Bryan Farris

A New Generation of Leaders: The Acumen Fund Fellowship

How would you like to spend one year working with a company focused on serving the poor in a developing country, by either helping them to set a strategy or improve operations? Are you interested in a program designed to help you grow as a leader and hone your business skills? Are you eager to become an active participant in the growing social enterprise movement? Then now is the time.

When I first decided to apply for the Acumen Fund Fellowship, I was primarily motivated by the opportunity to dedicate nearly a year in the field with one of Acumen’s investees. Having spent multiple years working in San Francisco as a management consultant, I was itching for operational experience in the developing world. A long term goal of mine is to be involved in the creation of a business that serves the BoP and the fellowship will help me hone the skills I need. There are many fellowships and job opportunities that would have given me experience working “in the field”, but I chose the Acumen Fund Fellowship specifically because I was enamored with Acumen’s model of investing in market-based solutions to poverty. The fellowship quickly became by dream job. Still, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into.

Open the application and you’re immediately introduced to what the fellowship is really about. Being an Acumen Fund Fellow is about exploring yourself, your passions and your motivations. The application asks you to look deeply into yourself, to describe your passions and identify how you can create change in the world.

Truth be told, I hesitated to even apply; I was daunted by the qualifications of previous fellows and the application seemed like a large investment with a low probability of success. But critical push from a close friend prompted me to apply. If you find yourself in the same situation, I recommend that you dive in and give it a shot; completing the application is a worthwhile activity in itself as you will be forced to critically evaluate yourself and reflect on what makes you tick.

The interview process is very similar; the Acumen Fund interviewers know how to ask very poignant questions that get at the core of what you believe in and who you are. For me personally, the application process alone helped me to put together a lot of disparate thoughts and develop a cohesive vision of what I stand for.

Recently, another 2011 Fellow pointed out to me, “Not everyone has the opportunity to spend a year in a leadership development program.” Indeed, the fellowship is truly a tremendous chance to take one year out to focus on growing and developing as a leader. The first two months of the fellowship are spent in New York City exploring what drives you. The Fellows spend time learning about leadership qualities, reflecting on the importance of human dignity and discussing how to best serve the BoP. Though their field placements were everything they expected them to be and more, past Fellows often cite the first two months as the best part of their fellowship year.

Most importantly, as a Fellow you are welcomed into the Acumen Fund Family (and it truly is a family). You will be exposed to thought leaders in the space who contribute to Acumen and have the a chance to meet people like Josephat Byaruhanga, who works in Kenya with Western Seed, and whose moral conviction and wisdom is inspiring (and hopefully contagious). You’ll meet people like Harry Dellane, whose friendliness and ability to ask questions can pierce through any false pretenses you’ve developed (and may not even be aware of). There is an endless list of influential and inspiring people you will be connected with as a Fellow. Perhaps most important are the relationships you will develop with the other Fellows in your cohort; the bonds you create as you each learn and develop are irreplaceable. For a taste of the experience, watch this video:

If anything in this post strikes a chord of interest inside of you, I strongly encourage you to apply to be an Acumen Fund Fellow now.

Education, Social Enterprise
social enterprise