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Acumen announces its 2015 fellowship programme

Pallavi Sinha
26th Feb 2015
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Acumen announced its 2015 cohort of the India Fellows Program on February 9. The Acumen India Fellows Program is a year-long leadership development programme that gives 20 individuals from across India training they need to accelerate their social impact and leadership potential.

Fellows from diverse cultures, geographies and socio-economic backgrounds apply for the programme to share a commitment to end poverty in their communities.

The program is structured like an executive MBA in which the Fellows remain in their jobs and come together for five week-long seminars during the year. Through it, Fellows build strong networks of social change leaders within their cohort and Acumen’s global community.

YourStory spoke to the Acumen India team to understand and know more about the 2014 programme, their experience with Fellows from the first batch and the new cohort.

Experience with the 2014 Fellows

It was thrilling to see the Fellows emerge at the end of the year as a cohesive cohort, eager to learn from and teach each other in equal parts,” says Bavidra Mohan, India Fellows Manager.

Throughout the year, the Fellows participated in leadership and skills seminars in four states across India, and were engaged in dialogues with Indian leaders from the private and social sector. They learned how to navigate the complexity of multiple stakeholders in a complicated system, and used human-centred design methodology to map the problem. This project included meeting with panchayats, self-help groups, ministers and academic experts in caste relations.

“The program allows us to be in the problem we’re trying to solve, while gaining access to world-class trainings on moral imagination, human-centred design, impact measurement, lean startup methodology and network to lean on for live feedback and support,” says Abbas Dadla, Curriculum Designer at Avanti Learning Centres, also a 2014 Fellow.


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In addition to the core curriculum, Fellows collaborated not only within their own cohort, but across borders to gain broader perspectives on their own work within the Acumen Global community. India Fellows connected with East Africa Fellows to share insights into the craft sector, and reached out to Fellows in Pakistan to share thoughts on how to integrate more creative education techniques into the classroom.

“I have found 19 life-long ‘frentors’ (friends and mentors). This rare consortium of friends and mentors is an invaluable asset, which we’ll only appreciate with every passing day. I have a strong support system to lean on during this lonely and challenging journey to create social impact,” says 2014 Acumen India Fellow Jyotirmoy Chatterji.

The 2015 applicants

Started in July 2014, the application process is split into three rounds.There is an online application followed by a phone interview for a smaller subset, which culminates into a Selection Conference. The conference brings together the top 50 candidates in Mumbai for a full day of interviews with the broader Acumen India partner community and team.

The Acumen team received applications from nearly every state for the 2015 batch, and the class represents 13 states across India. The inaugural class played an important role in the structure of the programme. For 2015, the team will focus on incorporating local case studies for some of the operational seminars such as lean and design thinking. While the fundamental structure of the programme is same, a module on negotiation training and the impact measurement module has been added.


Fellows Vijay Mahajan

The module was piloted in 2014. It’s now a formalized part of the curriculum, and will continue to expand in all Acumens’ Fellows programmes. A storytelling module is also a part of 2015’s module, based on Acumen’s online course Storytelling for Change, through all five seminars.

“We were thrilled to receive two times the number of applications for the 2015 cohort After a rigorous application process,we’re proud to add another 20 social change leaders to the Acumen community in India, representing 13 states and multiple sectors, including community mobilisation, healthcare, sanitation, agriculture and education,” says Bavidra.

Here’s a brief profile of few Fellows from the 2015 batch.

Madhukar Banuri is a Senior Consultant for School Improvement at Gray Matters India, a data analytics and impact assessment company in the education sector.

Neeladri Bora is the Co-founder of Northeast Centre for Equity Action on Integrated Development, a non-profit organisation focused on sustainable development in the North-East states of India.

Dr. Rajat Chabba is the National Manager for Swasthya Choupal, an initiative to create awareness around health issues like family planning, menstrual hygiene and sanitation.It provides access to high-quality health products through a network of more than 300 rural women entrepreneurs.

Swapnil Chaturvedi is the Founder and the Chief Toilet Cleaner at Samagra, an organisation that uses information and communication technology, behavioural sciences, data analytics and design to provide toilet services to the urban poor.

Read more and about all the Fellows here.

After the completion of the Fellowship programme, Acumen continues to provide personal mentorship and connections to the growing community around the world. In addition, the Fellows also form a strong community within the cohort, and continue to support each other.

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