India Fellowship

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India Fellowship

Interested to Apply for the 2022 India Fellows Program?

Dynamic leaders from nearly every walk of life who have impacted their sector and are deeply committed to creating meaningful change in India.

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When is the Acumen India Fellowship?

We have closed applications for the 2021 India Fellows Program. The next India Fellows Program will run from January 2022. The application for the 2022 India Fellows Program will open in July 2021. Sign-up here to get regular updates from Acumen Academy India.

What is the India Fellowship?

Practical skills meet moral imagination in this intensive year-long leadership development program designed to equip extraordinary individuals with the tools, mindset, and community to tackle poverty and injustice in their communities.

Cohort-based Seminars

Virtual Content


Real-world applicability

Year 1

  • Join a diverse cohort of social change leaders in a rigorous year-long experience
  • Improve your capacity to innovate and drive change with a mix of in-person and online seminars
  • Drive initiatives focused on fighting poverty
  • Part-time — you stay in your job
  • 3-4 hour assignments every week

Beyond Year 1

  • Be a part of a lifelong fellowship that extends beyond your first year
  • Join a larger local and global community committed to a world beyond poverty and injustice

Every year, our India Fellows Program brings in 20 dynamic individuals who are committed to creating meaningful change within India. Fellows come from nearly every walk of life and have demonstrated the ability to have impact within their sector. India now has a community of over one hundred Fellows practicing moral leadership across India. This diverse community becomes a space for deep knowledge sharing, partnership and peer coaching.

Information Sessions

  • TBA

What makes a fellow?

Our fellows are extraordinary leaders who dare to embrace the difficult journey of social change. Here’s what we want from you—and what you can expect from your cohort.

  • Entrepreneurs: Leaders of both for-profit and nonprofit organizations providing critical goods or services to the underserved.
  • Intrapreneurs: Builders from any sector tackling poverty and injustice from within by shifting the institutional culture—and building new collaborations.
  • Organizational Builders: Leaders (other than the Founder or CEO) supporting the growth of institutions combating poverty and injustice
  • Public Sector Leader: Leveraging the government to create policy changes, partnerships or adoption of new models to tackle poverty

What will you learn?

The Fellowship curriculum is centered around the principles of moral leadership:

  • Adaptive Leadership: Based on Ron Heifetz’s work, Adaptive Leadership is a practical leadership framework that supports Fellows’ ability to catalyse and embrace the gradual and meaningful process of creating change.
  • Authentic Voice: Grounded in Marshall Ganz’s life's work, the Authentic Voice curriculum allows the Fellows to develop the capacity to articulate a hopeful vision, speak across lines of difference, and move others into action.
  • Good Society Readings: Modeled off The Aspen Institute, the Good Society Readings explore the meaning of a just society, and the moral and historical foundation of social change through text based dialogue
  • Managing Polarities: Based on Barry Johnson’s work, Polarities aims to cultivate an individual’s ability to lead effectively when opposing but interdependent and equally important values are in tension.
  • Systems Thinking: Fellows explore the concept of Systems Thinking by working collaboratively on live challenges—enabling them to better understand larger, systemic problems and design more effective interventions.

  • Lead diverse stakeholders through recurring and complex challenges
  • Articulate a vision that speaks across lines of difference & moves others into action
  • Understand larger, systemic problems and design more effective interventions
  • Navigate uncertainty and embrace the meaningful process of creating change
  • Cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself and your work in a broader context

How to Apply

The Application Process.

The Acumen India Fellows application is in three stages. The first stage is an online application followed up by the second stage with an online assignment. The application and the assignment is an opportunity for applicants to showcase their impact and articulate the gaps in their leadership journey. The third stage is the Selection Conference where the applicant is in conversation with the Acumen Academy team to know you, your aspirations and your work better.

Interested to Apply?

Join the email list for exclusive details, deadlines, connections and more.

India Fellows

Nivedita Rai


India Fellow

Read Bio 

Rewaj Chettri


India Fellow

Sonali Mehta-Rao


India Fellow

Meet the Fellows 

India Fellows

Meet the Fellows 

Nivedita Rai


India Fellow

Read Bio 

Rewaj Chettri


India Fellow

Sonali Mehta-Rao


India Fellow

Shravan Kumar Jha


India Fellow

Sanjukta Das


India Fellow

Alex Paul Menon


India Fellow

Frequently Asked Questions

The Application & Selection Process

What is the Acumen Fellowship?

The purpose of the Acumen Fellowship is to develop a community of leaders who challenge the status quo, work across lines of difference and inspire their communities to believe in a brighter future.

The Fellowship is the start of a journey towards mastering the skills, attributes, and values of moral leadership: a combination of empathy, immersion, understanding, and action. What binds our Fellows is shared values, a common commitment to a world beyond poverty and injustice, a pledge to accompany one another, to help and celebrate one another, and to hold each other to account.

Who are Acumen Fellows?

The Fellowship is designed for individuals who are currently leading or are an integral part of building an initiative whose mission is to eradicate poverty or injustice. Our Fellows are of all ages, come from diverse cultural, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds and work across multiple sectors.

Acumen Fellows understand that poverty extends beyond income levels, and that the opposite of poverty is not income: it is dignity. Dignity is freedom. It is having control over decisions that affect our lives.

For more context on how we understand poverty and injustice at Acumen, please refer to the two articles linked below: - Lessons Learned – 15 years of tackling poverty - The Opposite of Poverty

General Fellowship Eligibility

Do I have to be working in a social enterprise to be considered for the Fellowship?


Although many of our Fellows do work in social enterprises, Fellows can be working in any sector (including for-profit, nonprofit, corporations, and government).

Is the Fellowship only open to entrepreneurs?


Fellows go on various career paths and personal journeys over their lives, but many of the Fellows we’ve seen over the years include:

  • Entrepreneurs who have founded or are leading a for-profit or nonprofit organization that provides critical goods and services to the underserved

  • Intrapreneurs who are creating innovative solutions to tackle poverty or injustice from within existing institutions by shifting institutional culture and building new collaborations.

  • Organizational builders who are supporting the growth of poverty or injustice-focused institution from within, but not as the founder or CEO

We are looking for an entrepreneurial attitude, mindset, and approach – people who don’t accept the status quo.

What are the academic qualifications for the Fellowship?

There are no specific academic prerequisites.

Are there a minimum or maximum age requirements for Fellows?

No. There is neither a minimum age requirement nor a maximum age cut off.

Do I need to currently be involved in work focused on poverty or injustice?

Yes. We are looking for individuals who currently have a leadership role in an organization or initiative committed to fighting poverty or injustice on a full-time basis. We will, on an exceptional basis, consider applicants who are working part-time, as long as they demonstrate a full-time commitment to fighting poverty or injustice.

Can two people from the same organization apply for the Acumen Fellowship?

The Acumen Fellowship is a significant investment in an individual’s leadership journey. As the Fellowship is competitive and only offers 20 spots per year in each region, we aim to amplify our impact through the Fellows by asking them to take learnings from the Fellowship back to their teams and communities.

This means that in a given year, while multiple people from the same organization may apply, should you all meet our basic eligibility criteria, we will only be able to select one of you to advance in the selection process. We suggest keeping this in mind as you make the decision regarding whether one or more of you will apply in the same year.

This also means that, within a 3 year period, we will not be able to accept more than one person as a Fellow from the same organization. If somebody from your organization has been an Acumen Fellow in the last 3 years, we will not be able to accept your application this year. If nobody from your organization is an Acumen Fellow yet, we suggest keeping this in mind as you make the decision regarding which person in your organization is best suited to apply at this point in your leadership journeys.

Can I apply if I have taken Acumen Academy courses?

Absolutely! Taking Acumen Academy courses prior to the fellowship is strongly encouraged.

India Fellowship Eligibility

About COVID-19

Due to COVID, the structure for the 2021 Fellowship may not include 4 in-person seminars. We will inform you about the structure of the Fellowship and the latest plan once you clear Stage 2 and are invited to the Selection Conference.

Is English proficiency a requirement?

Yes. All seminars and training are conducted in English. Conversational proficiency in English is a requirement to ensure Fellows are able to give and get the most from this experience.

Do I have to be a citizen of India to apply?

Yes. We consider applications from citizens of India. We will, on an exceptional basis, consider applicants who demonstrate a concrete connection to the region (ie. long-term employment, residency, the focus of the social change project).

Is someone eligible to apply for the India Fellowship if they have taken part in an Acumen Fellowship in a different region?

No. Each cohort of Acumen Fellows must be comprised of individuals who have not previously taken part in an Acumen Fellowship. This is specific to Acumen’s programs; candidates who have participated in other fellowships or leadership programs, or who have taken +Acumen courses, are welcome to apply.

Specific questions about the program?

Contact us at

INDIA Fellowship Timing

How is the Fellowship structured?

The Fellowship is a mix of offline and online seminars, involving a time commitment of approximately 30 days in the year.

Given the current and forecasted COVID situation in India - there will be no in-person seminars conducted until June 2021. The team will take a call on the rest of the year in April, and closely communicate this with the incoming cohort. If you are a current applicant, and would like a real time update, email us at

For 2021 - the structure and time commitment will be slightly different. This will be communicated to the candidates at the Selection Conference in February, 2021.

What is the total time commitment required for the Fellowship?

The total in-person time commitment is about 24 days (4 seminars, 6 days each) over the course of the year, plus travel time to the seminar locations. Whenever possible we have scheduled seminars to run from Tuesday to Sunday.

Between seminars, you will be expected to spend additional time on program-related assignments, email correspondence and collaborative projects for approximately 3 hours per week.

Where will the different seminars and meetings for the program be held?

The seminars are typically held in or around major cities across India. In the past, they have been held in: - Bengaluru - Delhi - Guwahati - Kochi - Mumbai - Madurai - Pune - Raipur

For 2020, individuals will be notified the exact dates of the seminars upon being selected as a Fellow at the beginning of 2020. For any further questions please contact

General Fellowship Structure

Which costs does the fellowship cover?

Acumen covers all fellowship-related expenses during the fellowship year. This includes all costs associated with the seminars including lodging, food, transportation and visas.

Does the Fellowship provide scholarships, funding or additional benefits?

No. As this is a part-time fellowship, we do not provide scholarships, stipends, funding or insurance.

We do provide need-based scholarships for travel and accommodation for individuals selected to attend for Stage 3 Selection Conference (may be virtual due to COVID-19). Individuals who pass through Stage 2 and are interested in being considered for scholarship are asked to apply for it when they are invited to the Conference.

Do I automatically qualify for grant funding or an investment if I participate in the Fellowship?

No. Acumen’s leadership development inititatives are completely independent of our investment activities. If you are interested in learning more about Acumen’s investment criteria, click here.

What happens during and between the seminars?

During the Fellowship, Fellows are equipped with the knowledge, support systems and skills to challenge the status quo, work across lines of difference and mobilize their communities.

Curriculum includes: Good Society Readings, Adaptive Leadership, Authentic Voice, Polarity Management and Systems Thinking. Through seminars and online content between seminars, Fellows build trust and test new leadership skills within their cohort. This cohort-based model creates deep bonds of trust and fellowship, which persist long beyond the first year and which Fellows utilize to create greater impact.

What is the attendance policy? What if I need to miss a seminar?

The fellowship has a 100% attendance requirement, and all selected Fellows must attend all meetings (seminars) and complete assignments between seminars or face possible removal. We make exceptions for emergencies on a case-by-case basis.

Is internet connectivity a requirement to participate in the fellowship?

Yes. The primary method of communication regarding logistics and other important information is email. Assignments between seminars will be provided via an online learning platform. Therefore, all Fellows must have regular and reliable internet access that allows the downloading and uploading of documents as well as audio and video files.

India Application Timelines

What are the application deadlines? And what happens after I submit my application?

Upon application submission, our selection team will carefully review submissions and participation at each stage of the process, and select candidates who will advance to the next stage. At each stage of the application process, all candidates will receive communication from our team about the progress of their application.

The Application & Selection Process

How many Fellows are selected each year in each region?

On average, we select 20 Fellows per year in each region.

What are the technology requirements for accessing and completing the application?

For Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the application process, applicants will need a stable internet connection. All application documents and components must be submitted through an online portal. We highly recommend using Google Chrome or Firefox as your browser. Late submissions (both Stage 1 and Stage 2) due to internet or technology issues will not be accepted. Please plan to submit your application well in advance before the deadline.

If you experience issues submitting any element of your application, please try submitting your application from a different browser, computer or a different location with stronger internet connectivity. If you continue experiencing issues, please contact the Acumen team via

Will I get notified after my application has been submitted?

Yes. Our system automatically sends a confirmation email once your initial application has been submitted. If you do not receive one immediately after submitting your application, please check your email settings to make sure that our emails are not caught in your spam filter. We will send emails through the following domains:, and

Are recommendation letters required?

No. However, during the later stages of the selection process, we will ask you to provide the contact information of two professional references that we can contact if you make it to the third and final stage of the selection process. Your references should be people with whom you have worked closely. They should not be family, friends or spouses.

Can I edit my application after it’s been submitted?

No, this is not possible.

However, it is possible to save your application before submitting it, to return to later for editing. Make sure you double check all elements of your application before it is submitted. We cannot accept edits or changes after the fact, either through the platform or by email.

After the Fellowship

Is post-Fellowship job placement provided?


What do Fellows do after completing the program? What type of professional and personal development support does the Acumen Fellows Program offer?

Acumen is invested not only in each Fellows’ growth over the course of the year-long program, but also in their development as lifelong agents of fighting poverty or injustice. After completing the first year, Fellows may receive continued mentorship and coaching. Acumen also has a very active and growing network of social sector organizations, thought leaders, and Fellows across the globe. We engage all Acumen Fellows through events, newsletters and subsequent recruitment and selection processes. In addition, after the program the Fellows become part of a community of moral leaders who are fighting poverty or injustice in their region and across the world.

If you still have questions after reading the Frequently Asked Questions, please email

Download Application Toolkit (PDF)

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