Acumen Fund Announces 2009 Fellows

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Cutting-Edge Program Cultivates Next Generation of Global Leaders, Builds Talent in Social Sector

The valuable hands-on experience I'll gain by working closely with a social entrepreneur will help me develop professionally while supporting a growing business that can effect social change by providing a scalable model to deliver services to the world's poor.

Acumen Fund, a catalyst for sustainable, scalable solutions addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, today announced the selection of the 2009 class of Acumen Fund Fellows. Designed to address a talent gap in the social sector and cultivate the next generation of global leaders, the Acumen Fund Fellows Program offers extraordinary young professionals the unique opportunity to use their skills to effect real social change by providing on-the-ground management support to Acumen investees in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, India and Pakistan.

"The Acumen Fund Fellows Program is integral to our efforts at Acumen to strengthen the social sector over the long term by nurturing the talent necessary to build transformative businesses," said Jacqueline Novogratz, Chief Executive Officer of Acumen Fund. "Market-based approaches to overcoming the challenges of global poverty require talented leaders with diverse skill sets, and Acumen Fund is committed to providing exceptional, young professionals with opportunities to acquire these skills through experiential learning."

266 accomplished individuals from 34 countries applied for the ten available 2009 fellowships. The Fellows Program begins with a demanding seven-week training course that features in-depth discussions and workshops with corporate and nonprofit leaders, academics and former Acumen Fellows. This training is followed by a nine-month assignment with one of Acumen's investments, businesses that provide critical goods and services--health care, housing, water and energy--to people across South Asia and East Africa who make less than $4 per day. Assignments in the past have ranged from redesigning a marketing and branding strategy for a microfinance organization to defining geographic expansion strategy to building internal HR systems. The Fellows Program is capped off with three weeks spent at Acumen Fund's New York City office during which time returning participants share lessons learned in the field with the Acumen team and the next class of fellows.

The Acumen Fund Fellows Program is fundamental to Acumen Fund's three core objectives - investing in enterprises that serve the poor, developing talent to support these enterprises, and sharing knowledge gained from Acumen investments. Fellows apply their knowledge and skills to the needs of Acumen investees while gaining valuable professional experience and building lasting relationships that the Fellows, Acumen Fund and the entire social enterprise sector will be able to draw on in the future.

Qualifications for the Acumen Fund Fellows Program include demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit, an advanced degree and/or three to five years of relevant work experience, cultural sensitivity to the needs and challenges of the communities and enterprises with which Acumen Fund works, and a commitment to Acumen's mission of serving as a catalyst for change by supporting models that bring critical, affordable goods and services to the world's poor.

"The Acumen Fund Fellows Program will challenge me to put my private sector skills to use in a different context and contribute to the creation of market-based solutions that will address some of the most pressing social issues facing the world today," said 2009 Acumen Fellow Nicole Orillac. "The valuable hands-on experience I'll gain by working closely with a social entrepreneur will help me develop professionally while supporting a growing business that can effect social change by providing a scalable model to deliver services to the world's poor."

Acumen Fund's 2009 Fellows class is comprised of the following extraordinary individuals:

Tara Sabre Collier

  • BA, Spelman College, 2003; MA, International Public/ Non-Profit Management, NYU, 2006
  • USAID-funded Emerging Markets Development Adviser for the Business Development Center (Amman, Jordan)
  • Research Fellow for joint project in microfinance with FINCA and Banco do Nordeste (Fortaleza, Brazil)
  • Previous experience in Cuba, Dominican Republic, France and the US

Premal Desai

  • BE Computer Engineering, University of Bombay, 1994; MSc, Computer Science and Engineering, University of Texas, 1996
  • Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation (Hyderabad, India)
  • IT Consultant for non-profit LV Prasad Eye Institute (Hyderabad, India)
  • Former business-owner, Gymboree Play and Music Franchise (San Jose, CA)

Sophie Forbes

  • BA English and Anthropology, Rutgers, 1994; MS, Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon, 2001
  • Independent Consultant in International Development: agriculture, economic/enterprise development and microfinance (Ethiopia, Africa, Asia)
  • RPCV, US Peace Corps (Uzbekistan)
  • Previous consulting and program management experience in Uganda, Ukraine, South Africa, Afghanistan, Georgia, Zimbabwe, Indonesia and the US

Ramakrishnan Hariharan

  • BS Chemistry, Mumbai University, 1994; MA Management Studies, Mumbai University, 1998
  • Head of Operations for Pratham, NGO working in Primary Education (India)
  • 5 years of experience in the banking industry, 3 years of experience in the consumer goods industry and 2 years of experience in the development sector

Joanna Harries

  • HBA Honors Business Administration, Wilfrid Laurier University, 2003; MBA focused on Sustainable Strategy (course work in China), Wilfrid Laurier University, 2008
  • Brand Manager on new product launch, Unilever (Toronto, Canada)
  • Experience working in consumer goods industry, high-tech & oil and gas (UK)
  • Leader on community focused Unilever projects with the United Way and Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada

Karthik Janakiraman

  • MS, University of Michigan, 1997; BE, University of Madras, 1996 (both in Mech. Engineering)
  • Senior Engineering Manager, Blanket Dielectric Films, Applied Materials
  • Founder of Net-Impact of Silicon Valley
  • Awarded 5 patents; 8 patents pending
  • Born in India, raised in India and Nigeria

Heidi Krauel

  • AB Political Economy, Princeton University, 1997; MBA, Stanford University, 2004
  • Director, Employee OnRamp Initiatives and Internal Evaluation, Pacific Community Ventures (San Francisco, CA)
  • Former Manager and founding member of AOL Time Warner Ventures
  • Previous experience as an Analyst and Senior Analyst in Investment Banking at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and Credit Suisse First Boston

Joel Montgomery

  • BS Mechanical Engineering, Yale University, 2001; MBA, Thunderbird School of Global Management, 2008
  • Small Business Analyst for Endeavor Global, Petfor (the largest bottle recycling business in Istanbul, Turkey)
  • Previously the Director of Latin American Sales, Pace Packaging
  • Founder of Santa's U-Haul, a grass-roots effort to collect, match and deliver presents to victims of Hurricane Katrina (Mississippi)

Nicole Orillac

  • BS Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, 2002; MBA and MSc in Development Management, HEC, Paris and LSE, London, 2008.
  • Volunteer researcher for the Governance Team at Plan UK, an international NGO, supporting a Program Partnership Agreement (PPA) funded by DFID.
  • Awarded the Programme Alban Scholarship in 2007, a high level scholarship of the European Commission specifically addressed to Latin America.
  • Previously Manufacturing Plant Manager and Continuous Improvement Team Leader, Frito Lay Central America (Panama)

Suraj Sudhakar

  • B.Tech Computer Science and Engineering, Cochin University of Science and Technology, 2004
  • Team Leader, New Products, Rural Innovations Network, a non-profit grassroots innovation incubator (Tamil Nadu, India)
  • Previously Programmer Analyst at Cognizant Technology Solutions (Tamil Nadu)

More information on the 2009 Acumen Fund Fellows, including project assignments, will be made available in the fall on Acumen's website, Observations from the current Fellows class of 2008, who are currently supporting Acumen Fund investments in Pakistan, India and Kenya, can be found on their blog,

About Acumen Fund
Acumen Fund is a nonprofit venture fund that invests in market-oriented approaches for delivering critical, affordable goods and services to the world's poor. Acumen Fund's efforts focus on the convergence of philanthropic capital and business expertise to produce sustainable, scalable enterprises that reach underserved markets and open access to the opportunities of the global economy. For more information on Acumen Fund's activities and investments, visit


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