Food Systems Fellowship
Be notified of the next fellowship:
Be notified of the next fellowship:
Food Systems Fellowship
Bringing together food systems builders from across the world who understand that it will take all of us to tackle the greatest food systems challenges of our time.
When is The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Food Systems Fellowship starting?
The Food Systems Fellowship runs from April 2023 to November 2023. Learn more about the Fellowship Roadmap below.
What is The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Food Systems Fellowship?
The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Food Systems Fellowship is an intensive, one-year leadership development program offered through Acumen Academy, the world’s school for social change. The Food Systems Fellowship will introduce moral leadership concepts to a globally diverse cohort of 20 food systems builders who are creating more equitable, nourishing, and regenerative food systems. With leading food systems facilitators, Fellows will participate in a blend of immersive seminars, workshops, and self-directed leadership experiments. The program will combine in-person and virtual learning over the course of the Fellowship year.
After Year 1 of the Fellowship, Food Systems Fellows will join Acumen’s global community of social innovators building a world without poverty and injustice.
Year 1: Fellowship year
- Join a globally diverse cohort of experienced food systems builders in a rigorous year-long experience
- Improve your capacity to innovate and drive change within food systems by practicing essential systems leadership skills
- Learn via a mix of immersive seminars, workshops, and self-directed leadership experiments with the support of trained facilitators and world class experts
- Part-time — you stay in your job while participating in the program
- All program-related costs are covered by the Fellowship
- Bring examples from your work into the program to guide your learning, then take learnings from the program back to guide your work and create or increase impact
Beyond Year 1: What happens after the program
- Join a lifelong alumni community of over 1,000 social innovators around the world — we call this community ‘The Foundry.’
- Access the resources and relationships to amplify your important work in architecting a just, inclusive, and sustainable world. This includes access to social innovators, funders, and mentors.
What will I learn and do?
Embrace the gradual and meaningful process of creating systemic change within food systems at the personal, organizational, and societal levels:
Personal - Examine the identities, values, and choices that have shaped your journey until now and cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself and your work within food systems. Explore the meaning of a just society and the moral and historical foundation of social change through text-based dialogue.
Organizational - 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.
Systemic - Question your assumptions and beliefs about leading effective change in food systems. Navigate the food system you operate in using moral imagination.
Our curriculum draws on powerful leadership frameworks, tools, and approaches, including Adaptive Leadership, Authentic Voice, Good Society Readings, Polarities Management, Immunity to Change, and Systems Thinking.
What makes a Fellow?
Our fellows are extraordinary emerging systems builders who dare to embrace the difficult journey of social change in food systems. You will be joining a cohort composed of individuals who will typically be on one of the following trajectories:
Social Entrepreneurs: Founding or leading a for-profit or non-profit organization that provides critical goods or services to underserved populations within food systems.
Social Intrapreneurs: Creating innovative solutions to tackle food systems challenges from within an existing institution by shifting its culture and/or strategy, and building new collaborations.
Organizational Builders: Supporting the growth of an organization focused on alleviating food systems challenges by building the internal structures, and processes that enable the organization to pursue its purpose.
Public Sector Leaders: Reimagining public policy and leveraging the government services to drive change within food systems.
Bridge Builders: Finding and connecting organizations and leaders to discover commonalities and activate a shared vision for food systems transformation.
Check out examples of past Fellows at the bottom of this page.
Our three-stage online selection process is designed to understand your capacity, willingness, and potential to grow as systems builders who will be at the forefront of systems change within food systems.
Apply: tell us about your journey in food systems work so far and your vision moving forward. 16 Oct - 1 Dec 2022
Complete Assignments: show us your capacity for leadership and the impact of your work. 2 - 15 Jan 2023
Attend the Selection Conference: connect with food systems finalists across the world and explore why this is the right time for you to be a Fellow. 11 - 12 Mar 2023
The Rockefeller Foundation - Acumen Food Systems Fellows 2023 Cohort Announcement: Apr 2023
Immerse Yourself in the Food Systems Fellowship: Apr-Nov 2023
Do you want to know more about the Fellowship?
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Food Systems Fellows
Frequently Asked Question
Do I have to be working in a social enterprise to be considered for the Food Systems Fellowship?
No. Although many of our Fellows do work in social enterprises, we encourage applicants working with any kind of initiative that is connected to food systems work. We are looking for people that have worked for at least five years in the food systems space and have a vision for building nourishing, regenerative, and equitable food systems.
Is the Food Systems Fellowship only open to entrepreneurs?
No. Fellows go on multiple career paths and personal journeys, but many of the Fellows we’ve seen over the years include:
- Social Entrepreneurs: Founding or leading a for-profit or non-profit organization that provides critical goods or services to underserved populations within food systems.
- Social Intrapreneurs: Creating innovative solutions to tackle food systems challenges from within an existing institution by shifting its culture and/or strategy, and building new collaborations.
- Organizational Builders: Supporting the growth of an organization focused on alleviating food systems challenges by building the internal structures, and processes that enable the organization to pursue its purpose.
- Public Sector Leaders: Reimagining public policy and leveraging the government services to drive change within food systems.
- Bridge Builders: Finding and connecting organizations and leaders to discover commonalities and activate a shared vision for food systems transformation.
Above all, we are looking for systems leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset who understand that it will take all of us to tackle the greatest food systems challenges of our time.
What are the academic qualifications for the Fellowship?
There are no specific academic prerequisites.
Are there a minimum or maximum age requirements for Fellows?
There is no age requirement as we do not believe Fellows need to be within a certain age range to create impact. We do look for individuals who hold influence in the food systems initiatives and communities they work with, so that they are able to create change where they work.
Do I need to currently be involved in work focused on food systems?
Yes. We are looking for individuals who currently have a leadership role in one or more organizations or initiatives that are committed to food systems work on a full-time basis. We will consider applicants who are working part-time on an exceptional basis, as long as they demonstrate a full-time commitment to food systems work.
Can two people from the same organization apply to the Food Systems Fellowship?
The Food Systems Fellowship is a significant investment in an individual’s leadership journey. As the Fellowship is competitive and only offers 20 seats per year, 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.
Can I apply if I have participated in The Rockefeller Foundation Food Systems Vision Prize?
Absolutely! We strongly welcome applicants to the Food Systems Vision Prize. Just state the name of your Vision in your application.
Is English proficiency a requirement?
Yes. All seminars and workshops 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.
Is someone eligible to apply for the Food Systems 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 part in Acumen Academy courses or accelerators, are welcome to apply.
Food Systems Fellowship Overview
What is The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Food Systems Fellowship?
The purpose of the Food Systems Fellowship is to develop a community of experienced food systems builders who are working to create more equitable food systems across the world. These builders 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 toward mastering the skills, attributes, and values of moral leadership - a combination of empathy, immersion, understanding, and action - and then applying these skills to the gradual process of systemic change within the food systems they operate in.
What do you mean by ‘food systems’?
Food systems include but also go beyond value chains, i.e. the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food. Food systems are complex, and are closely connected to, and significantly impact, human and animal health, land, water, climate, biodiversity, the economy and other systems. Transforming food systems for the future requires Systems Builders — individuals who can see the complexity of food systems and have the ability to influence them at multiple levels, including the actors within the system, the linkages between them, and the enabling environment that they operate within.
Who are Food Systems Fellows?
The Food Systems Fellowship is designed for individuals who are currently leading or are an integral part of building one or more initiatives whose mission is to shift our food systems to be more equitable, nourishing and regenerative food systems. Fellows come from diverse cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and are experienced practitioners of food systems work, often across multiple work streams, from food production and distribution, to agricultural economics and policy, to food safety and justice.
Food Systems Fellowship Structure & Timing
How is the Fellowship structured?
Fellows will remain in their jobs while taking part in a total of five seminars - three deep immersives (2 in-person, 1 virtual) lasting 1 full week each; and two workshops spanning 5 weeks each, with a commitment of ~8 hours per week. Our immersives provide opportunities with intensive introductions to concepts as well as cohort-building activities. Our workshops allow Fellows to continue the journey and weave lessons into their work and lives. Attendance at each seminar is mandatory.
What is the total time commitment required for the Fellowship?
The 3 immersive seminars require a total of 18 full days to be committed to the Fellowship. This is in addition to travel time to locations for the in-person seminars. Whenever possible we have scheduled seminars to run from Monday to Saturday.
The 2 workshops require a total of 10 weeks (~8 hours per week) to be committed to the Fellowship. These include synchronous sessions with the whole cohort, and self-paced activities and assignments between sessions.
Between seminars, you will be expected to spend additional time on program-related assignments, email correspondence and collaborative projects for ~3 hours per week.
See more details in our Food Systems Fellowship Overview.
Where will the different seminars and meetings for the program be held?
Individuals will be notified of the exact dates of all seminars, and locations of the in-person seminars, upon being selected as a Food Systems Fellow at the beginning of 2023.
What happens during and between the seminars?
During the Food Systems 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 to build more inclusive food systems for all.
Our curriculum draws on powerful leadership frameworks, tools, and approaches, including Systems Thinking, Adaptive Leadership, Authentic Voice, Good Society Readings, Immunity to Change, and Polarities Management. Fellows also 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 Food Systems Fellowship has a 100% attendance requirement, and all selected Fellows must attend all 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, online sessions are held using Zoom, and 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 food systems builders, as long as they have the motivation to make it happen.
Please reach out to us at email@example.com 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.
Which costs does the Fellowship cover?
Acumen covers all fellowship-related expenses during the fellowship year. This includes all costs associated with the in-person seminars including lodging, food, transportation and visas, as well as technology costs associated with virtual seminars.
Does the Fellowship provide scholarships, funding or additional benefits?
No. As this is a part-time fellowship, we do not provide stipends, funding, or insurance in addition to the program costs that we cover.
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.
Food Systems Fellowship Selection Process
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.
How many Fellows are selected for the Food Systems Fellowship?
Acumen will select 20-22 Fellows from across the world for each cohort of the Food Systems Fellowship.
What are the technology requirements for accessing and completing the application?
For all stages 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.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, and @acumenacademy.org
Are recommendation letters required?
No. However, if someone from the Acumen or The Rockefeller Foundation communities has recommended you using our process, please get a referral link from them to include in your application.
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 Food Systems Fellowship 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 builders of food systems work. After completing the first year, Fellows may receive continued mentorship and coaching. Acumen and the Rockefeller Foundation also have 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 email@example.com
Watch Info Session Replay (2022)