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Leadership Essentials for Social Innovators


October 2022

10 Weeks

Applications Closed

A transformative leadership development program for intrapreneurs and social innovators working in the agriculture and workforce development sectors in India

The Program

Develop your leadership capacity to tackle the systemic challenges that multi-generational poverty causes within the agricultural and workforce development sectors in India. 

The Leadership Essentials for Social Innovators Program is India’s first 10-week leadership accelerator designed to equip you with the character and competence to innovate, build solutions, and lead the charge to work in the complex problems of your sector. This will be an enriching group learning experience that will bring together a cohort of experts in these fields to exchange knowledge, build community, and increase collective impact. During these 10-weeks, you will take part in individual and group activities towards identifying your leadership gaps, learning how to move a system forward and reflecting on your values and decisions.


Working in the sector of Agriculture or Workforce Development in India is challenging work. It usually involves working with unfair systems, dealing with the challenges of intergenerational poverty, and disappointing those who benefit from how the system currently works. It involves working with stakeholders, many of whom want different solutions to these problems. It means working with thousands of people at the edge of society at times who have little in terms of economic and social security. There are bound to be more failures than successes. But we’ve seen the work of leadership development pay off, and we’re excited to commit to making the world more just and inclusive, through developing the leadership potential of builders ready to reimagine the world around them.

Acumen has been changing the way the world tackles poverty for more than 20 years. We’ve gathered valuable insights that we’ve taught and field tested through our various leadership programs around the world, and have synthesized these lessons to support sector-specific leaders in India through this accelerator.

This program facilitates deep introspection, cohort building, and an exploration of leadership concepts that are especially useful for those trying to tackle the complex problems of poverty and inequality. You’ll learn how to see systemic problems more clearly, understand how to engage powerful stakeholders, explore your personal philosophy on what it takes to build a good society and more.

The experience is further enriched through a diverse cohort. Change will require leadership from all areas of the sector. You'll join leaders from the social enterprise, nonprofit, corporate, and public sectors to explore what it takes to collaborate to form a strong vision for the agricultural and workforce development sectors.

Identify your leadership gap

Diagnose your adaptive challenge, identify stakeholders and their priorities and learn how to move them towards your ideal.

Learn to navigate the grey

Manage the tension between your competing priorities and learn how to engage difficult stakeholders who benefit from the status quo.

Reflect on freedom, justice and equality

Study the work of great thinkers and question your assumptions and approach to building a more equitable economy.

Join A Lasting Community

Build meaningful relationships with cohort members that are based on shared values and a common purpose.

Who Should Apply?

Participants can come from all areas of work within the agriculture or workforce development space. Workforce development includes organisations that enable informal workers, are skill-development initiatives, create platforms for artisans and other micro enterprises, enable financial inclusion or work with MSMEs that create jobs. 

We’re looking for leaders building new and radical solutions that ensure dignity and economic prosperity is reached. Solutions could range across new business models that serve the poor, corporate initiatives to disrupt traditional farming industries, innovative public sector programs, and nonprofit livelihood solutions for the poor.

Participants are typically on one of the following paths:

  • Social Entrepreneur: scaling innovative business models that use market-based solutions to tackle poverty and inequality within agriculture or workforce development
  • Public Sector Leader: leveraging the government machinery to enable dignity and economic prosperity for people in either sector
  • Nonprofit Leader: building solutions to ensure those most in need are equitably served in the agricultural and workforce sectors
  • Corporate Intrapreneur: driving initiatives within large corporations to create inclusive and sustainable corporations

To be eligible for this program, you should:

  • Have 5+ years of work experience
  • Be in a position — or moving into a position — to influence and affect change in your company, department, organization, or social enterprise
  • Want to become better at leading through uncertainty and navigating the systems around you
  • Be ready to show up for yourself and for others, and to challenge yourself to learn and think in new ways. This won’t be easy.

What Will You Learn?

Our core curriculum is made up of three key components:

Adaptive Leadership
Based on the work of Ron Heifitz, Adaptive Leadership is a practical leadership framework that helps organizations and individuals adapt and thrive in challenging environments. The content supports your ability, both individually and collectively, to catalyze and embrace the gradual and meaningful process of creating change.

Managing Polarities
Developed by Barry Johnson, Polarity Management empowers you to embrace competing goals and navigate the tensions between them, a crucial skill in an increasingly interconnected world.

Good Society Readings
The Good Society Readings explore the meaning of a just society and the moral and historical foundation of social change through a series of curated readings by thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Nelson Mandela. You’ll reflect on core human values, seek common ground, and cultivate a richer understanding of your social change work by situating it in a broader historical context.

This program will not focus on the more technical aspects of building a successful agricultural intervention or social innovation in workforce development. Rather, we will focus on the leadership skills that we’ve found at Acumen to be an essential part of leading change, and will bring together a cohort of leaders to explore how those skills can be applied in your area of work.

I have a whole group of folx to now lean on, who are brilliant and encouraging and willing to offer their candid insights on how to do or think about whatever may be offered in that moment. In addition, I've gained clarity as to who I am, who I am as a leader, and what is vitally important for me to thrive.
Kellee Edusei Accelerator Alumni
The intentionality behind the design of the sessions and the live delivery were both top notch... they designed a good process that had a good balance of relationship and results. It was refreshing and I'm grateful to have had the experience of being a participant in such a pristine environment.
Matt Bond Accelerator Alumni
I really think this has been a life changing learning experience for me. I still can't believe I was chosen to participate, and I hope to stay connected moving forward.
Elizabeth Watson Accelerator Alumni


Module 1

Who’s in This Journey with Me?

  • Examine your identities, values, and choices that have shaped your journeys until now
  • Connect with peers and begin to build trust and togetherness for the journey ahead
  • Begin to explore an understanding of the experience and vision of the sector you work in

Module 2

How do we Move Beyond an ‘Either/Or’?

  • Diagnose and identify moments when values are in tension
  • Learn to engage in difficult conversations and manage systems of values in tension using tools and frameworks

Module 3

What is Leadership?

  • Understand the concept of "getting on the balcony" and how it relates to the exercise of adaptive leadership
  • Bring your live challenge to the group
  • Expand and apply your understanding of leadership, authority, and intervention

Module 4

What’s the Actual Work?

  • Distinguish between technical and adaptive work when leading change
  • Identify and examine your own leadership challenge

Module 5

Are You Mobilizing the Right People Around the ‘Right’ Problem?

  • Understand why people support, resist, benefit, or lose when you lead adaptive change
  • Define stakeholders and factions critical to your adaptive challenge

Module 6

How Do We Put Humanity at the Center of Our Work?

  • Think deeply and ask critical questions about the ideas of humanity and universal dignity

Module 7

Our Role in the System We Seek to Change

  • Examine how you are complicit in the system you seek to change

Module 8

What are the Values we Hold in Tension to Build a Just Society?

  • Deliberate on the nature of humanity and the systems needed for humans to flourish

Module 9

Why is Understanding Identity Essential for Leadership Today?

  • Understand the role of identities in having conversations across lines of difference

Module 10

So, Are We Ready to Lead?

  • Renew and recommit to your responsibility in a more building a just and inclusive world
  • Build together and commit to a vision for the sector you work in

Applications Open

4th July - 29th July, 2022


October 2022

Program Ends

16th December 2022

What is the Time Commitment?

You should expect to spend at least 7 hours per week dedicated to this program. The learning experience is fully online and includes weekly individual work, peer discussions, and facilitator-led full cohort synchronous sessions.

Individual Pre-Work - 2 hours / week (own time)
Learn at your own pace with tutorials featuring leadership frameworks and readings to help cultivate a richer understanding of social change work in a broader historical context.

Partner Discussions - 1 hour / week (virtual)
Participants will be strategically paired with other cohort members. Pairs will meet to go deeper into their readings, give feedback on assignments, and reflect on their leadership journey.

Learning Lab - 2.5 hours / week (virtual)
Join your cohort in a live interactive session on a specific facet of leadership conducted by a facilitator.

Post-work - 1.5 hour / week (own time)
After each Learning Lab, you will reflect on key takeaways and synthesize learnings based on specific practices of moral leadership.


Upon completing the 10-week program, participants are admitted to The Foundry, an invite-only community designed to accompany entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world by connecting them with the social capital (resources and relationships) to amplify their work in building a just, inclusive and sustainable world.

Foundry members have exclusive access to:

  • Events to learn and connect with fellow foundry members
  • Professional development opportunities that may include pro-bono consulting services and professional leadership coaching
  • Experts within the Acumen Ecosystem for mentorship or advisory sessions
  • Referrals to affiliated leadership programs and platforms
  • Access to funding / grants offered ad hoc by other organizations or through referrals within the Acumen network


How to Qualify


What is the process of selection?

You can look at who we are looking for in the ‘Who Can Apply’ section.
The process of selection will be two steps. First, completing an application form by 29th July. Then if shortlisted, a 45 minute personal interview on zoom will be scheduled in August. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of September.

What is the fee?

This program is free thanks to Acumen’s supporters.

What is the time requirement per week?

You should expect to spend at least 7 hours per week. The learning experience is fully online and includes facilitator led, peer-to-peer, and self-guided synchronous and asynchronous sessions.

What if I can’t participate this time?

We will open other similar programs in 2023. Sign up here to find out what Acumen is offering in your region.

What level of English do I need?

All sessions, assignments and communications are conducted in English. An intermediate proficiency in English is a requirement to ensure you are able to give and get the most from this experience. That involves being able to communicate verbally, understand presentations and read & write texts of medium complexity in English.

What if I don’t have a stable internet connection where I live?

Since the program is fully virtual, access to reliable internet coverage is fundamental to engage in the weekly online sessions, complete assignments in between the sessions and connect with your peers.

When and Where


What are the program dates?

The Program runs from 3rd October 2022 until 16th December 2022. There will be one session a week. We may deliver an additional orientation session during the last week of September. Exact dates for each session will be decided and communicated through our offer letter to selected participants.

What happens after the program?

Following the program, you’ll join an alumni community of over 1000 social innovators around the world. We call the Acumen alumni community ‘The Foundry,’ where our aim is to accompany builders from around the world by connecting them with the resources and relationships to amplify their work in architecting a just, inclusive, and sustainable world.

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.