Communities of practice to hone the skills, behaviors and attitudes needed in today’s world

Chapter 2

Measuring What Matters

We are a geographically distributed, deliberately diverse community that is locally rooted and globally connected

The Global Fellows Program concluded in 2017 with 109 Fellows and 11 cohorts.

Our community of innovators often follow three distinct paths

Social Intrapreneur

Borja Paladini Adell — +Acumen Learner

A peacebuilder gathering evidence on the Colombian peace agreement to help the Colombian government and the FARC see patterns that will enable them to make better decisions.

Organization Builder

Hawah Nabbuye — 2013 East Africa Fellow

The Deputy Director of Educate! Uganda, managing strategic partnerships with governments and monitoring and evaluation. With Hawah’s partnership, Educate! has reached 42,000 children in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.

Social Entrepreneur

Ankit Agarwal - 2017 India Fellow

Co-founded HelpUsGreen, a social enterprise that prevents the river Ganges from becoming a sewer by flowercycling® the waste dumped in the river into patented lifestyle products providing livelihoods to 128 manual scavenger families in Kanpur, India.

Measuring What Matters

Our Fellows Program has had a deep focus on developing moral leaders. As we reflect on the impact we’ve created, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the Fellows to better understand the power of moral leadership.

While measuring impact for leadership development programs is not easy, the effect of the Fellows work is clear. For the Acumen Fellows Program, we consider impact in three ways: Acumen’s Impact on the Fellows; the Fellows’ Impact on their Communities; and the Amplification of Leadership Content through the Fellows.

Acumen’s Impact on the Fellows

At its core, the Fellows Program is developing individual capacity to take on longstanding problems of poverty. Our work is to create communities of practice that enable the Fellows to hone the skills, attributes and values needed to create change in today’s world.

We carried out a survey in 2018 to understand the role of Acumen’s Fellows Program and our community in refining Fellows’ sense of purpose and values, building skills and networks, and converting their values into practice. We asked the Fellows to share how likely they are to recommend the program to others, a question which determines a Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS measures a user’s overall satisfaction with a product or service, where anything above 0 is generally deemed good, and an NPS of +50 is generally deemed excellent.

Graphic Showing Acumen Fellows NPS Score as if it's an odometer
Acumen received a world class NPS score of 78 for the fellows program.

The Fellows Program has positively affected Fellows’ ability to lead in complex environments with a moral grounding. It has given them a network and community that accelerates the rate at which they create.


Graphic Showing Acumen Fellows NPS Score as if it's an odometer
Have tools to engage in courageous conversation
Have tools to publicly articulate their call to action


Graphic Showing Acumen Fellows NPS Score as if it's an odometer
Are better able to adapt to new environments and challenges
Have greater conviction to stand up for their values
Are better equipped to resolve recurring problems
Are effective at understanding their role within a larger system


Graphic Showing Acumen Fellows NPS Score as if it's an odometer
Have built a wider & more diverse professional network

Fellows also consistently identify the need to access funding and networks. To meet this need, Acumen has invested or given grants amounting to $1.5 million in Fellows’ companies, and they include:

Fellows have raised over $20 million from Acumen partners or introductions facilitated by Acumen, and Fellows leverage our community to seek advisors, mentors, and board members.

Fellows’ Impact on Communities



8 Million Lives Impacted

2,200,000 — Individuals Educated
2,200,000 — Patients Served
882,000 — Farmers Served
714,000 — Individuals Trained
700,000 — individuals Provided Electricity
570,000 — Individuals Banked
500,000 — Marginalized Individuals Served
70,000 — Clean Water Access
22,000 — Jobs Created
22,000 — Volunteers Mobilized

Our 546 Fellows have impacted eight million lives across sectors such as education, technology, and agriculture. Their commitment has enabled over 21,000 people to find gainful employment, over two million children to gain education, and millions to access finance, electricity and healthcare. Acumen Fellows are bridging divides in their communities with the people they serve, not for them. A few examples of the work the Fellows are doing include:

Case Study

Catalyzing Social Entrepreneurship Globally

Nagaland is a state in India that has experienced insurgency and inter-ethnic conflict since the 1950s. With a majority of the state’s resources tackling the violence in the region, Nagaland has seen limited economic development. Two Acumen Fellows are changing the narrative.

Shiroi Shaiza is part of the senior leadership at Entrepreneurs Associates (EA), an organization committed to advancing entrepreneurship, social justice, and workforce development in the region. To date, EA has trained almost 150 startup entrepreneurs and trained 500 people with little-to-no education in business skills. At YouthNet, Lezo Putsure leads the “Impact 5000 by 18 Campaign,” a partnership with the Government of Nagaland to enhance the skills and employability of 5,000 young people by 2018. He also manages Nagaland Job Center (NJC) which has helped over 700 youth secure jobs in the private sector in the last three years.

Lujain set up Tasamy in 2012 to find sustainable and innovative business solutions to society’s problems by enabling social entrepreneurs and collaborating with government and private institutions. She catalyzed the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country, a sector that didn’t exist before 2011. Saudi Arabia, a country of 32 million, is rapidly transitioning from being a petrostate to a knowledge economy, and youth unemployment currently stands at 33%. The potential is clear. To date, Tasamy has incubated 35 social entrepreneurs, providing seed funding to 17 of them, making Tasamy the only social entrepreneurship incubator in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to leading Acumen’s West Africa Fellows Program, Wale Ajiboye co-founded Elab Accelerator, which has trained over 2,000 small growing businesses and helped them access state funding to propel growth. The company has enabled equity financing for two businesses focused on renewable energy: Voltze and A4T amounting to $300,000. Elab has also formed a strong government alliance to establish the Global Entrepreneurship Network Nigeria (GENN) and approve funding of $230,000 as seed grants for entrepreneurs in their network.

Case Study

Fellows influence Policy

In June 2016, India Fellow Sathya Raghu secured a meeting with the State Agricultural Minister of Telangana, India through Vasumathi Kothuru, a 2014 India Fellow. However, as is often the case with high-level Minister meetings, Sathya was offered 15 minutes. He came prepared to present the challenges of the smallholder farmer, specifically focused on the financial and operational challenges of securing a greenhouse - they were too expensive, not designed for smallholders and not effectively covered in government subsidies. As Sathya started to make his case to the Minister, the Minister cleared his schedule for the day and the intended 15 minute meeting became a 7.5 hour policy reform discussion. Sathya successfully influenced the policy for smallholder farmers to reduce the cost per acre by 50%, encouraging the government to push farmers to purchase half-acre structures to reduce costs and to have this covered by government subsidies.

Amplification of Content

The curriculum for the Fellows is designed in partnership with content experts and facilitated in-house. Increasingly, Fellows take this content and share it with their employees and communities. They even take it to new communities including some of the most remote and marginalized areas in their regions. By sharing the content, Fellows are equipping a generation exponentially in ways that Acumen cannot do alone.

We are now intentionally going deeper, curating both data and stories to discover who benefits from Acumen’s Leadership content. Already over 78% of Fellows share the Fellows Program curriculum with their teams, and 60% of Fellows share this content with their communities1. Felipe Spath, a Global Fellow from 2017, took +Acumen’s Human Capital Strategy course when he was setting up an office for Acumen investee, BioLite, in Nairobi, Kenya. It was crucial for him to set a positive and productive culture:

“(This course) generates a very important space to discuss Human Resources; to have conversations that most often won't happen; to align on the plan for HR development. I learned how important it is to have your values as guiding principles as you build culture.”

The two most highly shared content blocks are Adaptive Leadership (54%), a framework that enables leaders to adapt and thrive in challenging environments, and Authentic Voice (36%), which develops a leader’s capacity to articulate a hopeful vision, speak across lines of difference, and move others to action.

1Based on a survey conducted in 2018, n=235.

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