Grow as a Leader
Explore Blog

Meet the 2021 cohort of Acumen Academy in Colombia

Meet the 2021 cohort of Colombia Fellows and discover how they are contributing to the country’s transition from conflict to peace.
May 04, 2021
Blog_HeroArtboard 1 copy 2@2x


Leadership starts with the ability to look at oneself honestly and finding in yourself the immense courage that this requires”. - Esteban Reyes, Fellow, 2019 Cohort

More than 500 builders from different parts of the country were part of the selection process with the hope of getting a place for the third cohort of Acumen Fellows in Colombia. It is with immense joy that, Acumen and our local anchor partner, Fundación Santo Domingo, proudly introduce the 24 leaders for the 2021 cohort, that were selected after an  8 months long process. They join a growing community of 76 Colombian leaders that are transforming their communities.

It is no secret that 2020 was a year that made visible the great challenges and gaps that we face as a society. In such context, Colombia needs more people working, building and imagining how to change the current dynamics and the systems that, historically, have left the most vulnerable aside. At Acumen Academy we believe that generating change requires different profiles and of the intersections between them. Entrepreneurs: leaders of both for-profit and nonprofit organizations providing critical goods or services to the underserved; organizational builders: leaders (other than the founder or CEO) supporting the growth of institutions combating poverty and injustice; and Intrapreneurs: builders from any sector tackling poverty and injustice from within by shifting the institutional culture-and building new collaborations. Colombia, and the world, is in need of their collective leadership.


Today we celebrate that this community grows and we welcome an extremely diverse 2021 cohort. Our newest cohort brings together a wide spectrum of profiles, worldviews, and backgrounds. From public sector leaders who seek to align the instruments of the state with those of ethnic communities, founders of peace-building initiatives that transform those in social enterprises, artists that allow children and young people to find a renewed sense or purpose, directors of agricultural projects that create revenue generating opportunities for the Colombian small holder farmers, creating legal alternatives in areas affected by the conflict, social activists who work to make visible the rights of women and the LGBTIQ + community, to pioneers of organizations that work hand in hand with ex-combatants and victims of the conflict.
Meet a group of entrepreneurs, organizational builders and intrapreneurs that are starting their journey to become part of a community of Fellows that are locally rooted, and globally connected. 

Read more about how they are redefining success through their work.


Diana Cortés Cuero 

Diana Paola Cortés Cuero is Founder and Director of Pacific Dance. An urban art and dance organization operating since 2011 in Tumaco Nariño. Their goal is to provide children and young people with new alternatives to build their life projects using dance as a tool for social and individual transformation. Diana has impacted children and young people who are victims of the conflict and violence, and is cultivating new young leaders. She is an MA of Spanish language and literature at the University of Nariño. Diana is in the process of creating an arts school in the Pacific region.


Juan Jorge Cuesta 

Juan Jorge Cuesta is Founder & CEO of TIMBALÉ, an organization that fosters the integration and transformation of developing communities in Colombia, impacting +500 children in the country. TIMBALÉ empowers and creates new role models for social leaders with an awareness of adaptation and conflict resolution through the arts (dance and music), fostering a comprehensive development of the human being. He is a Musician from Universidad Eafit.

Juliana Uribe 

Juliana Uribe founded Movilizatorio in 2016, it is a laboratory of citizen participation and social innovation for Colombia and Latin America. From Movilizatorio Juliana and her team combine strategy, communication, technology, alliances and research tools to mobilize actors and sectors with the aim of strengthening collective leadership as an engine for social transformation. 

Its projects include El Avispero, which has managed to link more than 100,000 change agents. She is a Colombian woman who lives at the intersection of social innovation, the digital age, and international relations, as a social entrepreneur, activist, and consultant. During the sanitary crisis, Juliana led the Colombia Cuida Colombia mobilization and communication strategy, an alliance of more than 300 civil society organizations with the aim of mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19.

In 2020, Juliana was chosen by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Wom-En Com Foundation as one of the 30 most influential young women in Colombian politics. In addition, she was chosen by Semana magazine for the “Women who inspire” award in 2014.

Juliana is a graduate of Harvard University as a Master in Public Administration and a Mason Fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government and of the University of Barcelona as a Cum Laude Master in International Relations. She is Colombian, an Economist from the Universidad de los Andes and speaks Spanish, English and German.


Lina Cuellar 

Lina Cuellar is the director of Sentiido since 2011, an organization that improves the quality of life of LGBT people and women through access to more and better information, knowledge and training on how to eliminate prejudice and misinformation about sexual and gender diversity.. She is a professional in Literary Studies from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and a PhD in History from Universidad de los Andes.


Mariana Castaño 

Mariana Castaño Leudo has worked in the social and educational sector for 6 years and is currently the Leader in Sustainability and Analytics of the "Cultivarte" program of the Bolívar Davivienda Foundation. There she is part of the direction of the program, measures its impact and leads the design of new content. Likewise, she is co-founder of a volunteer network called Tú Sirves, which sensitizes and empowers civil society through volunteering with different vulnerable populations.
Mariana is an Industrial Engineer from the Universidad de los Andes, graduated with the Distinction for Social Responsibility. In addition, she has a License of Specialization in Organizations, Social Responsibility and Development, Master in Management and Development Practice. She is passionate about sustainability and her dream is to reduce inequality gaps and offer greater opportunities to vulnerable communities.


Natalia Jiménez 

Natalia Jiménez is Director of Somos CaPAZes an organization that since 2007 has been educating for peace, in order to empower communities and promote peaceful environments where values, rights and commitment are central axes for coexistence. Founder of the music program Al ComPAZ and Dean of Cohort Affairs of the Global Leaders Program. She has a Master in Cultural Management with an emphasis in Nonprofit Organization Management from New York University, Natalia is a pianist by profession at the Conservatory of Music of Universidad Nacional de Colombia.


Nevis Cadena 

Nevis Cadena Obando is the Executive Director and co-founder of Frutichar BIC SAS, a company that generates legal alternatives for environmental, socio-cultural and economic sustainability for the Pacific of Nariño through the production of high quality exotic fruits. Nevis works with young people and mothers who are heads of households who are victims of violence, in the reactivation of local markets of Afro-Colombian and indigenous families in support of the voluntary substitution of crops for illicit use. He has a degree in Ethnoeducation from the Universidad Nacional Abierta y a Distancia - UNAD and a Master's degree student in Development Management and Practice from the Universidad de los Andes.


Sara Arias

Sara Arias is Coordinator of Manifest-Made in Colombia, where she works hand in hand with excombatants of FARC and victims of the conflict in the production and commercialization of fashion clothes that tell stories of peace and reconciliation as a way of supporting the implementation of the peace agreement after 50 years of conflict. Prior to Manifiesta, Sara also did pedagogy for the Peace Agreement and continues to strengthen grassroots, reincorporation and action-research processes. Sara is a Political Scientist and has a Master in Environment and Development.


Tomas Santiago Dueri 

Tomas Santiago is the General Director of the Fundación Niños de la Esperanza, who promotes the integral development of communities in vulnerable situations, seeking to guarantee their rights, improve their socio-economic situation and promote the construction of a culture of peace. With his work, he has impacted more than 60 ex-combatants of the Colombian conflict and more than 560 girls, boys and young people in Armenia, rural areas of Quindío and Bogotá. With more than 5 years of experience in the social sector, he has launched more than 4 national and international cooperation projects. He is a Social Communicator from the Central University of Colombia, with a Master in Communication of International Conflicts, Peace and social movements from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.


Yudy Figueroa 

Yudy Figueroa is the Legal Representative of ACSU (Asociación Cosemos Sueños) where she guarantees the articulation of work in the associative field, creating opportunities for economic sustainability from the manufacture, integrating women as builders and not only as beneficiaries.
Yudy works with women victims of the armed conflict promoting female empowerment from the productive and economic sphere, closing gaps in the representation of women in decision-making processes. She is a Certified Public Accountant by profession.


Carolina Posada Molina 

Carolina Posada Molina is Sustainable Development Manager at Frisby SAS and director of its Foundation. Through her role she has strengthened the relationship with the for profit arm of Frisby, strengthening the connection with its value chain, and bringing social and environmental issues to the heart of the organization. She has more than 15 years of experience in the social sector, and she is an expert in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of social projects. 
Before Frisby, rolina worked as a consultant for international organizations such as the IDB and the World Bank, for United Nations agencies and for both global and local NGOs; and she also founded Tinamus a consulting firm which developed the first M&E software in Latin America. She is a Business Economist from Universidad Autónoma de Manizales and has an M.Sc. in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries from London School of Economics.


Diana Escobar Aguirre 

Diana Marcela works to dignify the teachers' role and improve the schools' safety and salubrity policies. She is part of Fundacion Celsia team, where she is the Coordinator of Educational Projects. She is an expert in the formulation, development, and evaluation of educational projects. Through her role, she leads training processes to teach teachers how to teach, enabling them to guide their students better. Diana is a Journalist and Social Communicator with a Master’s in Human Development.


John Gómez 

John Alexander Gómez is Operations Manager at Pact. He works with local communities in the prevention, strengthening and response to Human Rights violations for migrants from Venezuela, colombian returnees, and host population in Colombia. Prior to Pact, John supported the growth of organizations focused on alleviating poverty and injustice such as the UN, the Global Institute for Green Growth, and Americares among others. He is an MBA from UNIR and a Business Administrator from the Universidad Militar Nueva Granada.


Marcella Arango 

Marcela Arango_Bernal is Chief Sustainability Officer of Crepes & Waffles, a restaurant chain. Their goal is to regenerate life in 9 territories throughout Colombia, in alliance with small-holder farmers, avoiding unnecessary middle-men, offering better prices compared to local markets, fostering community empowerment, and environmental conservation. Marcela's background is in communications and she has +10 years of experience connecting rural communities with companies, and ecosystems with environmentally conscious markets.


Mónica Ramírez 

Mónica Ramírez is the Director of CoCrea where she works so that the cultural and creative economy becomes an engine of social and economic development in Colombia. She led the project for the "Bronx Creative District" in Bogotá and worked to position Colombia as a destination for foreign investment. She has more than 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors. She is a business administrator from CESA, with an MBA from Bocconi, studies in International Business (Georgetown) and Global Change Agents (Harvard).

Sergio Guarín 

Sergio Guarín is Deputy Director (DCOP) of USAID Responsive Governance Activity. Its main contribution has been to foster spaces for dialogue and collaboration between actors with different perspectives on development and peace. To do this, it has focused on strengthening capacities and promoting collective actions. Since 2006, he has led various initiatives aimed at promoting peacebuilding, democratic governance and territorial development in the regions most affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. Sergio is a historian and magister in political science.


Alejandra Londoño 

Alejandra Londoño-Reyes is an Advisor of Governability. Her mission is to contribute to the transformation of public management in Colombia. She has worked on development and international cooperation strategies, policies and projects with a territorial focus in the most remote areas of the country. She currently works at the National Planning Department, where she designs tools to harmonize the instruments of territorial planning and development of local authorities with the instruments of ethnic communities in collective territories.


Diana Arismendy 

Diana Arismendy is the manager of "Avancemos Bajo Cauca," a private sector alliance whose goal is to contribute to the inclusive and sustainable rural economic development of the Bajo Cauca Antioqueño region, through the strengthening of ventures and the promotion of formal jobs. She has more than 16 years of professional experience, 7 of them focused on leading social causes. She has a Master's degree in Business Innovation from the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey and a Business Administrator degree from the EAFIT University.


Diego Moreno 

Diego Moreno is Coordinator of the Collective Intervention Plan of the Hospital Especial de Cubará. Currently supports the process of adapting health services to the worldview, ways of life and needs of the 6 indigenous communities of the U'wa People of the municipality of Cubará, in a way that contributes to the creation of the Intercultural Indigenous Health System - SISPI , based on the principles of action without harm, humanized care, strengthening of ancestral wisdom and constant consultation with traditional authorities. Diego has more than 6 years of experience working with vulnerable people and communities and is a psychologist from the Autonomous University of Bucaramanga.


Eduardo Ocampo 

Eduardo Ocampo is Director of Fundación Local Partners, an organization committed to creating lasting relationships with its partners in order to strengthen value chains in coffee and cocoa production, seeking better conditions for producers and creating a positive impact on communities and the environment, while promoting sustainable production practices. He is an Economist with an emphasis in finance, with complementary studies in innovation management and New Venture capital.


Lizeth Riaño 

Lizeth Riaño is the Director and Co-Founder of Collective Impulse. A project that provides conditions to convert social transformation and peace building initiatives into sustainable social enterprises; through impact investing. Lizeth works in synergy with the tourism company Impulse Travel, enhancing the impact of both organizations through the management of strategic alliances between the private and public sectors and academia. 
This synergy has generated tourism income for 20 communities, an economic and strategic boost program that impacts 15 leaders and social entrepreneurs from 7 departments in Colombia. Lizeth is an Anthropologist from the Universidad Javeriana and a Master in Journalism from the Universidad de Los Andes. Traveling, telling stories and creating strong connections are her key tools for creating change and spreading voices of resilience.


Luisa Fernanda Mejía 

Luisa Fernanda Mejia is an Advisor of the Ministry of Education,. She designs and manages strategies of educational inclusiveness, such as “Arando la Educación” a Program that offers primary and secondary education to young and adult ex-combatants and neighboring communities. Luisa is a member of the Interra Foundation . She used to work as Rural Education Coordinator at Comfama, and at the Government of Antioquia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and postgraduate studies in Regional Development.


Sandra Milena Martínez 

Sandra Milena Martínez is Coordinator of the women's circle "Mi Mejor Versión", part of the Sentido Común Organization, who provide spaces for exchange between communities and private companies. From her role as coordinator, Sandra seeks the recognition of women as empowering their environments, supporting them in the generation of income and the promotion of non-violent relationships in their households. She is also a finance professor at Fundación Bancolombia, where she supports farmers to improve their financial habits. Sandra is Artisan Technician, Environmental Technologist and Sales and Marketing Technician.


Yesid Perlaza 

Yesid Perlaza is Community peace model Coordinator at Archdiocese of Cali and Founder of the Urban Peace Councils of the city. His flag of urban and rural peace has led him to identify, support, and amplify the expressions of peace of the neighborhoods of Cali. Through his work he amplifies, accompanies and enhances the experiences of communities of peace in a department of Colombia still heavily excluded and marginalized. Yesid promotes humanitarian dialogues, harmonious coexistence, self-care, well-being, the care of our habitats and the development of knowledge in defense of life and an egalitarian social development.