Every year, Acumen’s Fellowship in India selects 40 bold and inspiring leaders that are committed to a lifelong journey of eliminating poverty and injustice. While the Fellows come from all walks of life, they are united in their commitment to bridge our divides and build a more just, inclusive and sustainable world that works for all of us.
From enhancing livelihoods and dignity for women in the remote Thar desert to designing the world’s largest identity linked social benefits delivery program, our Spring Class of 2021 thrives on moral imagination - the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be.
Over the course of a year, the Fellows will come together to learn with - and from – each other in a series of workshops and immersive seminars. Following the first year of the Fellowship, they will join Acumen’s growing community of over 900 social innovators & builders accompanying each other from across the globe to create a world based on dignity.
Join us in welcoming the newest cohort of Acumen into their Fellowship year, which begins in April.
Abhinav Shekhar Vashistha
Co-Founder, WeVois Labs
Uplifting the Indian sanitation workers to overcome abject poverty.
Abhinav is the Co-Founder of WeVOIS Labs, an organisation creating a circular economy for Sanitation workers. WeVOIS creates technology tools for sanitation workers enabling them to earn more and give them a safer and humane work environment. Prior to founding WeVOIS, Abhinav founded Sonant Technologies which creates assistive technology for deaf individuals and enables workplaces to become more accessible for the disabled. Abhinav is Royal Academy of Engineering Leadership in Innovation Fellow and holds a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIIT, Jabalpur.
Executive Director, Project KHEL
Nurturing every child to become a secure empathetic adult.
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
A storyteller at heart and with a knack for finding creative solutions to critical situations, Angana joined the development sector in 2012. Her belief in the power of play has led her to spearhead programmatic development and strategic framework of Project KHEL, an organisation that creates joyful and safe learning spaces for children through play and outdoor activities. Along with carrying out of her responsibilities as the Executive Director of the organisation, she continues to design and facilitate engaging and interactive training programmes for other establishments across the country.
Strengthening access to the demand market for artisans making low waste handmade footwear.
Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Ankit is Co-Founder & CEO of Shoegaro a circular fashion social startup based at Agra, which provides a platform to connect artisans making handmade shoes with demand centers across India. His focus is on making environmentally conscious footwear using recycled raw material and preserving the dying art of handmade shoe making by generating jobs and creating micro-entrepreneurs among the largely unemployed footwear artisans community and engaging both men and women from handmade shoe making artisan families at various stages of shoe-making.
Director - DBT Mission, Government of India.
Strengthening the reach of subsidies and benefits efficiently and transparently for every eligible citizen.
Arun is Director, Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) Mission, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, which is responsible for driving the world’s largest identity linked social benefits delivery program across India. Prior to joining the DBT Mission, Arun worked with the International Finance Corporation and Ministries of Finance and Housing Affairs. Arun is a civil servant and holds an MBA from ISB, Hyderabad, and a B. Tech from IIT, BHU, Varanasi.
Director - Inclusive Education, Thinkerbell Labs
Building a Braille Smart Class solution enabling equitable access to learning and education for the visually impaired.
Avinash is Director, inclusive education at Thinkerbell Labs, an organization that works towards improving learning outcomes for visually impaired children. Thinkerbell invented the world's first Braille literacy device, Annie, to increase Braille literacy rates in the world. Prior to Thinkerbell, Avinash worked with SocialCops to enable data-driven decision making among governments, and with Janwaar castle to break gender and caste barriers using a skatepark as the catalyst. He was a part of the 2019 cohort of the Dalai Lama Fellowship - a program catered towards creating value-based, self-aware leaders. He holds a bachelors in mechanical engineering from BITS Pilani Goa.
Vice-President, ELMS Sports Foundation
Establishing sports education for India’s government schools and empowering the unrealized potential of children.
Hemant is co-founder of Art of Play (AOP), an organization that ensures every child’s right to play. AOP has merged with Elms Sports, an organization with the same vision. At Elms, Hemant heads government engagements and works for integrating play in public education through curricular innovation and teacher training. Prior to AOP, Hemant conceptualized & led a sports for development project ‘play2lead’ for internally displaced population across western coast of Gujarat. Hemant is a former Gandhi Fellow and has been awarded Wipro’s Founder Fellowship & Changeloom Fellowship.
Trustee and Director, A R Rahman Foundation
Building pathways for anyone, regardless of class, caste, gender and religion, to pursue music.
Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Khatija is Director and Trustee of the A R Rahman Foundation managing overall administration and overseeing projects. The foundation works towards music education; youth empowerment, leading to reduction of poverty and breaking class barriers; and music research projects. It achieves this through providing skills training programmes and direct financial intervention for long-term sustainability. She also heads Kalpavriksha, an e-commerce platform supporting women's livelihoods, at Sethu Foundation. Khatija has featured in Elle India, Platform and Cosmopolitan India.
Co-Founder and CEO, Lal10
Scaling livelihood opportunities for artisans in India.
Maneet is the Co-Founder and CEO of Lal10, a B2B organization that skills 1800+ artisans to create contemporary products, utilize technology, and sell to 400+ global retailers. Prior to founding Lal10, Maneet has worked at Flipkart. He was featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 India list 2019, Westerwelle Fellow, and GSBI Fellow. He started Lal10 from the hostel room while he was pursuing his MBA from NITIE. He is a B.Tech from Delhi College of Engineering.
Deputy Commissioner Income Tax & Co-Founder, Samarpann
Designing sustainable strategies in health and education for tribal school children in India.
Megha Bhargava is a doctor turned IRS officer and is currently posted as Deputy Commissioner, Income Tax, Mumbai. She is Co-founder and Chief Advisor at Samarpann. The non-profit is creating a sustainable ecosystem in order to ensure access to inclusive education and primary healthcare in government schools in the villages of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand. Samarpann has adopted 50 schools and has impacted the lives of more than 10,500 children in the last 4 years.
Co-Founder, Guardians Of Dreams
Ensuring positive life outcomes for children living in orphanages and shelter homes.
Mekha is a social entrepreneur committed to ensuring that vulnerable children in India have a safe and nurturing environment to grow up in. In 2015, she started Guardians Of Dreams which aims to upgrade and transform the quality of care provided by existing Children’s Homes in India. With her penchant for fundraising, Mekha’s work in Guardians encompasses multiple fundraising approaches - from institutional and corporate fundraising to retail fundraising through volunteers. Mekha is also a GP Birla Fellow at Ananta Aspen.
United Nations Volunteer - District Youth Coordinator, NYK
Building the capacity of youth in rural India through established and diversified opportunities with the focus on UN SDGs.
Muletolu is currently working as a United Nations Volunteer - District Youth Coordinator working under the joint youth volunteering project. Muletolu is a catalyst in strengthening NYKS and NSS which was initiated by MoYas and UNDP/UNV. She is posted in Kiphire, Nagaland, bordering India and Myanmar. Her work focuses on youth development, mentorship and facilitating greater youth participation and voice in sustainable development goals.
Imparting experiential education and learning opportunities in conflict regions.
Ganderbal, Jammu & Kashmir
Omar Hafiz is the Founder of STEARS, which focuses on peacebuilding through experiential education in conflict regions. He is the Project Lead of Pi Jam Foundation, which aims to improve digital literacy through hands-on learning modules. For over a decade, he has been actively engaged with over 100 national and international organisations focussing on multiple sectors including education, livelihood and rehabilitation, disaster management, capacity building, peacebuilding, youth leadership and rural development.
CEO, Urmul Desert Crafts
Celebrating crafts and realizing the potential to build an inclusive society.
Prerna leads Urmul Desert Crafts (UDC) working with over 5000 artisans, mostly women, in the remote Thar desert in India. Through an ecosystem development, Prerna anchors strategy, operations and marketing leading a 35-member team. Blending social business and social development, UDC enhances artisanry and artisans lives while extensively working with marginalised communities including pastoralists, war refugees and farmers. Trained in advertising, Prerna has evolved into a village based social entrepreneur.
Director - Impact, Apnalaya
Enabling data rights for disenfranchised groups of India.
Raghunandan is Director of Impact, and a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Apnalaya, an organization that works with urban poor, enabling access to basic services and empowering communities to help themselves. Raghu’s work includes overseeing research that highlights issues of the urban poor, impact measurement, technology integration and compliance with Apnalaya’s Responsible Data Policy and practice. Prior to joining Apnalaya, Raghu's experience has included leading the technology-driven organizational transformation of one of India’s largest non-profits.
Director, The Alternative Story
Ensuring quality, accessible and affordable mental health care for everyone.
Rashi is the Founder and Director of The Alternative Story, an organization committed to making quality mental health services accessible and affordable to all. By education, Rashi has a masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice Administration and a bachelors in Psychology. She has helped several state governments set up programmes to respond to violence against women include domestic violence and sexual violence. She also has been a member of the Global Governing Group of the England based global campaign against mental health stigma and discrimination - Time to Change.
Co-founder at Inqui-lab Foundation
Nurturing the untapped problem solving capacity of children in India.
Sahithya is the Co-founder & Program Design Lead at Inqui-Lab Foundation. With a vision of nurturing problem solving capacities, Inqui-lab designs interventions for children and youth to investigate problems, ideate and prototype their ideas for change. Sahithya is a Teach for India Alumnus and holds a bachelors in Computer Science and masters in Economics from Birla Institute of Technology, Goa Campus.
Social Worker, Samajwadi Party
Integrating South Asia towards a growth path along the lines of European Union.
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Shashank is a grassroots politician working on day-to-day people’s issues. He built an organization that works to identify issues that affect people in his constituency and then seeks redressal through community mobilization, media outreach, and petitioning with the local administration. Prior to becoming a politician, Shashank has trained in the National Defence Academy as an Air Force Cadet, worked as a banker, consultant, teacher, social entrepreneur and served as a policy advisor on issues of urban poverty and education. He holds an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School and PhD (Economics Area) from IIM Lucknow.
Co Founder, Umang & Yaariyan
Radicalizing love across communities through activism.
Sonal Giani is an LGBTQIA+ activist and filmmaker. She is the co-founder of queer youth initiative 'Yaariyan' and Mumbai based support group 'Umang' - a safe space for lesbians, bisexual women and trans-masculine persons. She has appeared in numerous talk shows, documentaries and films.
Strengthening the livelihoods of indegenious communities in central India.
Betul, Madhya Pradesh
Sonu is with Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), working directly with the poor indigenous communities in Betul, Madhya Pradesh. He focuses on strengthening women's collectives and facilitating development projects to comprehensively enhance their socio-economic wellbeing. Sonu also anchors a block level sub-team to streamline Natural-Resource-Management based rural community investments by partnering with government departments. He holds a Post Graduation in Social Work from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Vinod Kumar Pandey
CEO, Mijwan Welfare Society
Connecting local folks to enriching local opportunities.
Vinod is the CEO of Mijwan Welfare Society - a grassroots organization working in the most deprived regions of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The primary objectives of the organization is to create and sustain local livelihood opportunities. Vinod has 12+ years of development sector experience. He is also a social entrepreneur. He is a university rank holder and completed his Master's in Public Administration from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), National University of Singapore (NUS). He is the recipient of the Dean’s Leadership Award at LKYSPP.
There is more. In a few months, we will introduce our Fall Cohort of Acumen India Fellows to the world, 20 exemplary agents of change who are scheduled to begin their Fellowship in September. Stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook over the coming weeks as we highlight their inspiring work.
Interested to Join the 2022 Acumen India Fellows Program? Sign-up here.