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About the Acumen Fellows Programme

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Each year, 20 individuals are selected to be part of the Acumen Fellowship in Malaysia from the following trajectories: entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, or an organizational builder from public service, corporate, or 
non-profit.

The Acumen Fellowship brings together exceptional leaders from Malaysia, who ultimately become members of a global community that rebuilds lives and restores dignity. The Fellows Programme is a one-year personal and leadership transformation course for professionals passionate about creating solutions for a more equitable and sustainable Malaysia.

As a new generation of builders modelling leadership grounded in values and character, Fellows will learn, practise and connect with one another in the business of change. We believe training leaders with moral imagination is essential in solving our country's biggest challenges. Those who have completed their first year will join a global community of over 1000 Foundry Fellows, gaining access to international peer-support and resources.

Today, 59 Fellows across 7 states serve in 59 impact-driven organisations, reaching 25 million lives and challenging the status quo.

A Note From Our Programme Lead

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Economic growth is like a rising tide that lifts all boats. The saying ignores the plight of millions who are clinging to leaky rafts – or who have no boats at all.

- Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner quoted in A World of Three Zeros.
Oga Chan, Head of Malaysia Acumen Academy
We live in a time of rising inequality due to continued wealth concentration. Rather than further divide communities with fear, we choose to influence change with value and respect. This is the goal at the Acumen Fellows Programme.

No one can do it alone. We seek collective effort from a solid and diverse cohort of impact makers ready to push for change. Our aim is to build a strong community of private, public and social sector leaders to achieve the improvements we envision.

THE TEAM

Meet the team behind Malaysia Acumen Academy - Wong Xiao Cheng, Oga Chan and Amelia Liew. Together they gather leaders to address the nation's most pressing social issues to create an equitable future for all.

Programme Overview

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This one-year programme requires Fellows to maintain their current jobs while attending a series of multi-day intensive seminars. They are also required to take part in online sessions in between.

The Malaysia Acumen Fellows includes the following activities:

In-Person Seminars
Our Fellows come together for 3 in-person immersives that last 5 days each, plus 2 online workshop series. Between the immersives and workshops, Fellows need to participate in and complete online readings and assignments.
Virtual Content
Our unique virtual material uses Acumen Academy’s library of content as well as Acumen’s twenty-year history of training social sector leaders.
A Community of Practice
We provide space for our Fellows to connect across lines of difference, practice self-reflection, broaden perspectives and identify areas for professional development.
Focus on Real World Adaptability
Our curriculum is designed to be relevant and applicable to our Fellows' lives and work. Mentoring sessions and motivational programmes are provided for leaders in the social sector, especially those in areas of poverty and social injustice.

Our Fellows

Acumen Fellows are social innovators who see the reality around them, yet dare to imagine the world as
it could be. They comprise:
Social Entrepreneurs
Leaders who create impact by co-founding enterprises that provide critical goods and/or services to the disadvantaged and marginalised. These enterprises can be for-profit or non-profit ventures.
Public Sector Leaders
Leaders who create impact by working within the government to create policy changes and partnerships, or adopt new models in tackling poverty and social injustice.
Intrapreneurs
Leaders who create impact from within existing institutions by changing cultures and using resources to tackle poverty and social injustice.

Meet Our Fellows

2020
2021
2022
2023

JOIN THE MALAYSIA ACUMEN FELLOWS PROGRAMME

FAQ ON MALAYSIA
ACUMEN ACADEMY

A) ABOUT THE ACUMEN FELLOWS PROGRAMME

What is the structure of the Fellows Programme?

Fellows remain in their jobs and come together for 3 in-person immersives lasting 5 days each and 2 online workshops series - 4 weeks each, throughout the year. Attendance at each seminar is mandatory. Between seminars, Fellows are expected to participate in and complete online readings and assignments. During the entire programme, Fellows will be exposed to the programme’s core curriculum:

  • Adaptive Leadership – Based off the work of Harvard Professor Ron Heifitz, Adaptive Leadership is a practical leadership framework that helps individuals and organisations adapt and thrive in challenging environments. The content supports Fellows’ ability, both individually and collectively, to catalyse and embrace the gradual and meaningful process of change.
  • Authentic Voice – Building off the work of Marshall Ganz, Fellows develop their capacity to articulate their story of self, us and now. Fellows are equipped to articulate a hopeful vision, speak across lines of difference, and move others to action.
  • 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 of great thinkers such as Plato, Amartya Sen and Nelson Mandela. Fellows reflect on core human values, seek common ground and cultivate a richer understanding of their social change work in a broader historical context.
  • Managing Polarities – Fellows are taught decision-making methodologies that empower them to embrace competing goals and navigate the tensions between them. In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to navigate ambiguity and cross lines of difference is critical.

How is this fellowship different from all other fellowships?

The Acumen Fellows Programme is a one-year leadership development programme designed to connect and cultivate a pipeline of social changemakers who are committed to tackling poverty and injustice in their communities. Our Fellows Programme features:

  • Cohort Based Seminars – Our Fellows Programme centres around bringing diverse local leaders together over four seminars designed to improve each individuals’ capacity to drive social change, while remaining in their full-time jobs.
  • Self Reflection – We provide the space and security for Fellows to practice self-reflection, broaden their perspectives and identify areas for personal development.
  • Virtual Content – Our unique virtual content enables Fellows to connect with peers and continue developing the skills to make lasting social impact between seminars.
  • Focus on Real World Applicability – We design content that is focused on being relevant and applicable to Fellows’ everyday lives and social impact work.

What would I gain from the Fellows Programme?

The foundational design element of the Acumen Fellows Programme is the cohort experience. While we introduce many powerful leadership tools, frameworks, mindsets and approaches in our Fellows programmes – anchored around Authentic Voice, Adaptive Leadership, Good Society readings and Managing Polarities – we know that the impact that we can have in 24 days of time together is necessarily bounded. The real learning happens outside of the room, between the time Fellows are together in session over the course of a year and, most importantly, in the long years after they first come together, as they continue to grow as leaders as they do their work. To learn more about the benefits of the Fellowship experience, click here.

Is this the same as the Acumen that does impact investment?

It is related. The Acumen brand is known for its impact investment and leadership development verticals. The Acumen Academy based in the United States is the leadership development vertical where Acumen Academy Malaysia is an affiliate programme.

B) CANDIDATE QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS

I am not an entrepreneur, can I be an Acumen Fellow?

Yes. Fellows go on various career paths and personal journeys over their lives, but many of the Fellows we’ve seen over the years include:

  • Entrepreneurs who have founded or are leading a for-profit or nonprofit organisation that provides critical goods and services to the underserved.
  • Intrapreneurs who are creating innovative solutions to tackle poverty or injustice from within existing institutions by shifting institutional culture and building new collaborations.
  • Organisational builders who are supporting the growth of poverty or injustice-focused institutions from within, but not as the founder or CEO.
  • Community builders/activists who are bringing people together and/or campaigning for social change.
  • Public sector champions who are creating innovative solutions that are solving social issues from the policy level or encouraging systemic change within the public sector.

We are looking for an entrepreneurial attitude, mindset, and approach – people who don’t accept the status quo.

Do I have to quit my job to become a Fellow?

Fellows remain in their jobs and come together for 3 in-person immersives lasting 5 days each and 2 online workshops series - 4 weeks each, throughout the year. Attendance at each seminar is mandatory. Between seminars, Fellows are expected to participate in and complete online readings and assignments.

How do I commit 23 days in a year?

Whenever possible we schedule seminars to run from Tuesday to Sunday, and we will attempt to leverage on holidays. Between seminars, you will be expected to spend additional time on programme-related assignments, email correspondence and collaborative projects for approximately 3 hours per week.

Is there an age restriction to join the Fellows Programme?

No. There is no age restriction to join the Fellows Programme.

I am a refugee/stateless person. Can I apply for the Acumen Fellows Programme?

Yes, we accept applications from refugee/stateless individuals. However, do note that the Acumen Fellows Programme is designed for individuals who are currently leading or are an integral part of building an initiative whose mission is to eradicate poverty or injustice for local communities. Our Fellows are of all ages, come from diverse cultural, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds and work across multiple sectors. The top 20 who makes it, makes it based on best demonstration of

– investment in local communities for the long term
– track record/ passion in creating a change
– ability to commit to the intense Year 1

I have a 2 year visa in Malaysia and am an existing +Acumen course taker. Can I apply?

Thank you for your interest. The work of Acumen Fellows Programme in its specific region is about empowering local grassroots communities to be the seeds of change. Malaysia is in great need to empower its locals with the right skill sets and tools and for that, our fellowship is only open to Malaysians and permanent residents (which we mean stateless and refugees). The fellowship has only 20 spots and we need to ensure the best representation of grassroot leaders invested in the long term positive impact here.

I am a student. Can I apply for the Acumen Fellows Programme?

Our Fellows are of all ages, come from diverse cultural, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds and work across multiple sectors. The top 20 who makes it, makes it based on best demonstration of

– investment in local communities for the long term
– track record/ passion in creating a change
– ability to commit to the intense Year 1

C) PROGRAMME EXPECTATIONS

What is the total time commitment required for the Fellows Programme?

The total in-person time commitment is about 23 days (3 in-person immersives lasting 5 days each and 2 online workshops series - 4 weeks each) over the course of the year, plus travel time to the seminar locations. Whenever possible we have scheduled seminars to run from Tuesday to Sunday. Between seminars, you will be expected to spend additional time on programme-related assignments, email correspondence and collaborative projects for approximately 3 hours per week.

Do I have to pay to be part of the Fellows Programme?

The Fellows Programme is a fully sponsored programme. All travel, meals and accommodation for the duration of the seminars will be borne by Acumen Academy Malaysia.

Do I get a stipend as a Fellow?

No, Fellows will not get a stipend. However, all travel, meals and accommodation for the duration of the seminars will be borne by Acumen Academy Malaysia.

Are there funding opportunities in Acumen Academy?

Acumen Academy Malaysia does not provide funding. However, we hope to build an ecosystem of partners that Fellows can tap into for funding opportunities.

D) APPLICATION AND SELECTION PROCESS

What are the application deadlines? And what happens after I submit my application?

Please see the Applicant Packet available on here where we outline the dates and times for each stage of the application process. Upon application submission, our selection team will carefully review submissions and participation at each stage of the process, and select candidates who will advance to the next stage. At each stage of the application process, all candidates will receive communication from our team about the progress of their application.

How many Fellows are selected each year?

Every year, 20 Fellows will be selected.

E) OTHERS

What is Moral Leadership?

At Acumen Academy Malaysia, we define Moral Leadership through our manifesto:

  • It starts by standing with the poor, listening to voices unheard, and recognizing potential where others see despair.
  • It demands investing as a means, not an end, daring to go where markets have failed and aid has fallen short. It makes capital work for us, not control us.
  • It thrives on moral imagination: the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be. It’s having the ambition to learn at the edge, the wisdom to admit failure, and the courage to start again.
  • It requires patience and kindness, resilience and grit: a hard-edged hope. It’s leadership that rejects complacency, breaks through bureaucracy, and challenges corruption. Doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Why start Acumen Academy now in Malaysia?

Quoting Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder of Acumen, “The opposite of poverty is dignity.” …where to have dignity is to live a life of choices that are not suppressed by injustice or the lack of rights. We have a widening income gap in between the T20 and B40/M40, where the effect of urban poverty and a myriad of social issues are evident. To ignore this would mean allowing larger divides to grow in a society that is meant to hold each other up, not push each other down. We believe that to solve this, we need to cultivate moral leaders with the imagination and skill sets to bridge the divide in between the rich and the poor, the public and private, business and philanthropy, profit and purpose, shareholders and stakeholders. Problems of inequity affect people on a daily basis, and have detrimental effects to the larger society today, tomorrow and in the future. We need a programme that cultivates leaders with a moral imagination now. We know Malaysia is ready because we have seen a rise in individuals partaking in social change here, be it through social entrepreneurship, non-profit work, corporate social responsibility activities as well as movements, campaigns and film that advance a social message or cause. where the journey in creating social change can often be a frustrating and isolating path. The Acumen Fellows Programme is designed to help leaders scale their impact by mastering the skills, attributes and values of moral leadership: a combination of empathy, immersion, understanding and action.

What is the relationship between YTL Foundation and Acumen Fellows Malaysia?

Acumen Fellows Programme Malaysia is currently fully sponsored and incubated by YTL Foundation.

I don’t want to be a Fellow but can I attend Acumen workshops and events?

Yes, please sign up to our mailing list to get updated on our latest workshops and events.

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YTL Foundation was founded in 1997 on the belief that education is the basis on which every society progresses. By improving education, empowering future generations and building tomorrow’s leaders, YTL Foundation aims to empower individuals and communities to be catalysts of change.

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