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

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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 IDEO.org,  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

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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.

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    Clément de Alcala

    “Dignity is the foundation of positive impact. As a global community, brought together by shared hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses, achievements and mistakes, dignity is fundamental to creating stronger relationships and solving the world’s biggest challenges.” [READ MORE]

    Clément leads expansion into new markets for Altamira, a leading provider of innovative solutions for intelligence and defense communities worldwide. A skilled business development professional with extensive experience in B2B sales, he has spent the past decade enabling growth opportunities focused on long-term profitability in multiple emerging countries. Clément holds a B.A. in marketing and an MBA in public negotiation.

    Clément will spend his fellowship with Devergy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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    Dalia Zileviciute

    “I am in service of creating strong societies and foster inclusive social change and economic development.” [READ MORE]

    Dalia recently completed her MPA at Columbia University and London School of Economics, where she specialized in economic development. Recently, she worked with the International Labour Organization in Jordan, with Innovations for Poverty Action in Peru, and at Columbia Impact Investing Initiative. Additionally, Dalia holds a masters degree from London Business School and spent four years as a management consultant at KPMG in London.

    Dalia will spend her fellowship with Siembra Viva in Medellin, Colombia.

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    Felipe Spath

    “I am in service of creating a new rural order where young people can thrive, a place where they want to stay, rather than flee due to poverty or despair, to build a better future.” [READ MORE]

    A passionate and energetic doer, Felipe is the founder of three social enterprises. The first, SOLE Colombia, has worked with more than 100,000 students in rural Colombia to improve learning aptitudes by emphasizing self-organized online learning. The second, Th1nk, works with organizations to conduct design thinking and visual thinking workshops. The third, La Juanita Finca Verde, aims to create a vibrant Colombian countryside by encouraging sustainable farming practices and creating dialogue through travelling cinemas and TEDx events. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Felipe was International Operations Officer for Archie’s, a restaurant chain with operations in Colombia, Ecuador and United States. Felipe holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.

    Felipe will spend his fellowship with BioLite in Nairobi, Kenya.

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    Menghan Fu

    “My radical idea of creating hope is to draw upon our collective successes and failures to expand choices and opportunities for the disadvantaged.” [READ MORE]

    Menghan began her career with Conservation International in China before transitioning to the private sector, working as a strategy consultant for KPMG, a global audit, tax and advisory services company. Today, she is an operations manager for McMaster-Carr Supply Company where she oversees the company’s Northeast Accounts Receivable and Credit team of 20 people. Menghan holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and a B.A. in Biology and a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

    Menghan will spend her fellowship with Nizam Energy in Karachi, Pakistan.

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    Pradeepa Jeeva

    “My radical idea of creating hope is to work with—and for—poor, silenced communities and not to be the savior but to serve. Each problem a community faces is unique to its environment and history. Each problem has answers and solutions that come from the people we aim to serve.” [READ MORE]

    Pradeepa is passionate about using media and technology to empower disenfranchised communities. She is currently the Head of Development at Machinima, an online entertainment network for gamers. She also founded Jeeva Productions to bring her digital expertise to nonprofits and works as E-Curriculum Media Director for SERVE Institute, where she has built more than 200 online courses in partnership with Tamil teachers to improve education in Sri Lanka. She also headed production for The YOMYOMF Network and launched major digital campaigns for thetruth.com and bedsider.org. Pradeepa has a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Minnesota.

    Pradeepa will spend her fellowship with Under the Mango Tree in Mumbai, India.

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    Thinley Choden

    “A world run by moral leaders is a conscious system where all people reach their potential by living life based on values and self-reflection.” [READ MORE]

    In 2005, Thinley left her post at the World Food Programme to found READ Bhutan, an organization focused on improving literacy, and served as its Country Director until 2014. Simultaneously Thinley started another organization, Bhutan Tours and Travels, a boutique travel company focusing on showcasing Bhutan’s unique culture through a series of spiritual tours. Thinley has been a Stanford University Draper Hills Fellow and a feminist activist fellow at the Ewha Global Empowerment Program in Korea. She holds an MPA from the University of Hawaii and a B.A. in Economics from Beloit College in Wisconsin.

    Thinley will spend her fellowship with Greenway Grameen in Bangalore, India.

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    Colin Felsman

    “A world run by moral leaders is one with the courage to imagine a just society, the conviction to pursue that shared vision, and the patience to continue moving towards an elusive ideal.” [READ MORE]

    Raised in both Zimbabwe and North Carolina, Colin began his career with the International Organization for Migration in Zimbabwe. Since then, he has worked as a Luce Scholar with Non-Profit Incubator in China, a strategy consultant with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a senior program associate with Results for Development (R4D), where he focused on increasing access to quality education for the poor. Colin holds a B.A. in Political Science and Anthropology from Columbia University and an M.P.A. in Public Affairs from Princeton University.

    Colin will spend his fellowship with Aarusha Homes in Pune, India.

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    Duda Cardoso

    “My radical idea of creating hope is bridging the gap between the public and private sector to provide everyone with opportunity and dignity.” [READ MORE]

    Duda has a background in business and law and is passionate about creating social change at the intersection of these fields. She began her career as a consultant at Deloitte, where she focused on governance for global multinationals, and she recently completed her JD-MBA at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law and Kellogg School of Management where she was named a Youn Impact Scholar. Originally from Brazil, Duda holds a B.B.A. from Notre Dame in business and psychology.

    Duda will spend her fellowship with Cacao de Colombia in Popayan, Colombia.

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    Jini Sebakunzi

    “Dignity is having the choice to be understood and treated with empathy.” [READ MORE]

    Jini has more than 10 years of experience in business development and project management in both the public and private sectors. He is currently the East Africa Program Manager for Regions of Climate Action (R20), where his team recently won a two-year grant to start a solar bakery in rural Burundi. Before R20, Jini spent six years as a marketing consultant for Caterpillar Inc., where he was responsible for driving profitability for more than 30 African countries. Jini has a B.A. in Economics with Applied Quantitative Methods from the University of Sussex in England and an M.A. in Intercultural Communication from the University of Lugano in Switzerland. 

    Jini will spend his fellowship with Green Energy Biofuels in Lagos, Nigeria.

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    Nqobizitha Ndlovu

    “A world run by moral leaders has equal opportunities for growth for all, the freedom to imagine future of limitless innovation and is a world abounding in compassion, empathy and love.” [READ MORE]

    Nqo is currently the Senior Project Manager for Resource Africa, where he has teamed up with entrepreneurs in conservation, hospitality and agriculture to create a rural development project that has already impacted more than 400 households. Previously, Nqo worked in multiple organizations focused on environmental conservation across sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa’s People and Parks Program, the Jobs Fund of the National Treasury, USAID’s Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program, WWF South Africa, and McKinsey & Company. Nqo has a M.A. in Management from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

    Nqo will spend his fellowship with Solar Now in Kampala, Uganda.

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    Suparna Kalghatgi

    “My radical idea of creating hope is living in a society where governments, social entrepreneurs and traditional companies work together and use capital to drive impact, innovation and sustainability.” [READ MORE]

    Trained as an industrial engineer, Suparna started her career in 2012 with Siemens Industry in Sacramento, CA where she worked to optimize processes in their bogie manufacturing unit. In 2014, she moved back to India and took on a role at FreshMenu, a startup in the food delivery space, where she expanded the business from one to 17 outlets and led a team of more than 300 people. A certified project management professional, Suparna has a M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering in Pune, India.

    Suparna will spend her fellowship with Sahayog Dairy in Bhopal, India.

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    Tsungai Carlene Gonzo

    “A world run by moral leaders is a place where the most essential needs of communities and nations drive action.” [READ MORE]

    Born, raised and educated in Zimbabwe, Tsungai Gonzo recently completed her MBA at Wits Business School at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Prior to her MBA, she was a project manager at BRIDGE, an education nonprofit, where she focused on teacher development and creating collaborations to support learning in challenging contexts and underperforming schools. Tsungai also holds a Bachelor of Business Management and Information Technology from the Catholic University in Zimbabwe.

    Tsungai will spend her fellowship with Farmers Hope in Kumasi, Ghana.