Blair Miller

Acumen Fund Launching East Africa Fellows Program

I just returned from Nairobi where I attended the selection conference for our first Regional Fellows Program in East Africa. The day was inspiring on so many levels, but most of all it was a reminder of the incredible pipeline of leaders in the region that are aching to learn, grow, connect, and create real change.

As I walked into the Kenya Commercial Bank Leadership Center at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, the room was filled with the buzz of an evening cocktail party. Among the incredible candidates, I met a Ugandan who developed a company that provides solar home systems to low income communities, a Kenyan who is building affordable housing, a Tanzanian who has developed an entrepreneurship center for aspiring youth, and many representatives from our sector including Insta Products, TechnoServe, and KickStart.

The candidates were complimented by a powerful group of selection panelists made up of the Acumen East Africa team, as well as representatives from Kenya Commercial Bank (our regional funder), Edmond De Rothschild Foundations (our global funder), Dalberg, Umande Trust, Ashoka, Quantum Africa, Africinvest, and K-Rep Bank.

(Image Credit: Teddy Mitchener)

This was the first time this group had gathered together and the energy was electrifying. Many of the candidates said the highlight of the day was the feeling that they were not alone, that there were others who shared values, aspirations, and a vision for a new East Africa.

The big takeaways for me were the following:

  1. Community. What we saw more than anything was a real need to connect this incredible group of people, who are attacking the issues of poverty in different ways but have a shared vision for change.
  2. Social Metrics. There is a tremendous need to find a common language around metrics. As we evaluated the candidates, many struggled to quantify and communicate their social impact. This is something we plan to focus on in our training.
  3. Passion matched with action. What most impressed me about these candidates is that they did not just talk a big game, they matched that with action. It reminded me of a David Brooks recent New York Times piece on this very topic. We don’t just need dreamers, we need doers.

Our first seminar launches July 21. Please stay tuned, because there will definitely be more news to come…

Blair Miller runs the Acumen Fund Global Fellows Program. Check out her personal blog here and follow her on Twitter at @AcuBlair.

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