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Energy for Livelihoods Accelerator - East Africa

Refine and prepare to scale your sustainable energy business and transform the livelihoods of low-income communities in East Africa.



12 Weeks

The Problem

The majority of people living in poverty are rural, young, and lack access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity⁠—a major impediment to rising out of poverty. In addition to the significant environmental impact that sustainable energy access brings, the socio-economic benefits are far-reaching: it has the potential to more than double incomes by saving time and fuel costs, improving farm yields, and enhancing resilience. With climate change creating more uncertainty in vulnerable communities, self-sustaining income is more important than ever.

In 2022, Acumen launched its Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative (PEII+) to supercharge a critical component in the global energy transition, Productive Use of Energy (PUE) technologies powered by sustainable energy. Our Energy for Livelihoods Accelerator spun out of this initiative, and after successfully running the program in India, we are now launching Energy for Livelihoods East Africa. The program is designed to accelerate a cohort of early-stage social enterprises using clean energy and energy-efficient solutions to enhance job creation and income generation for low-income communities.  

Delivered by Acumen Academy, the Energy for Livelihoods accelerator aims to build an ecosystem of locally-led scalable social enterprises across East Africa committed to improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, small businesses, and micro-entrepreneurs. Through the program, participants will develop and refine a scalable business model that has the potential to transform the lives of low-income people while conserving resources and protecting the environment. 

Learn How To

  • Develop, refine, and test key hypotheses for how your enterprise can scale
  • Make data-driven decisions by gathering customer insights
  • Learn ways to communicate and demonstrate your social and environmental impact
  • Improve your financial sustainability through isolating and testing your organization’s revenue, cost and investment assumptions
  • Refine your value proposition and develop marketing, sales, and pricing strategies that work for low-income customers
  • Develop the hard-edged leadership skills needed to build better, truly inclusive, sustainable solutions

Who is Qualified to Apply?

This accelerator is open to social entrepreneurs who:

Run a for-profit social enterprise in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda), using sustainable energy and energy-efficient solutions to positively impact the livelihoods of low-income people, through one of the following models/sectors: 

  • Agriculture & Allied sector - companies with clean energy solutions throughout the agriculture value chain to improve farm incomes/productivity or reduce costs and labour for smallholder farmers.
  • Energy for micro-entrepreneurs - companies enabling clean energy & energy-efficient solutions for businesses that reduce costs or unlock new business opportunities, for example in cooling, cooking, transport, or manufacturing.
  • Business enablers – companies providing supplementary services for enabling clean energy transition, including but not limited to distribution and financing solutions, skills development, data tools, and market-building approaches for farmers and businesses.

Additionally, all applicants should have: 

  • Local founding team members.
  • A deep commitment to the work of tackling poverty and injustice and an interest in being part of a global community bound by values. 
  • An operational track record of 12 months or more with existing customers. Preference will be given to companies who achieved >$40,000 in revenue in the last 12 months.
  • Able to demonstrate impact in job creation/enhancing income generation and reducing emissions.
  • A team with relevant sector experience and three or more full-time staff. Ideal candidates will have 5+ years of professional work experience.  

How it Works

Through 12 weeks of structured programming, you will learn the essentials for building a business model that can achieve both social and environmental impact and profitability. You will dive into a curriculum leveraging Acumen’s learnings, expertise in energy investment, and pioneering moral leadership practices, and leave with the competence and character needed to build solutions that improve the livelihoods of low-income communities.

Taking part will provide you with unique access to a supportive network of peers, facilitators, and mentors who will share constructive feedback, encouragement, and opportunities to profile your work and accelerate you toward scale. 

In addition to developing the essential skills needed to build your business model, cohort members who fulfill all program commitments will be eligible to apply for a share of $50,000 and possible inclusion in Acumen’s PEII+ investment initiative. 

Entrepreneurs who graduate from the program will be welcomed into Acumen Academy’s global community, The Foundry.


After participants complete the program they join The Foundry, a global community designed to increase the impact of 1600+ highly effective social innovators as they grow and scale solutions to poverty and build a world based on dignity. Foundry members are a community of like-minded peers from diverse backgrounds who are working across sectors and around the world to tackle the most difficult challenges of our time. They are leaders committed to sharing ideas and experiences, and as Foundry members they gain life-long accompaniment on their journey to creating social change.  

Foundry members gain exclusive access to:

  • Community: A diverse regional and global community of social innovators
  • Early-stage funding: Early-stage catalytic capital through Acumen Angels
  • Mentoring: Expert coaching and consulting from our partners 
  • Visibility: Opportunities to reach more ideal customers, talent, and funders
  • Learning Hub: The tools of business to grow and scale your organization

Time Commitment and Course Access

You should expect to dedicate between 5-8 hours per week on the accelerator. The program is an active learning experience and through reviewing curriculum materials, completing assignments, and engaging in reflective conversations with peers and the Acumen team, you will arrive at new insights for your business. 

Additionally there will be an in-person component to the program; a leadership seminar hosted at the end of the program in Nairobi. Acumen will support all cohort members to attend and will cover travel and accommodation for this seminar event. International travel may be required depending on your location, in which case a valid passport is a requirement.

One founder can join the program as the lead participant and must commit to all program sessions. Your wider team (up to 10 people maximum) can access the online curriculum materials. A co-founder or another member of your senior leadership team may also join all 1:1 calls.

Refine Your Business Model

Determine the best next steps to reach financial sustainability.

Accelerate Your Social Impact

Change more lives, faster, by focusing on activities that work.

Gain Valuable Feedback

Tap into the expertise of peers—and Acumen—to solve problems in real-time.

Join A Lasting Community

Build meaningful relationships with a community of like-minded social innovators.


What's Included

  • Transformational materials and a specially curated curriculum built around lessons from Acumen’s experience of investing in clean energy solutions
  • Facilitated Learning Labs to support your learning
  • One-on-one consultation calls with Acumen facilitators
  • Residential leadership seminar
  • Graduate into Acumen Academy’s global community, The Foundry


Module 1

Defining and Communicating Impact

  • Develop a theory of change capturing the social and environmental impact of your business
  • Improve the communication of your impact to investors, based on understanding of investor perspectives towards social and environmental impact

Module 2

Visions of Scale and Business Model Hypotheses

  • Develop a business model canvas that isolates key hypotheses for how your business model currently comes together
  • Define scenarios for how your social enterprise could successfully scale and map out your vision for growth and impact

Module 3

Customer Insights and Experiments

  • Clearly define your core customer and value proposition
  • Design experiments to test your critical hypothesis
  • Conduct an experiment to better understand how customers interact with your product or service

Module 4

Aligning a Pricing, Sales, and Marketing Strategy to Your Value Proposition

  • Refine your value proposition using data from customer interviews and experiments
  • Develop pricing models aligned with your value proposition that work for low-income customers
  • Learn sales and marketing tactics and strategies to optimize your scale strategy
  • Learn how behavioural science can help you overcome user and customer adoption and usage challenges 

Module 5

Building Your Financial Story and Model

  • Identify your major revenue and cost assumptions
  • Define your major financial milestones for next two years

Module 6

Pitching the Strategic Story of Your Business

  • Identify the right types of capital to finance your business as it scales
  • Build a new and investor-ready pitch deck guided by Acumen's team of experts
  • Access expert communications skills training and learn to communicate and present with confidence 

Module 7

Moral Leadership: Exploring Your Values and Identity

  • Build a deep understanding of the role values and identity play in your leadership style
  • Learn to engage in difficult conversations and manage values in tension using tools and frameworks
  • Think deeply and ask critical questions about the ideas of humanity and universal dignity
  • Deepen your connections with peers and prepare to accompany each other in preparation for the journey ahead


How to Qualify


How will participants be selected?

All applications will be reviewed once the application deadline passes. If you are selected for an interview, a member of the Acumen team will reach out to schedule a 45-minute video call with you on the Zoom platform.

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

The curriculum focuses on preparing to scale and the program is designed for enterprises with some market traction and a team equivalent to at least three full-time staff members. The program is not relevant for startups who are still in the idea validation stage or those who have already secured Series A funding.

When and Where


When will the sessions be held?

Most of the assignments can be completed online at your own pace before the submission date every week. You will be expected to participate live during the weekly 2-hour Learning Lab sessions. The calls with the Acumen team can be scheduled at times that are mutually convenient for you and your facilitator.

How many of my team members can take part?

Since we focus on leadership development as well as enterprise development we ask that just one individual from each enterprise attends the program. This person must be a Founder or CEO.

About Acumen Academy

Acumen Academy is the world’s school for social change. Our mission is to unleash a new generation of social innovators and leaders with the character and competence to build a more just, inclusive, and sustainable world. Blending the best of online and offline learning, we offer anyone, anywhere access to the practical tools, practices, resources, and supportive community they need to achieve positive social change. The Acumen Academy community represents a new generation of social innovators and leaders committed to doing what’s right in a world that loves easy.

Learn more at www.acumenacademy.org.

About PEII+

Acumen's Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative: Powering Livelihoods Using Solar (PEII+) is a 5-year, $25 million dollar initiative that invests early-stage capital in companies that provide renewable energy-powered appliances–from mills and irrigation pumps to electric motorbikes and refrigerators–to microentrepreneurs and smallholder farmers in India and East and West Africa. The goal is to leverage these technologies to boost incomes and climate resilience in vulnerable communities. PEII+ is supported by the IKEA Foundation,  Autodesk Foundation, Distributed Power Fund, and UK Aid from the UK government via the Transforming Energy Access (TEA) platform. PEII+ is also strategically aligned with the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) commitments in India and East and West Africa.

Learn more at: https://acumen.org/blog/acumen-launches-a-25-million-investment-initiative-to-power-livelihoods-with-clean-energy/