealthy employees be productive in an unsupportive working environment?” At age 24, this question paved the way for Bailey to leave behind a lucrative career and pursue her vision. Today, she is the founder of Proactive Movement, a company enhancing employee and organizational wellness.
Bailey’s success comes from her desire to challenge status quo, her vision when taking risks, and creativity when working with limited resources. Her industrial engineering skills honed during her years at GlaxoSmithKline and CIBC have also been critical to her ability to make positive impact.
Bailey was born in Iran and immigrated to Canada when she was13, a move that enhanced her sense of purpose, gratitude, and drive to live a life of exploration and impact.
Bailey will spend her Fellowship with healthcare investee Asian Health Alliance in Hubli, India.
“When James was a young boy and had been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, he heard about a government scholarship to attend school. Believing in the power of education, James was determined...” [READ MORE]
When James was a young boy and had been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, he heard about a government scholarship to attend school. Believing in the power of education, James was determined to seize this opportunity – no matter what it took. He sold a goat to buy a pair of shoes and made the trek from his village to Kampala to make an unannounced visit to the Ugandan President. Eventually, the First Lady agreed to meet with him and ultimately James received the scholarship he sought.
James’ persistence and audacity set him on a transformative course to becoming an international development practitioner and working on behalf of his own family and community to find solutions to poverty. After studying financial and managerial accounting and development economics in the U.S., James helped design Uganda’s largest youth scholarship program with BRAC and the MasterCard Foundation. He advanced youth development programs in the country, most recently managing Educate’s youth-based social entrepreneurship program in Uganda, serving more than 250 schools.
James will spend his Fellowship with education investee Labournet in Bangalore, India.
““Meet people where they are,” a former employer and friend often said. To John, that means finding a better future with people rather than for people. It is his desire...” [READ MORE]
“Meet people where they are,” a former employer and friend often said. To John, that means finding a better future with people rather than for people. It is his desire to fix the broken systems that perpetuate poverty that brought him to the Acumen Global Fellows program.
For 10 years John has explored the root causes and emerging solutions for poverty across the U.S., U.K., Peru, and Belize. Seeking opportunities to be part of a collective future, he worked on President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, consulted in New Orleans on a green jobs program for the Lower Ninth Ward with green economy pioneer, Majora Carter, and more recently set up his own Foundation in Peru that manufactures and distributes low-cost water filters and clean cook stoves in remote Andean communities.
John is a Starting Bloc Institute for Innovation Fellow, and comes to Acumen having recently completed his Masters in Social Entrepreneurship from the Goldsmiths College, University of London.
John will spend his Fellowship with Ziqitza Healthcare Limited in Mumbai, India.
“Sitting on the lawn of Central Park in 2008, Wale knew that the time for change had come. Wale dreamed of a different future for West Africa and, despite large student loans,...” [READ MORE]
Sitting on the lawn of Central Park in 2008, Wale knew that the time for change had come. Wale dreamed of a different future for West Africa and, despite large student loans, made the decision to leave his career in banking and apply his newly-minted MBA to development in his home country of Nigeria. In his words, “As Nigeria moves towards becoming a top economy, sacrifices must be made and mine just started.” Five years later, in 2013, Wale returned back to that same Central Park lawn, this time standing in front of 75,000 people to receive the Global Citizen Award from Professor Mohammad Yunus for Abuja Enterprise Agency’s work providing entrepreneurship and IT training to youth across Africa.
Now, Wale brings to Acumen 13 years of experience in social enterprise development, banking, public policy, as well as community and youth development. He has worked as Project Manager of Business Leadership at LEAP Africa, Principal Manager of Abuja Enterprise Agency, Senior Banking Officer at GT Bank, and he holds a Masters of Business Administration from Hult Business School.
Wale will spend his Fellowship with energy investee d.light design in Lagos, Nigeria.
“Raised in Pakistan, Saad has a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges in Pakistani society. It was this exposure that drove Saad to apply his skills and education...” [READ MORE]
Raised in Pakistan, Saad has a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges in Pakistani society. It was this exposure that drove Saad to apply his skills and education to create social impact and is what brought him to the Acumen Global Fellows Program.
Saad has a strong track record of leadership. He was the first President from the undergraduate program of the Students’ Council at the reputed Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). During his time at K-Electric (formerly Karachi Electric Supply Company) he developed strong technical and operational skills and was part of the team that transformed the utility that supplies electricity to more than 20 million individuals. Saad has also leveraged his passion for storytelling to help produce documentaries for the largest television network in Pakistan.
He holds a Bachelors of Science [MC1] (Hons) in Economics from LUMS and brings experience in project planning, research, analysis, and management in addition to strong leadership skills to the Acumen Global Fellows program.
Saad will spend his Fellowship with energy investee Husk Power Systems in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
“Originally from a small town in rural Georgia, Tammy spent the last 12 years volunteering and working across three continents – in Guatemala, Kenya and Cambodia. Her natural...” [READ MORE]
Originally from a small town in rural Georgia, Tammy spent the last 12 years volunteering and working across three continents – in Guatemala, Kenya and Cambodia. Her natural curiosity, coupled with her deep sense of empathy, propelled her to travel to and work with under-resourced communities in different parts of the world, listening and learning from each experience abroad.
Tammy has over 15 years of consulting experience in the corporate sector, including her most recent role as Project Management Consultant for Target Corporation. She has worked on portfolio and risk management in many different industries including healthcare, education, retail and banking for CedarCrestone and Capgemini.
Tammy holds a Bachelors of Business Administration [MC1] from the University of Georgia and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.
Tammy will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee Mekelle Farms in Tigray, Ethiopia.
“Passionate about harnessing humanity’s capacity for innovation in tackling today’s most pressing social challenges, Henry brings a unique set of business building skills...” [READ MORE]
Passionate about harnessing humanity’s capacity for innovation in tackling today’s most pressing social challenges, Henry brings a unique set of business building skills to the Global Fellows Program. He launched two tech enterprises before the age of 20, and, as a Chartered Accountant, served as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte’s Strategy and Operations practice in Vancouver, Canada. Over the past five years, Henry has applied his business skills to address critical development challenges in energy, consumer business, and the public sector. Most recently, Henry completed a half-year sabbatical in India with Dasra, where he provided critical support to emerging social entrepreneurs.
Henry will spend his Fellowship with housing investee AMC in Lahore, Pakistan.
“Joanne is used to being an outsider and navigating new cultures. Over the course of 15 years, she went from a Mandarin-speaking preschool in Singapore, to an international...” [READ MORE]
Joanne is used to being an outsider and navigating new cultures. Over the course of 15 years, she went from a Mandarin-speaking preschool in Singapore, to an international school in Switzerland, a rural high school in New Mexico, and then college in New England. These diverse experiences fostered her strong sense of identity as well as her ability to build relationships with new communities across lines of difference. Joanne brings this and her experience in entrepreneurship, product management, marketing, and communications to the Global Fellows Program.
A force in the tech sector, Joanne spent the last three years at Google working to build and bring products to market for small businesses. Whether it’s founding a healthcare startup, organizing a women’s hackathon, or helping an accelerator manage deal flow, Joanne is always pushing herself and others to create greater impact by leveraging technology to do more with less. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Economics and Latin American Studies from Dartmouth College.
Joanne will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee Esoko in Nairobi, Kenya.
““Growing up in Quito, my older sister always said I would be President of Ecuador one day. My sister was biased, but what she saw was my passion for helping others. By the...” [READ MORE]
“Growing up in Quito, my older sister always said I would be President of Ecuador one day. My sister was biased, but what she saw was my passion for helping others. By the time my family and I moved to the U.S., my bags were packed with dreams and I was starving for opportunities to explore my impact in the world.” Nicolas moved from Quito to New York City when he was 15 years old and the experience of being surrounded by those who were disadvantaged never left him, nor did his desire to shape his community.
Upon completing university, Nicolas was selected as one of 154 members worldwide to advise the Ecuadorian Department of Immigration on the needs of immigrant families abroad, through the Ecuadorian International Center. A dynamic self-starter, Nicolas spent five years working in risk management at Morgan Stanley and later launched his own software company. Nicolas comes to Acumen from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.
Nicolas will spend his Fellowship with sanitation investee Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya.
“When Ramya met a young war widow from an impoverished region in Sri Lanka, the woman represented an alternate version of herself. Born to Sri Lankan parents who immigrated...” [READ MORE]
When Ramya met a young war widow from an impoverished region in Sri Lanka, the woman represented an alternate version of herself. Born to Sri Lankan parents who immigrated to Australia before the civil unrest in the 1980s, Ramya was humbled by how different the young woman’s life was from her own, having not grown up there. After that meeting, she promised to return to Sri Lanka to understand and address the consequences of conflict on disempowered communities.
Ramya stayed true to her promise. After working as a financial management consultant, Ramya joined Palmera, a non-profit that empowers vulnerable communities in Cambodia and war-torn regions of Northern Sri Lanka. She also started a social business, It Starts with a Stitch, which donates 100 percent of its profits to war widows in Sri Lanka.
Ramya holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce and Science from the University of Sydney, and brings strong management skills and a deep commitment to social impact to the Acumen Global Fellows Program.
Ramya will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee KZ Noir in Kigali, Rwanda.
“As a community organizer, entrepreneur, and a former Acumen Summer Associate in Pakistan, Stephanie brings a diverse set of management and policy experiences to the Acumen...” [READ MORE]
As a community organizer, entrepreneur, and a former Acumen Summer Associate in Pakistan, Stephanie brings a diverse set of management and policy experiences to the Acumen Global Fellows program.
Stephanie’s work has been guided by two principles: a belief in social progress and the fundamental need to change politics to increase public welfare. She managed field operations in seven states for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007-2008 and served as Director for Yemen Policy at the White House during the Arab Spring. She has worked to expand low-income energy access through consultancies in India and co-founded a solar energy startup in the U.S.
Hailing from Hawaii, she holds Bachelor’s in History & International Studies from Yale University and a Master’s in Public Affairs, with a concentration in international development, from Princeton University.
Stephanie will spend her Fellowship with energy investee d.light design in Gurgaon, India.
“Yuliya arrived in the U.S. from her native Belarus in her early twenties with an aspiration to continue her education, $200 in her pocket, and a scant English vocabulary....” [READ MORE]
Yuliya arrived in the U.S. from her native Belarus in her early twenties with an aspiration to continue her education, $200 in her pocket, and a scant English vocabulary. What she lacked in means did not stand in the way of her grit, resilience, and audacity. In nine months, Yuliya taught herself English, and was accepted into an American business school to study finance. That accomplishment is one in a long list of academic successes; earlier in her academic career, Yuliya achieved the top score on a national math exam, and later earned a perfect average at Belarus’ top university.
Yuliya brings to the fellowship a decade of business experience in the areas of portfolio management, market research, risk assessment, and investment strategy evaluation. She worked at Summit Rock Advisors and Managers Investment Group and is both a Chartered Financial Analyst and a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst.
Yuliya will spend her Fellowship with agriculture investee Juhudi Kilimo in Nairobi, Kenya.