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10 Things We’ve Learned: #7 – If failing is not an option, you’ve ruled out success as well

Acumen Fund is committed to sharing the learnings we have collected over our past 10 years. In this spirit, we have published  a document called “10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.” Each week on the Acumen Fund Blog, we will be posting the next lesson in this series of “10 Things,” along with a guest response from a valued member of our community.

7. If failing is not an option, you’ve ruled out success as well

“What’s important is learning from these failures.”

We won’t pull tens of millions of people out of poverty with a comprehensive ten-point plan.  Plans written by experts can crash and burn when faced with the shifting realities of the marketplace, and even the best interventions must be designed to evolve if they are to go from good to great.

At Acumen we invest in innovative models for tackling major social problems.  Every investment we make is risky, and a number have failed or fallen short of their goals: a company with a promising technology that failed to build robust distribution and marketing systems; a pharmacy chain targeting the urban poor that failed to manage for growth and ran out of capital; an investment where we discovered – too late – that our values were not aligned, forcing us to exit.

Creating new blueprints for social change requires taking bets on innovative business models, on sometimes-untested entrepreneurs, and on emerging leaders.  We reach far, and sometimes we come up short.  What’s important is learning from these failures and using them to get better at what we do.  Openness to failing opens us up to the possibility of real, groundbreaking success.

Click here for a response posts on Lesson #7 from Arianna Huffington and click here for the full “10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.”

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