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India Fellowship

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 India Acumen Fellowship Starting?

The applications for the 2022 India Fellows Program are live up till November 26th, 2021.

We will begin the Fellowship Year in May 2022 for the Spring Cohort and in October 2022 for the Fall Cohort. The timelines are tentative and subject to change based on the impact of the pandemic and any other uncertain factors.

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 40 dynamic individuals as part of two cohorts, Spring and Fall. These individuals 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 close to 200 Fellows practicing moral leadership across India. This diverse community becomes a space for deep knowledge sharing, partnership and peer coaching.

Information Sessions

  • November 12th - Q&A with India Fellows

  • November 19th - Q&A with India Fellows

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: Leaders who are bringing to life new initiatives or approaches within the organization. The focus is on designing, testing, incubating and implementing ideas that enable the organization to pursue its purpose.
  • Organizational Builders: Leaders who play an integral role in building the organization. The focus is on building the internal blocks, systems & processes that enable the organization to pursue its purpose.

In the Fellowship Program You Will:

  • Learn to catalyse and embrace the gradual and meaningful process of creating change at the personal, organisational, and societal levels
  • Cultivate the ability to lead effectively when opposing but interdependent values are in tension
  • Understand how to lead diverse stakeholders through recurring and complex challenges
  • Develop the capacity to tell meaningful stories that speak across lines of difference and move others to action
  • Examine your identities, values, and choices that have shaped your journey till now and cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself and your work in a broader context
  • Explore the meaning of a just society and the moral and historical foundation of social change through text-based dialogue
  • Navigate systemic problems and design more effective interventions using moral imagination
  • Question your assumptions and beliefs about leading effective change
  • Be supported and accompanied by a cohort of like-minded peers persevering in the process of driving social change

Our curriculum draws on powerful leadership frameworks, tools, and approaches, including Adaptive Leadership, Authentic Voice, Good Society Readings, Immunity to Change, and Polarities Management.

How to Apply

Our application process consists of these three steps.

  1. 1
    Step 1: Step 1: Apply online — what are you telling us? (Open 1st Nov and close 26th Nov)
  2. 2
    Step 2: Step 2: Complete your online assignments — what are you showing us? (Dec 17th - Jan 6th)
  3. 3
    Step 3: Step 3: Attend the Selection Conference — why is this the right time for you to be a Fellow? Mar 4th
Apply NowDownload Application Toolkit (PDF)

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

What is the Acumen Fellowship?

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

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.

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

Acumen Academy in India is keeping a close eye on the COVID situation. The structure for the 2022 India Fellows Program will be announced keeping in mind the safety of the participating individuals. You can expect us to share details about the program structure before the final selection process.

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 Academy courses, are welcome to apply.

Specific questions about the program?

Contact us at indiafellows@acumen.org

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.

The COVID situation in India will be monitored closely by the Acumen Academy team in India, and the 2022 program structure and timelines will be communicated closer to March 2022.

What is the total time commitment required for the Fellowship?

The total time commitment is about 30 days over the course of the year. Whenever possible, we have scheduled seminars from Tuesday until 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 2022, individuals will be notified the exact dates of the seminars upon being selected as a Fellow at the beginning of 2022. For any further questions please contact indiafellows@acumen.org

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 (although this 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 initiatives 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.

Our curriculum draws on powerful leadership frameworks, tools, and approaches, including Adaptive Leadership, Authentic Voice, Good Society Readings, Immunity to Change, and Polarities Management.

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.

How does Acumen Academy design for an inclusive experience?

Acumen Academy is deeply committed to equality, equity, diversity and inclusion - we encourage applications from all social leaders, as long as they have the motivation to make it happen.

Please reach out to us at fellows@acumenacademy.org if you have specific needs or requirements related to the application or program. We will listen to the various needs and explore options to accommodate as much as possible.

India Application Timelines

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

The application deadline is Nov 26th. 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 fellows@acumenacademy.org

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: @mail.smapply.net, @acumen, and @acumenacademy.org

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 fellows@acumenacademy.org

Download Application Toolkit (PDF)

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