Acumen East Africa Fellows Program 2021 for emerging Leaders in East Africa (Fully Funded)

Application Deadline:  January 4th, 2021. 

Each year, the Acumen East Africa Fellows Programme brings together 20 extraordinary individuals tackling poverty and injustice in their communities – and equips them with the knowledge, skills and community to accelerate and sustain their impact.

The Fellowship begins with an intensive leadership programme, where Fellows remain in their jobs while taking part in a series of multi-day virtual seminars, paired with online group and individual assignments between seminars, all connected by group practice. This is where practical skills meet moral imagination – and the programme is designed to increase a Fellow’s capacity to lead social change and tackle problems of poverty and injustice.

After the first year, Fellows become part of Acumen’s global community of social innovators – committed to life-long learning, collaboration and accompaniment as they drive change.

The Fellows are individuals who dare to do what’s right, not what’s easy, to create positive change in their region. Fellows can come from diverse cultural, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds and work in any sector, and they must be committed to ending poverty and injustice in their community through their work. They are individuals who are making a long-term play at system-level impact and are seeking the leadership skills and moral imagination to make it happen.

Year 1

  • Join a diverse cohort of 20 leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan & Ethiopia.
  • Acumen Fellows are drawn from diverse sectors, disciplines, organisations and social change journeys
  • All programme costs covered by Acumen Academy East Africa
  • 5 virtual multi-day seminars, paired with individual & group online assignments between seminars
  • Learning that is immediately applied to your life and work
  • Peer coaching that challenges and accompanies you in your social change work
  • Cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself and your work in a broader context
  • Navigate uncertainty and embrace the meaningful process of creating change

Beyond Year 1

  • Join Acumen’s growing community of social innovators & builders accompanying each other from across the globe committed to a world beyond poverty and injustice
  • The Acumen Fellowship is a life-long engagement and after the first year fellows take part in a range of opportunities that are designed to both further their impact and build their communities.

The Fellows we seek are:

  • Typically in one of the following trajectories: entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and organizational builders whether for-profit, nonprofit, or in government. We define that as…
    • entrepreneurs: founding or leading a for-profit or nonprofit organization that provides critical goods or services to the underserved
    • organizational builders: supporting the growth of an organization, institution, or company focused on alleviating poverty or injustice but not as the founder of CEO
    • intrapreneurs: creating innovative solutions to tackle poverty or injustice from within an existing institution by shifting its culture and building new collaborations
  • Individuals who have a demonstrated history of impact, commitment and concrete connection to the region.
  • Leaders with strong personal integrity, unrelenting perseverance and moral imagination.
  • Committed individuals ready to undergo an intensive year-long personal transformation and leadership journey followed by an induction into the larger Fellows Community.


The Fellowship curriculum is centered around the principles of moral leadership:

  • Adaptive Leadership: Based on Ron Heifetz’s work, Adaptive Leadership is a practical leadership framework that supports Fellows’ ability to catalyse and embrace the gradual and meaningful process of creating change.
  • Authentic Voice: Grounded in Marshall Ganz’s life’s work, the Authentic Voice curriculum allows the Fellows to develop the capacity to articulate a hopeful vision, speak across lines of difference, and move others into action.
  • Good Society Readings: Modeled off The Aspen Institute, the Good Society Readings explore the meaning of a just society, and the moral and historical foundation of social change through text based dialogue
  • Managing Polarities: Based on Barry Johnson’s work, Polarities aims to cultivate an individual’s ability to lead effectively when opposing but interdependent and equally important values are in tension.
  • Systems Thinking: Fellows explore the concept of Systems Thinking by working collaboratively on live challenges—enabling them to better understand larger, systemic problems and design more effective interventions.

How to Apply

Our application process consists of these five steps.

  1. 1Step 1: Apply online —applications open on November 4th 2020 with two closing dates:
    1. 1Early Action close date of December 1st 2020. All applications completed by this date will be reviewed first.
    2. 2Regular Decision close date of January 4th 2021. All applications completed between December 2nd 2020 and January 4th 2021 will be reviewed after the Early Action applications have been reviewed.
  2. 2Step 2: Move to the second step of the application as follows:
    1. 1Shortlisted Early Action applicants move to step 2 of the process in January 2021
    2. 2Shortlisted Regular Decision applicants move to step 2 of the process in February 2021
  3. 3Step 3: Both shortlisted Early Action and Regular Decision applicants from step 2 take place in final selection in end March 2021
  4. 4Step 4: The 2021 Cohort will be selected in April 2021
  5. 5Step 5: Fellows are announced in end-April/early May 2021

For More Information:

Visit the Official Webpage of the Acumen East Africa Fellows Program 2021


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