Acumen’s vision is of a world based on dignity, where every human being has an opportunity to thrive. We are seeking a cohort of entrepreneurs who, like us, believe that integrating gender equity across strategies, processes, and day-to-day work improves how we address the problems of poverty.
Gender inclusion in business isn’t just the ethical thing to do — it’s also good for the world’s economy and sustainability. Rather than add a gender-equity lens after scaling, we believe it’s easier and more efficient when building an inclusive company to address and prioritize gender from the start.
To support social entrepreneurs committed to leading the change in gender inclusion, our accelerator will equip leaders with moral leadership lessons, business skills, and learnings from our successful portfolio companies to continue scaling their enterprises in a gender-inclusive way.
Learn How To
- Develop hard-edged leadership skills necessary for building an inclusive and sustainable business solution. These include (but are not limited to): practicing courage, deep listening, polarity management, and stepping outside the status quo
- Refine and develop a profitable and scalable business model tackling poverty at its core
- Embed and expand gender inclusion into your business through market, workforce, and value-chain entry points
- Sharpen your presentation skills and practice pitching to an audience
- Join a lifelong global community of social entrepreneurs who are committed to tackling injustice and accompanying each other through their leadership and entrepreneurial journeys
How it Works
During this 12-week program, you will learn the essentials for building a scalable business model that achieves both profitability and impact. Working alongside your close-knit cohort of entrepreneurial peers and Acumen experts, you’ll develop your leadership and business skills as you design your plan to embed gender equity as you scale.
As a participant, you’ll gain access to industry-specific case studies, video tutorials and practical readings, and receive invaluable one-on-one support and guidance from our team. Each week, you’ll complete assignments designed to help you think critically about your business model and introduce you to gender-inclusive best practices. During the leadership sessions, you’ll be challenged to redefine success and develop the moral imagination to create a society centered on dignity — then employ your new leadership and business skills to make it a reality.
You’ll also gain access to tools and teachings from Value for Women, including training on the entry points, policies, and practices that will help you work towards becoming a gender-equitable business.
The program will culminate with a closing gathering, including pitch practice and a celebration for all the hard work, lessons learned, and new relationships you’ll take with you as you scale your business in a gender-inclusive way.
Time Commitment and Course Access
You should expect to spend at least 5 hours per week on the readings and assignments. Most of this work can be done on your own schedule.
One participant from the leadership team of your enterprise (‘Lead Participants’) will be required to take part in the Learning Labs every week. Up to 10 people from your enterprise may receive access to the online curriculum materials (readings, case studies, videos, etc.).
- Facilitated virtual Learning Labs for peer learning and discussion
- Leadership lessons such as Listening to Voices Unheard and Partnering with Humility and Audacity
- One-on-one consultation calls with Acumen’s team
- Video tutorials on customer discovery, sales and marketing, financial modeling, pitching, and more
- Unconscious bias training, workshops, and self-assessment strategies for embedding gender inclusivity into your scaling plan
- Case studies from social enterprises that have successfully scaled and contributed to gender equity and advancement.
GRADUATE INTO THE ACUMEN FOUNDRY
Upon completing the 12-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 referrals within the Acumen network
Module 1: Visions of Scale for Social Enterprise Business Models
- Understand different, customizable models for scaling your social enterprise
- 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 2: Customer Insights
- Clearly define your core customer and value proposition
- Design experiments to test your critical hypothesis
- Conduct an experiment to better understand how women customers interact with your product or service
Module 3: Aligning a Pricing, Sales, and Marketing Strategy to Your Value Proposition
- Build a value proposition canvas using data from customer interviews and experiments
- Develop pricing models aligned with your value proposition
- Learn sales and marketing tactics and strategies to optimize your scale strategy
Module 4: Operational Model: Team and Partnerships
- Learn common operational models for social enterprises
- Match your existing or desired talent with related skill sets and plan to expand your workforce in a gender-equitable way
Module 5: Gender Equity and Advancement as You Scale
- Build a deep understanding of both the moral and business case for embedding gender equity into your enterprise
- Learn key concepts, identify entry points, and pinpoint ways to engage more women in your value chain, workforce, and as customers
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
- Practice pitching your business to stakeholders
- Learn about the 2x challenge eligibility and how to attract investors who invest with a gendered lens
Module 8: Moral Leadership: Exploring Your Values and Identity
- 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
- Examine your role in the system you seek to change
- Understand the role of identities in having conversations across lines of difference
- Deepen your connections with peers and prepare to accompany each other, in preparation for the journey ahead
- Applications Open: February 21, 2023
- Applications Close: April 4, 2023
- Program: June 13th – September 1st, 2023
Who is Qualified to Apply?
Please note: These eligibility criteria are meant to be guiding. If you don’t meet every requirement, we still encourage you to apply! If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com.
This accelerator is open to social entrepreneurs who:
- Run a social enterprise (nonprofit or for-profit) based in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia) or West Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Gambia) who are working to solve problems of poverty and dignity
- Are dedicated to investing in their personal and business growth
- Are deeply committed to the work of tackling poverty and injustice and are interested in being part of a global community bound by values
- Have an enterprise that has been operational for 18 months or more (please note: if this is your second or third venture, this requirement is flexible. Be sure to include this in your application.)
- Have a team of three or more full-time staff
- Have a commitment to serving women across three entry points, and evidence of action in at least one:
- Market (products and services)
- Internal organization (workforce and policies)
- Value chain (supply and distribution)
How will participants be selected?
Applications will be reviewed after the program deadline. If you are selected for an interview, a member of the Acumen team will reach out to schedule a 50-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 enterprises with demonstrated market traction and a team equivalent to at least three full-time staff members.
What types of business models will be considered?
Your enterprise must be iterating towards financial sustainability and generate revenue (it must not rely on grants or donations). You must also be able to evidence how you are working towards gender-equity and advancement either through your workforce, value-chain or product or service, however, we are not limiting participation to a particular sector or type of model. B2B and B2C models will be considered.
Do I need to live in one of the focus countries to apply?
You need to be an entrepreneur running a business with primary operations in either Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Gambia. You do not need to be a citizen of these countries to apply.
Is the program sector-focused?
Whilst the program is sector-agnostic, Acumen’s primary sectors of interest in East and West Africa are as follows: Agriculture, Energy, Healthcare, Education, and Recycling. We particularly encourage people working in these sectors to apply.
When will the sessions be held?
Most of the assignments can be completed online at your own pace before the submission date every week. Your team’s Lead Participant will be expected to participate live during the weekly 2-hour Learning Labs and will need to join all one-to-one calls. The calls with Acumen can be scheduled at times that are mutually convenient for you and your advisor.
Where will the sessions be held?
This is designed as a mostly-online program with the possibility of one multi-day workshop in-person; however, the scheduling of this is dependent on the chosen cohort’s availability to travel. The weekly Learning Labs will be hosted virtually on the Zoom platform. You must have a stable internet connection and the ability to participate in these weekly video calls reliably. You will be asked about your availability and ability to travel to an in-person workshop in the application form, and the responses will influence the final program design. We’ll communicate our final decision on hosting an in-person session with those shortlisted to interview.
What are the program dates?
June 13th, 2023 – Program start
September 1st, 2023 – Program finish