Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture firm addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, announced its 2011 class of Fellows today. Designed to address a talent gap in the social sector and cultivate the next generation of global leaders, the Acumen Fund Fellows Program offers extraordinary young professionals the unique opportunity to provide on-the-ground management support to Acumen Fund investees serving the poor and to use business skills to help solve the problems of global poverty.
The announcement comes at a time when the Acumen Fund Fellows Program has also been named as a finalist for the John P. McNulty Prize, an award affiliated with the Aspen Global Leadership Network aimed at recognizing exceptional leadership projects that galvanize efforts to address the foremost social, economic and political challenges of our time. The prize will be awarded November 4, 2010 at the 27th Annual Aspen Institute Awards Dinner.
After an intensive selection process that spanned the globe and drew 575 applicants from 65 countries, Acumen Fund chose ten extraordinary individuals to follow in the footsteps of the last four classes of Fellows. "The unique design of the Acumen Fund Fellows Program is intended to cultivate a corps of individuals with the skills, connections, dedication and understanding to play important leadership roles in the solving of global poverty. Our international applicant pool continues to grow each year, demonstrating the powerful desire among the next generation of leaders to fuse their analytical and financial skills and business experience with the social, political and environmental needs of the developing world," said Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen Fund.
The year-long fellowship begins in September with eight weeks of intensive and multidisciplinary leadership training at Acumen Fund's New York City office. Training areas consist of a range of skill-building exercises that explore issues related to Acumen Fund's investment geographies and sectors, including investment and valuation techniques, marketing and operations, negotiation, self reflection and storytelling. The Fellows also meet with leaders from diverse backgrounds, acclaimed writers and thinkers. Added Shane Heywood, 2011 Fellow, "The new class of Acumen Fellows share not only individual professional accomplishments, but also a proven interest to serve, to listen and to be part of a larger community focused on significant, scalable change."
Following training in New York, Fellows begin their nine-month field placements with Acumen Fund investees, where they support senior management in tackling critical business issues--market expansion, business plan refinement, supply chain improvements, or even leading a new business initiative. Over nine months, Fellows learn and apply skills within Acumen Fund investees. Halfway through the year, Fellows convene for a mid-year meeting to reconnect, share experiences and support each other in navigating challenges in the field. At the end of these field assignments, the Fellows return to New York City for three weeks to share their lessons learned with Acumen Fund's community and to focus on their next steps.
Acumen Fund's 2011 Fellows were chosen from a vast and diverse pool of applicants. This year's class of Acumen Fellows includes:
Bryan Farris, United States, is a management consultant for Bain & Company (B.S. in Industrial Engineering & Operations Research, University of California at Berkeley). He will work in Lahore, Pakistan with Ansaar Management Company (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/ansaar-management-company.html), which is a housing development and management company that provides an integrated approach to affordable, quality housing. Mario Ferro, Italy, works with an NGO in the post-earthquake relief effort in Haiti, and is a former management consultant with experience in internationalization of Italian small- to medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) in China (M.S. in Development Management, London School of Economics). He will work in Nairobi, Kenya withEcotact (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/ecotact-limited.html), a company that aims to improve the urban landscape for low-income communities through environmentally responsible projects in sanitation and housing. Chikako Fujita, Japan, started an NGO's rural electrification and development initiative in India, and is a former manager at SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. where she led an initiative to communicate their new environmentally-conscious corporate vision to stakeholders, (MEM, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies). She will work in Mumbai, India with 1298 Ambulances (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/1298.html), which focuses on providing affordable emergency medical response services. Shane Heywood, Jamaica, has a background in consumer goods industry with microfinance experience in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia (Business Administration and International Relations degree, University of Western Ontario, M.A. in Development Studies, London School of Economics). He will work in Kitale, Kenya with Western Seed (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/western-seed.html), which develops and distributes high-quality hybrid seeds to improve crop yields for smallholder farmers in East Africa. Khuram Hussain, Pakistan, is a consultant at TechnoServe, and formerly worked for Endeavor and JP Morgan (MBA, Haas School of Business at University of California at Berkeley). He will work in Bihar, India with Husk Power Systems (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/husk-power-systems.html), which uses innovative biomass technology to convert abundant rice husks into energy that provides power to Indian villages. Elizabeth Maina, Kenya, is a consultant for different companies in systems and process improvement (BSc. Information Systems and Technology, United States International University in Kenya). She will work in Nairobi, Kenya, with Global Easy Water Products (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/gewp.html), which provides affordable drip irrigation for small-scale farmers. Bavidra Mohan, Sri Lanka/Canada, is a corporate social responsibility consultant at Ethos (M.A. in marketing, Kingsbury College). He will work in Schenzen, China with D.Light Design (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/d.light-design.html), a company that makes low-cost solar lights that provide cleaner, safer and cheaper lighting to families living at the bottom of the pyramid. Wendy Wallace, United States, is a consultant for McKinsey & Company in both the U.S. and Eastern Europe and was a field agent in Nairobi, Kenya with Renew Strategies (MPP, Harvard University, B.S., Engineering Sciences, Astronautical Engineering U.S. Air Force Academy). She will work in Hyderabad, India withLifeSpring (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/lifespring.html), which is a network of Maternity and Child Healthcare hospitals that provide vital reproductive and pediatric healthcare to low- and lower-middle-income people in urban and peri-urban areas. Benjie Williams, United States, is a management consultant for social enterprises and Fortune 500 corporations and previously supported a start-up SMEs in Nairobi (B.S., Business Administration, University of California at Berkeley). He will work in Lahore, Pakistan with a company that provides access to drinking water to low-income urban customers. Brenda Williams, United States, is President and CEO of GlobaLink Consulting, Inc., a private consulting company specializing in business development, microfinance and organizational management services (M.S., Organizational Management, School for International Training, Brattleboro, VT). She will work in Andhra Pradesh, India with Water Health International (http://www.acumenfund.org/investment/waterhealth-international.html), which incorporates a cost-effective technology designed for the poor, and an effective approach to social marketing and distribution to increase access to safe, affordable water. Qualifications for the Acumen Fund Fellows Program include demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit, an advanced degree and/or three to five years of relevant work experience, cultural sensitivity to the needs and challenges of the communities and enterprises with which Acumen Fund works, and a commitment to Acumen's mission of serving as a catalyst for change by supporting models that bring critical, affordable goods and services to the world's poor.
More information about the 2011 Acumen Fund Fellows will be made available in the coming weeks on Acumen's website, www.acumenfund.org, and on its blog, www.acumenfundblog.org. The application process for the 2012 Fellows Program opens on October 1, 2010.
About Acumen Fund Acumen Fund is a nonprofit venture fund that invests in market-oriented approaches to deliver critical, affordable goods and services to the world's poor. Acumen Fund focuses on the convergence of philanthropic capital and business expertise to produce sustainable, scalable enterprises that reach underserved markets and increase access to the opportunities of the global economy. For more information on Acumen Fund's activities and investments, visit www.acumenfund.org and www.acumenfundblog.org.
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