United Kingdom Fellowship

UK Acumen Fellowship

Join a community of bold and generous leaders committed to bridging divides in the United Kingdom.

When do applications open for the next Cohort of UK Fellows?

The 2022 UK Fellowship runs from August 2022 to July 2023. Applications for the 2023 cohort will open soon. Sign up to our UK mailing list to be the first to learn more.

What is the Acumen UK Fellowship?

Each year, the Acumen UK Fellowship selects ~20 Fellows from across sector, place and background who are redefining success in the United Kingdom - and equips them with the practices and community needed to deepen and sustain their impact.

The Fellowship begins with a year-long fully-funded leadership programme, where Fellows remain in their role while taking part in a series of immersive residentials, virtual workshops and group practice. This is where practical skills meet moral imagination - and the programme is designed to increase a Fellow’s capacity to take on long standing problems of poverty and division.

After the first year, Fellows become part of Acumen’s global community of social innovators - committed to lifelong learning, collaboration and accompaniment as they build a world based on dignity.

Learn more before you apply

Cohort-Based Seminars

Virtual Content


Real-World Applicability

How we think about impact

1. Diversity of Reach: Identify bold and generous leaders who represent the remarkable diversity of the United Kingdom,

2. Depth of Impact: And create a brave learning space that enables them to develop and apply the practices of bridging difference, building trust and navigating the unknown,

3. Depth of Community: And connect them with a community that accompanies, deepens and sustains, supports and challenges over a lifetime,

4. Amplification of Leadership: So that together, we can role model a new definition of success,

5. Depth of Community: And build solutions that create a more just, inclusive & sustainable world.

For any enquiries email uk@acumenacademy.org 

The first year of the Fellows programme

  • Join a cohort of 20 leaders from across sector, discipline and place
  • Three immersive residentials - 5 days each held at locations across the UK
  • Two online workshop series - 5 weeks each, ~5 hours per week
  • Learning that is immediately applied to your work
  • Peer coaching that challenges and accompanies you in your practice
  • Programme costs covered by UK Acumen Academy

Information sessions

We are running a range of events with partners to help understand whether the Fellowship could deepen your impact. If you want to work with us to deliver an event with your community get in touch at uk@acumenacademy.org


What makes a Fellow?

Our Fellows are bold builders who dare to embrace the difficult journey of social change. They are:

  • Building solutions based on a deep understanding of the issue
  • Making a long-term play to change the system they are working in
  • Influencing change in their current work, formally or informally
  • Ready to undergo an intensive year-long leadership journey

Fellows are typically on one of the following paths:

  • 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 four steps:

  1. Step 1: Complete your online application — what are you telling us? Opens 22nd February and closes 5th April
  2. Step 2: Complete your online assignments — what are you showing us? 22nd May
  3. Step 3: Attend the Selection Festival — why is this the right time for you to be a Fellow? 28th July
  4.  Step 4: Start the Acumen Fellowship September 2023
When I joined and met the cohort I saw a vision of what could be. A group of loving people from different disciplines on the same page. A collaborative force to influence change in the UK.

Marcellus Baz

UK Fellow & CEO of Switch Up

Frequently Asked Question

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:

Fellowship Eligibility


Who is the Fellowship designed for?

The Fellowship is designed for builders. During the selection process, we will want to learn more about the track record and vision of the initiative or organisation you are building.

The Fellowship is designed to help navigate challenges that have no easy answers. During the selection process, we will want to learn more about the challenges you are facing, who you need to mobilise, and what you need to do differently in order to take your impact to the next level.

The Fellowship is designed for those who are willing and able to commit to the journey. All Fellows have significant obligations – professional and personal. During the selection process, we will want to learn more about your motivation for applying and how you will make it a priority over the year.

The Fellowship is designed to stretch limits and push Fellows out of their comfort zone. This will require work from everyone to build a brave and trusted space. During the selection process, we will want to learn more about why you feel now is the right time for you to go through the Fellowship and have your limits stretched.

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.

UK Fellowship Eligibility


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 UK to apply?

Fellows are typically UK citizens, however we will consider applicants who demonstrate a concrete connection to the UK i.e. long-term employment, residency, focus of their social change project.

Is someone eligible to apply for the UK 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 programmes; candidates who have participated in other fellowships or leadership programmes, or who have taken Acumen Academy courses, are welcome to apply.

General Fellowship Structure


Which costs does the Fellowship cover?

Acumen Academy UK (our legal entity in the UK) covers all programme-related expenses during the Fellowship year - this includes accommodation, food and venue costs for the residentials. We ask for Fellows to cover their own transport costs to the residentials. If travel costs are prohibitive we will work with Fellows to ensure they can attend and participate-fully. We have allocated a finite amount of money to reimburse Fellows for travel where needed.

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?

Over the Fellowship year you will build the tools and mindset to: - 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

The curriculum includes modules such as: Good Society Readings, Adaptive Leadership, Authentic Voice, Polarity Management and Systems Thinking. Through residentials and online workshops 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 an immersive?

The fellowship has a 100% attendance requirement, and all selected Fellows must attend all immersive residentials and online workshops, and complete assignments between sessions or face possible removal. If emergencies arise we make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, and work with the Fellow to align on the best path forward.

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 design for an inclusive Fellowship experience?

Acumen is deeply committed to diversity, equity and inclusion - we encourage applications from all social leaders, including marginalised groups.

We acknowledge that the Fellowship is a big time investment and not always possible for those with caring responsibilities, extreme time-sensitive pressures or health conditions. To receive the full benefits of the Fellowship, Fellows are required to attend and participate in all immersive residentials, virtual workshops - some of which include evening sessions.

To help build an inclusive programme, we have ensured that the Fellows Programme is fully-funded and work closely with external partners such as wellbeing professionals, DEI consultants and the Centre for Knowledge Equity to inform the design of our application process and programme.

Please read the Programme Expectation and Application Process sections, and contact us if you have specific needs or requirements related to the application or programme. You will know what works best for you, and together we will be able to arrange adjustments or build in financial support to ensure you can fully participate. We are constantly learning and evolving and welcome all feedback on how we can design an inclusive process and communicate clear expectations.

UK Fellowship Timing


How is the Fellowship structured?

Fellows remain in their roles and come together for 3 immersive residentials, each lasting 5-6 days, throughout the year. In addition, 2 workshop series are delivered virtually, spanning 5-6 weeks each, with a commitment of ~5hrs per week.

Attendance at each immersive and workshop is mandatory. Between immersives and workshops, Fellows are expected to participate in and complete online assignments and peer discussions.

What is the total time commitment required for the Fellowship?

The total time commitment is about 25 days over the course of the year - of which ~16 is planned to be in-person, plus travel time to the seminar locations.

Where will the immersive residentials for the programme be held?

The residentials are typically held in or around major cities across the UK. For example, we are looking to hold future residentials in: Birmingham - Manchester - London - Cardiff - Edinburgh - Belfast. Individuals will be notified the exact locations of the residentials upon being selected.

How will the UK programme be impacted by COVID-19?

Whilst we are planning for in-person delivery, we continuously evaluate the best path forward for the programme delivery. We will follow UK government guidance and listen to the cohort when deciding if we need to adapt and run an immersive residential virtually. We will remain flexible and transparent with Fellows as the situation evolves. If the decision is made to hold an immersive virtually, the immersive date will be extended by an additional day to help create an effective online schedule.

If meeting up in-person is not possible, then we will do as much as we can virtually, in service of meeting in-person as soon as we can. Working with you, we are confident that we will continue to find impactful ways to bring the Fellows together and drive learning, be it in-person or virtually. We advise you to come into this experience with the expectation that at least one of the immersives will be delivered virtually.

UK 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.

What is Acumen assessing in the selection process?

The selection process is designed to understand the applicant’s track record, their capacity to lead and readiness for the programme. Acumen selects Fellows based on: 1) a track record of driving change based on a deep understanding of the issue 2) a clear long-term vision to change the system they are working in 3) an ability to influence change in their current work, formally or informally 4) a readiness to undergo an intensive, year-long leadership journey

We are focused on assessing the content of the application, and not the polish or smartness of written english. Each application will be reviewed separately by two different people in the Acumen community, who will be selected based on proximity to the applicants work

After the Fellowship


Is post-Fellowship job placement provided?


What do Fellows do after completing the programme? 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 programme, 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 uk@acumenacademy.org

Some long question title should go here.


Do I need to be from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia or Rwanda to apply?

You need to be a social entrepreneur running a business with primary operations in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia or Rwanda. You do not need to be a citizen of one of these countries in order to apply.

How will participants be selected?

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. If you are selected for an interview, a member of the Acumen accelerator team will reach out to schedule a 30-minute video call with you on the Zoom platform.

What stage does my social enterprise have to be in order to participate?

This program is designed for social enterprises with demonstrated market traction and, on average, the equivalent to 3 full-time staff members. In general, you should have raised less than 1 million in seed funding (grant funding or equity)

Download Application Toolkit (PDF)