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Energy for Livelihoods Accelerator - India

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



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. Sustainable energy has the potential to more than double incomes by saving time, improving 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 new Energy for Livelihoods Accelerator spun out of this initiative, designed to accelerate a cohort of early-stage social enterprises using clean energy and energy-efficient solutions to serve the needs of low-income communities.  

Delivered by Acumen Academy, the Energy for Livelihoods accelerator aims to build an ecosystem of scalable social enterprises in India committed to improving the livelihoods of people in poverty using sustainable energy. 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?

The Energy for Livelihoods accelerator is open to social entrepreneurs who:

Run a for-profit social enterprise in India using sustainable energy and energy-efficient solutions to positively impact the livelihoods of low-income people through one of the following models/sectors: 

  • Agriculture and Allied Sector: Companies improving farm incomes and productivity and/or reducing costs for smallholder farmers through sustainable energy
  • Business Sector (Manufacturing, Retail, Logistics, etc.): Companies enabling sustainable energy solutions for small businesses, micro & nano entrepreneurs (i.e., e-mobility, cooling, water filtration, automation, green transition etc.)
  • Business Facilitators: Companies providing supplementary services to enable clean energy transition for farmers and businesses (i.e., distribution and financing solutions, skills development, data tools, market-building approaches)

Additionally, all applicants must have: 

  • 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 or evidence of a successful paid pilot 
  • A team with relevant sector experience and three or more full-time staff
  • Preference for 5 years of eligible work experience

How it Works

Through 12 weeks of structured programming, you and your team 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 of 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 in the Energy for Livelihoods accelerator 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 towards scale. 

At the end of the program, the cohort will celebrate with a closing Demo Day, which will include the opportunity to pitch in front of an audience of relevant sustainable energy experts. In addition to getting the chance to build a profile and attract supporters to your enterprise at this event, up to 4 cohort members will be awarded a package of follow up technical assistance from Acumen’s PEII+ investment initiative. Depending on progress and successful due diligence, up to 2 enterprises from this subgroup will then have the possibility of securing an investment of $100,000 from Acumen.

All entrepreneurs that graduate from the program will be welcomed into Acumen Academy’s global community, The Foundry.

Graduate into the Acumen Academy Foundry

After participants complete the program they join The Foundry, a global community designed to increase the impact of 1300+ 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

In Partnership with Apple

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 two in-person components to the program; a leadership retreat in the middle of the program and a closing Demo Day. Acumen will support all cohort members to attend and will cover travel and accommodation for both events. 

Completion of all assignments and attendance at all program sessions is mandatory to graduate from the program and pitch at the final Demo Day. 

While only 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 leadership team may also join all 1:1 consultations and mentor 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
  • Access to a mentor from one of Acumen’s strategic partners
  • Residential leadership immersive 
  • Opportunity to pitch at a Demo Day to stakeholders from across the sustainable energy ecosystem and be considered for access to technical assistance and investment from Acumen’s PEII+ initiative 
  • Graduate into Acumen Academy’s global community, The Foundry 

Key Dates


September 28th, 2023

Last Learning Lab

December 14th, 2023

Final program Demo Day

January, 2024 (day TBC)


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

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

Module 5

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

Module 6

Building Your Financial Story and Model

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

Module 7

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
  • Pitch your business to an audience of sustainable energy stakeholders



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.


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, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, 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/