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


Program Overview

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,  Endeavor, Bamboo Finance, New Island Capital, Omidyar Network, MercyCorp, Gates Foundation, Andela and Silatech.

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, operational expertise, and financial experience. 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 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.

Global Fellows Training CropThe Curriculum

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.

The Trainers

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.

Where Fellows are Placed

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.

IMG_7494What Fellows Work On

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.

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 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.

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 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.

Meet the Global Fellows

Meet the next generation of social sector leaders.

  • Close Drawer Ajay Sharma

    Ajay Sharma

    “Dignity is the right of all individuals to be treated with equality and respect regardless of their background, color, social status, sexual orientation, gender, income or any other social determinants.” [READ MORE]

    Ajay is an engagement manager at Deloitte, where he advises global healthcare clients on how to improve their operational efficiency and minimize their business and regulatory risks. He has over eight years of experience with a specialty in health care, including a role as a development consultant in India, where he implemented primary healthcare delivery programs in rural areas and designed a sales and distribution strategy to improve revenue for a community pharmacy. Ajay also co-founded Ignited Brainz, an education startup focused on holistic development. A PMP certified professional, Ajay holds a master’s degree in Health Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Medicine, and has lectured on the subjects as part of an MBA program at an Indian government university. Ajay will spend his fellowship with Mekelle Farms in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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    Javed Cheema

    “"Dignity is having the self-reliance to dream and live the seemingly impossible."” [READ MORE]

    Javed started his career at General Electric and today has more than 15 years experience working in a variety of industries, from health care to insurance. A process-oriented Six Sigma black belt, the majority of his career has been spent focused on operations and process reengineering but he also has a deep knowledge of marketing and finance. He currently works as a Program Manager at Nationwide Insurance. He received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and his MBA from Ohio State University, which involved a three-week consultancy in Ethiopia to work on a roadmap to eliminate rabies from the region. Javed will spend his fellowship with an energy investee in Karachi, Pakistan.

  • Close Drawer Laura Ruiz Diaz4 copy

    Laura Ruiz Diaz

    “Dignity is being able to make your own informed choices and having access to opportunities.” [READ MORE]

    Laura recently completed her master’s thesis on leadership in social innovation in Sweden after studying in the United Kingdom and Italy and plans to pursue a career in social impact. She has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and three master’s degrees as part of a Master in Strategic Project Management program. Laura also has more than seven years of work experience planning, implementing and evaluating projects for both public and private institutions. One of her biggest roles focused on revenue optimization for the airline industry while working for Avianca, an airline member of Star Alliance and leader in Colombia. Laura will spend her fellowship with Amal Academy founded by former Acumen Global Fellow Benje Williams in Lahore, Pakistan.

  • Close Drawer Lujain Headshot

    Lujain Al Ubaid

    “My radical idea of hope is investing our lessons from the past and the facts of our present to build a future for every human being.” [READ MORE]

    Lujain is the co-founder and CEO of Tasamy for Social Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit developing an ecosystem for social entrepreneurs in the region. She has been honored by HRH King Salman for her volunteer work during her tenure at AlGhad forum, an esteemed national youth development organization where she was a founding member of the strategic planning team. Born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia she attended the Business Administration College, concentrating in Finance, at AlYamamah University. She has also participated in The Executive Leadership Program at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Columbia Business School’s Executive Education Program for Nonprofit Organizations.

    Lujain will spend her fellowship with Ignis Careers in Hyderabad, India.

  • Close Drawer Navin Muruga

    Navin Muruga

    “Dignity is knowing you have the freedom and opportunity to live your life as you wish and on your own terms without having to depend on anyone else for the right to equal opportunity.” [READ MORE]

    Navin has worked as a consultant for the last six years, most recently at Michael Page International, a global recruiting firm where he helped to launch two strategic business units, both of which turned a profit in the first year. During that time, he left to volunteer in war-torn Sri Lanka and rural Kenya, an experience that led him to found MAD, a social business that helps small nonprofits reduce the risk and cost of fundraising through the use of crowdfunding. MAD currently partners with nonprofits across Kenya, Sri Lanka and Cambodia to fund critical water and sanitation projects and impact more than 10,000 people living in poverty. Navin holds a bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Technology, Sydney, and has spoken twice at TEDx.

    Navin spend his fellowship with Sahayog Dairy in Bhopal, India.

  • Close Drawer Ame-6 copy

    Ame Igharo

    “I am in service of building stronger, more inclusive communities that help us effectively address today's big, systemic challenges, like poverty and climate change.” [READ MORE]

    Ame has more than 10 years of experience as a business strategist and consumer marketing specialist. Born in Nigeria and raised in Kenya, the United States and France, she has employed her international experience to help companies like L’Oreal and Elizabeth Arden build their global marketing strategies and grow their brands. More recently, Ame has combined her professional skills with her personal passions to help organizations function more effectively and increase their impact while addressing climate change and poverty. She is an Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow and an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellow. Ame holds a bachelor’s degree in Art from Williams College and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Sustainability Management from Columbia University. Ame will spend her fellowship with BURN in Nairobi, Kenya.

  • Close Drawer Javier Olaguibel

    Javier Olaguibel

    “I am in service of creating a world where markets and capital work for us and where social entrepreneurs and traditional companies compete to deliver a bigger social impact.” [READ MORE]

    Javier began his career on the Audit & Consulting team at PricewaterhouseCoopers. His passion for social change led him to leave PwC to immerse himself in Cambodia’s social sector and learn Khmer to coordinate two education programs for more than 1,500 children. Upon returning to his homeland of Spain, he harnessed his experience in the social and private sectors to become an entrepreneur. His recent ventures include a tech startup and a men’s clothing line. Javier also works for Ashoka Spain as Fellowship and Alliances Manager and launched the organization’s GlobalizerX program to help Ashoka fellows scale their impact. Javier will spend his fellowship with KMRI in Kampala, Uganda.

  • Close Drawer Lorenn Ruster_more formal photo

    Lorenn Ruster

    “I’m in service of ensuring that I make a real contribution with all of the experience, education and skills that I have, towards a better world where future global citizens will flourish!” [READ MORE]

    Lorenn is a strategy consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers where she co-created PwC’s Indigenous Consulting, a shared value business that is majority Indigenous owned and staffed, focused on powering positive change in Indigenous communities. Lorenn participated in Pollinate Energy’s young professionals program focused on alleviating energy poverty in India’s urban slums. In 2014, she attended Singularity University at NASA Ames, Silicon Valley to use exponential technology to positively impact one billion people within a decade. Following this, she co-founded Bibak, a social enterprise transforming post-conflict societies into thriving communities through technology for landmine detection. Lorenn holds a Bachelor of Science and Arts, majoring in Chemistry, Psychology and French and a tri-national Master of International Management in Social Innovation undertaken at the University of Sydney, HEC Paris and Copenhagen Business School.

    Lorenn will spend her fellowship with SolarNow in Kampala, Uganda.

  • Close Drawer Mina Shahid copy

    Mina Shahid

    “I am in service of those people in the world whose potential is systemically constrained simply because of geography.” [READ MORE]

    Mina spent the past seven years working in Zambia, Uganda and Ghana to improve opportunities for smallholder farmers and African agribusinesses. His bottom line that service is love in action has guided him to live a life of service to those whose potential is systemically constrained. As co-founder and Director of Business Development for Kulemela Investments, he has invested in agribusinesses within the rice, poultry, maize and vegetable sectors as well as analyzed business models and designed cash-flow lending products. Prior to Kulemela, Mina was a market development strategist in Ghana and Uganda for Engineers Without Borders Canada. Mina not only identified leverage points for social and financial impact in agriculture value chains and designed new business models, he also lived and farmed alongside smallholder farmers to intimately understand their realities and empower them through market-based interventions. He holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto. Mina will spend his fellowship with Siembra Viva in Medellin, Colombia.

  • Close Drawer Tafadzwa Chiganga

    Tafadzwa Chiganga

    “My radical idea is to ensure the success of small to medium enterprises for they are an excellent tool to fight unemployment and poverty.” [READ MORE]

    Tafadzwa works for Cosmos Capital Limited, a Zimbabwe corporate finance outfit where she develops business initiatives centered on growth, refinancing and turnaround. Her expertise in risk analysis in finance and business is built upon her past roles at Zimnat Life Assurance and Old Mutual Life Assurance. She volunteers with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and the Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe. She also provides counseling on emotional, marital and financial matters to Woman on a Mission, a small interpersonal group she founded in Zimbabwe. Tafadzwa holds a MBA in Banking and Finance from the Bologna Business School in Italy and a Bachelor of Commerce Actuarial Science from Zimbabwe’s National University of Science and Technology.

    Tafadzwa will spend her fellowship with Frontier Markets in Jaipur, India.