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 Bio2013 AAkhtar

    Abbas Akhtar

    “The fellowship helped me see the world from a different angle - an angle the corporate world is not used to, but which is so important in order to make the world a better place.” [READ MORE]

    Abbas is working in Lahore, Pakistan with Ansaar Management Company (AMC), a housing development and management company that provides an integrated approach to affordable, quality housing in Pakistan.  He is working on partnership development with investors and financial institutions, while also supporting organizational financial management.  Abbas is from Pakistan and has worked with Google, Apple, and with UNDP. He is the founder of Abbas holds a B.S. in Computer Science from San Jose State, and an M.A. in International Relations & International Economics from Johns Hopkins.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 JJaboneta

    Jay Jaboneta

    “Hope is real. Local solutions can be found with patience.” [READ MORE]

    Jay is working in Lahore, Pakistan with Pharmagen Healthcare, which supplies safe, clean and affordable drinking water to low-income residents. Jay is developing a marketing and sales strategy for the company’s water division with the goal of reaching the bottom of the pyramid.  Jay is from the Philippines and has worked with the Philippine government in the Presidential Communications Operations Office as New Media Head, with Procter & Gamble, and with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. Jay is also the Co-Founder of the Yellow Boat Project. Jay holds a B.S. in Commerce from Ateneo de Davao University.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 FShelot Fellow

    Mohammed Fahim Shelot

    “Through the Fellowship, I've had to step out of my comfort zone and go the extra mile to appreciate the power of risk taking and achieving things which I could never imagine before.” [READ MORE]

    Fahim is working in Kitale, Kenya with Western Seed, a Kenya-based company whose mission is to address the lack of maize productivity among smallholder farms in East Africa. He will work towards improving financial processes at the organizational and customer levels. Fahim is from Pakistan and has worked with Al Meezan Investment Management as an analyst, with Ernst & Young’s Global Islamic Finance team in Bahrain as a consultant, and with Capital Management House in Bahrain in private equity. Fahim holds a B.Sc. in Accounting and Finance from the Lahore University of Management Sciences and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Charterholder.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 NGrillon

    Natalie Grillon

    “My fellowship was crucial; I have the courage to start my enterprise, honing my leadership style in training and experience at GADC and supported by my cohort and Acumen family”

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 MCraig

    R Michael Craig

    “I have learned to work with uncertainty within and around me.” [READ MORE]

    Michael is working with BASIX Krishi, which delivers affordable extension services to smallholder farmers in India.  At BASIX Krishi he is implementing a revised sales and operating model, is revamping the monitoring, controls and financial reporting in the business, and is a Strategic Advisor for BASIX’s Chairman.  Michael is from Canada and has worked with KPMG in Canada and in the UK, first as an Auditor and then a Turnaround professional. He is a CPA, CA, holds a B.Comm(H) from Queen’s University, and an MBA from INSEAD.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 CTang1

    Christina Tang

    “I learn to see and treat each individual as a complex being with emotions, struggles and hopes.” [READ MORE]

    Christina is working in Accra, Ghana with WaterHealth International, an India-based company that offers customers safe, affordable drinking water through its community water systems.  She is working towards expanding WHI into the larger West African market and developing solutions for expanding access to solar power.  Christina is from Hong Kong and has worked with Bain & Co as an Associate Consultant. She has previously worked on starting Rainwater for Humanity, a rainwater harvesting initiative based in India. Christina holds a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Environmental Science, both from Brown University.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 JTashiro

    Junko Tashiro

    “Day after day, I take three steps forward and two steps back. Frustrating, but I embrace this journey as I can get stronger only by falling down, getting back up again, and repeat.” [READ MORE]

    Junko is working in Sogakope, Ghana with GADCO, which seeks to increase farmers’ income through a combination of improved yields, agri-services, and access to end-consumer markets.  Junko will be scaling up GADCOs programs to reach approximately 1000 more smallholder farmers per year.  Junko is from Japan and has worked with McKinsey & Co, the International Finance Corporation, and a Kenyan NGO. Junko holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Tokyo and an M.P.A. in Economic Development and Management from Columbia University.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 MAbokede2

    Mustapha Abokede

    “For me, "patient capital" has transformed from a buzz phrase to something I see creating real value. At d.light, I realize that we're not only providing lights to people, but hope.” [READ MORE]

    Mustapha is working in Lagos, Nigeria with d.light design, a company that makes low-cost solar lights that provide cleaner, safer, and cheaper lighting to families living at the bottom of the pyramid.  He is working to develop new strategic distribution channels and help manage creative consumer and trade marketing initiatives.  Mustapha is from Nigeria and has worked with KPMG and Mobil Oil. Mustapha holds a B.Eng. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Technology of Nigeria.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 NIden

    Nicole Iden

    “It takes more than passion and smarts and a good business model for a social entrepreneur to succeed. Most of all it takes guts and unshakeable commitment.” [READ MORE]

    Nicole is working in Nairobi, Kenya with Juhudi Kilimo, which provides micro asset financing to smallholder Kenyan farmers, enabling them to acquire assets that boost their productivity and provide long-term economic stability and growth.  Nicole is evaluating the current IT infrastructure and developing a more streamlined tech strategy in order to improve farmer mobile finance and date reporting.  Nicole is from the US and has worked with Capital One as a Bank Vice President, Grameen Foundation, and Accenture. Nicole holds a B.A. in Economics from William & Mary, and an M.S. in Management of Information Technology from the University of Virginia.

  • Close Drawer Bio2013 SAlShehail

    Shahd AlShehail

    “We came to Acumen looking for answers, yet we found that there is more value in continuing to ask the questions, that these questions often start a much needed conversation.” [READ MORE]

    Shahd is working in Bangalore, India with Hippocampus Learning Centres (HLC), which provides affordable educational services that better prepare children for advanced education and employment.  She is designing technology and media focused after-school and teacher training initiatives.  Shahd is from Saudi Arabia and has worked with Global Giving, and was the Director of Operations of Al Qadem Fashion House, an entrepreneurial venture focused on supporting underprivileged women. Shahd holds a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Evansville, and an M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins.