These 7 Acumen Fellows are the Leaders the World Needs Today

July 13, 2018

We’re close to launching applications for the 2019 cohort of Acumen Fellows on August 6! But before we send you to the application page, we would like to introduce you to some of the inspiring Fellows from across the globe.

Our community of almost 500 trailblazers represent individuals who are committed to eliminating global poverty and to creating a world where everyone has dignity. The Acumen Fellows work across a wide range of sectors, including education, health, government, and human rights. What unites them is the belief that each of us hold within us the ability to take on society’s toughest challenges, and through that, the deep conviction that we can leave the world a better place than we found it.

Fellows go on various career paths and personal journeys over their lives, but many of the Fellows we’ve seen over the years include:

  1. Social entrepreneurs who have launched or lead their own social change initiatives;
  2. Social intrapreneurs who are running a social change initiative within an existing organization;
  3. Organizational builders who are an integral part of building a social change organization, but do not play a founding role.

Intrigued by the Fellows we select? Here’s your chance to get to know a few Acumen Fellows from past cohorts and the incredible work they’re doing:

1. Gerald Otim (Entrepreneur, Uganda, FinTech)

After doubting himself for many years, Gerald’s journey as a social entrepreneur started with his mother’s experience with a SACCO in Uganda. After her life savings were taken away from her, Gerald understood his purpose was bigger than a well-paying job: it was to build inclusive economic solutions that worked for everybody.

Through the Acumen Fellowship, which coincided with his decision to start his own company, Ensibuuko, Gerald found the courage to take the next leap. Today, the social enterprise is providing SACCOs with modern electronic banking infrastructure to ensure low-income individuals in seven countries are protected from financial fraud. Today, Ensibuuko runs operations in seven countries. Watch Gerald’s talk from last year’s Acumen Fellows Global Gathering:


2. Billene Seyoum (Entrepreneur, Ethiopia, Feminism/Women’s Empowerment)

Billene is social entrepreneur and feminist writer based in Ethiopia, where she runs Earuyan Solutions, an impact driven organization which promotes gender equality consciousness and transformative feminist leadership through the design and delivery of trainings, workshops, seminars, commissioned research and project management. Billene also runs AfricanFeminism, a collaborative writing project between African writers started with the intention of amplifying the voices of feminists across the continent. Hear one of Billene’s poems delivered at the Acumen Fellows Global Gathering:

3. Mustapha Abokede
(Entrepreneur, Energy, West Africa)

In a country where one cannot escape the deafening sound of generators during an electricity outage, Mustapha Abokede stepped up to deliver new energy solutions to his community. After spending many years working within the social development space, first at d.light as an Acumen Fellow, then with Andela, Mustapha set up the solar solutions enterprise Sunstretch Energy. The company is enabling Nigerians to access electricity by installing solar systems and providing financing options to low-income customers.

4. Suhani Mohan (Entrepreneur, India, Menstrual Health)

After traveling across India to understand life in the rural countryside, Suhani witnessed firsthand the crisis of menstrual hygiene. She then decided to start Saral Designs, a social enterprise providing access to quality, cost-effective sanitary napkins that allow women to embrace their womanhood.  Using a systems thinking approach, Saral enables women’s groups to produce their own low-cost sanitary pads by providing them with fully automatic, compact machines. Today, Saral Designs has reached more than one million customers and has partnered with schools across Mumbai to install vending machines and to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls. Learn more about her story founding Saral Designs on Acumen Ideas.

Acumen Fellow Suhani Mohan (far right) with the Saral Designs team in India

5. Jamshaid Cheema (Organizational Builder, Pakistan, Affordable Housing)

Jamshaid is from Hassanwali, a small village located two hours outside of Lahore, Pakistan. He is currently on the senior management team of Ansaar Management Company, an affordable housing enterprise founded by Acumen Fellow Jawad Aslam. Jamshaid plays a critical role in developing proposals, acquiring land for new projects, and working with customers to create a sense of community in each housing complex. Jamshaid relies on his moral compass to stay true to his vision values to battle corruption, sabotage, and the complexities of the nascent affordable housing sector in the country. Learn more on

Acumen Fellow Jamshaid Cheema is on the senior management team of Ansaar Management Company in Pakistan

6. Nicole Orillac
(Intrapreneur, Panama, Corporate Social Responsibility)

Nicole’s work at Samsung’s Corporate Social Responsibility division in Panama operates at the intersection of technology and education. She leverages Samsung’s expertise in technology and its commitment to “innovation for good” to mobilize resources toward social impact education programs across Latin America. Last year, Nicole’s team hosted Solucions Para El Futuro in the Dominican Republic and was also the official sponsor of the third Latin American Special Olympics,  highlighting the significant role that multinational corporations can play in enhancing human dignity.

Acumen Fellow Nicole Orillac is a Regional Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility at Samsung

7. Daniyal Alvi
(Organizational Builder, Pakistan, Sports/Disability)

Daniyal has dedicated the last 12 years of his life to expanding the presence of the Special Olympics in Pakistan, which empowers people with intellectual disabilities through sports. His commitment led him to take on the role of National Director in Pakistan, where he is responsible for sports management and community development. Through his advocacy, Daniyal has changed the narrative on what it means to live with a disability for over 7000 athletes across Pakistan.

Acumen Fellow Daniyal Alvi is the National Director of the Special Olympics in Pakistan

Are you ready to rise to the challenge? Acumen Fellowship applications open on August 6. Stay tuned for more posts from our series on the Acumen Fellows and subscribe to our newsletter to get alerts on application dates.

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