Acumen Fellows Regional Trip Update: Rwanda impresses and……

There's me in the middle in the front row!
I know…I have not been rather forthcoming with news on my Acumen Fellowship journey. 
But, that is because I have been busy putting together a rather interesting piece for you…. I hope you will love reading along.

As you might already know, I am 8 months into the Acumen Regional Fellows program, a journey that I am not only enjoying, but I am almost sad that it will soon be coming to an end. I am glad, however, that I am paving way for someone else to live the experience.

The lessons…..
The last few months, which featured workshops and a regional trip (of course the regional trip was made to none other than my Rwanda), have been rather rewarding with fellows being hosted to ‘social readings’ by Jacqueline Novogratz herself ( and I am assuming you all know who she is, but if you do not…meet her here. Applications for the next Fellows are open. Apply NOW). 

We were hosted to readings from the works of Chinua Achebe (RIP), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and JJ Rousseau among others, which triggered interesting schools of thought. We still ponder over them.

In April, the session was even more playful learning and in company of the Acumen Global Fellows. We mastered the art of communication from lovely Abigail and Michael from Virtuozo and also enjoyed lots of games. I cannot fail to mention the special treat of attending a Masai cultural festival and returning home with a traditional dress.

The regional trip (which serves as a learning platform on social change models in the region) was another eye opener for all of us in one way or the other. In Rwanda, all fellows got a feel of what and how things are done. 

Only in Rwanda, did we find sexy words like; consistency, no corruption, performance contracts, customer care etc.
We witnessed campaigns around ‘zero tolerance for corruption’ and ‘customer care’; not only among authorities, but rural people as well.

While visiting one of the projects run by ‘MVPs, I was personally moved by the fact that health workers keep calendars of who needs to have their antenatal care and remind them, every woman, not only has access to antenatal care, but to a reminder, courtesy of the health workers. I almost wished I lived in that part of the country where I am reminded to go see my doctor. Super!

During the same trip, while visiting one of the fellows project on coffee processing, we made our first stop to a school. This school that has been set up to cater for educational needs of coffee farmers’ children, since they live so far away from most schools. The young children sung for us and it brought tears of joy as I observed how their lives are being changed by coffee growing. Who said that coffee is all about drinking!

Rather unique is the latest seminar which not only saw the launch of "Acumen Kampala,” but also challenged our understanding and perception of leaders and what leadership means ( I am struggling not to mention the word leader… my Acumen Fellows know what I mean..).

To this particular school of thought (and I would love to hear your mixed feelings/arguments); there is no such a thing as a leader and it gets better! While every person in authority has been labeled a leader, it’s interesting to know that "Leadership is not a role, it’s an activity and ability to mobilize people to address issues in a community." 

I leave you to grapple with that. Challenging in all of this though is the realization that even to perform such acts of leadership, we need a purpose. And my question to all readers and ‘leaders’ is this: "What is your purpose?" Think about what drives you.

If you know the Acumen Fellowship structure, you probably know that we are at the drawing table putting together a collaborative project. In our last seminar we has an opportunity to brainstorm on the best alternative; we have two projects which you will learn of in the next episode.

Having said that, it’s not all about work and no play. In our launch of the ‘Regional Fellows Program’ in Nairobi, we had a chance to dine, wine and dance with Acumen well-wishers along with some of the global team members and Fellows. In Kigali, the fellows had an experience of the local traditional dance, while in Kampala, the group not only enlisted themselves at Silk Club but also felt the sting of the famous ‘Traffic jam’ of Kampala.

Oh and before I forget, applications for the next cohort of East Africa Fellows, so make sure to apply if my journey has inspired you!

It’s a series of events; tune in to the next episode…

Ingabire Julian


Evelyn Namara said...

Well done you! Thank you for summarising it all thus far! I can't wait for the next seminar on finances! God knows I need this one :-)

Unknown said...

Yes coffee is not just about drinking! Very well written Julian!