Acumen Blog


Acumen Fund @ University of Michigan – Leadership through Social Enterprise

This fall, Acumen Fund partnered with the University of Michigan to teach a class on our work. All students in the course completed a leadership project focused on an issue of their choosing. One of the students, Gabby Park, chose to explore lack of access to healthcare with her project team.

I am one of 45 million Americans without health insurance today. Three summers ago, I was in a car accident that left me with a swelling bump on the back of my head. My church group was driving to visit a mosque when a huge van rear-ended us, sending contents from the trunk flying into the car, causing my head injury.

For close to three hours, I agonized over going to the ER to get treated.

And I began to think—how is this fair? How is it fair that millions of Americans and billions around the world have to make this same choice every day, often in potentially life or death situations?

After this experience, a passion alighted within me and I realized my purpose: to better understand the healthcare system and what I could do to change it. I saw social enterprise as one route to bringing innovative, community-focused ideas to an ailing, flawed system in need of greater reform.

But I had never seriously thought of myself as a social entrepreneur until signing up for the Acumen Fund class at the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship on leading innovation through social enterprise.

Upon enrolling, I was filled with doubt: Will I learn anything?  As a leader in several student organizations and an active member in church, I felt I knew how to work in groups to achieve goals.  What would this class contribute to my knowledge that my experience had not already taught me?

Well… it turns out, a lot.

In addition to the in-class content on leadership, patient capital, and social enterprise, we also applied lessons learned in the classroom to a leadership project. The leadership project pushed us to interact with our community and taught us to put people at the center of any idea or design.  This is how my team decided to focus on lack of access to healthcare. We spoke with many different people, from the uninsured to those who had always taken insurance for granted, and learned that one of the biggest barriers to healthcare access in the U.S. is lack of knowledge.

After listening to public health professionals who spoke of the need for a comprehensive information center and reflecting on our personal experiences, my team decided to design a comprehensive call center the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.  Anyone could call the center at any hour with questions ranging from where to find the nearest urgent care center or affordable clinics for the uninsured to health insurance policy questions.

We are now looking at how we would want to structure this organization—would it be for profit, a non-profit or a hybrid?  Focusing on funding is critical as well, and we are envisioning how patient capital could contribute to its initial development and long-term sustainability.  In addition, we are exploring how we can possibly measure its overall impact.  Our vision is to have a successful call center that has wide reach and is consistently used by the public.

If there is one thing I have learned from this class, over and over and over again, it is that people have so much to give– if we only ask.

I learned just how passionate I am about my calling, too.  And I learned how difficult it will be in the future to convince people that this issue is worthy, that it is just, and that it is in need of changing.

I may not be certain of what my future holds, but my vision is to be part of an organization that is able to provide the affordable, quality, and equal access to healthcare that I believe this country can and should provide.   This class has shown me that as long as I’m willing walk the long journey to affecting change and build systems that focus on sustainability, then, I, too, can be a social entrepreneur.

Gabby Park is a senior at the University of Michigan.


Reflections on the India Fellows Seminar

Each year, the India Fellows Program brings together up to 20 emerging leaders from different regions, sectors, and socio-economic backgrounds in India. During the fellowship year, Fellows remain in their jobs and meet every 6-8 weeks throughout the year for 4 seminars and 2 collaborative projects, each about a week long. As the India Fellows Associate, Jacqui is responsible for supporting all aspects of the program recruitment, logistics, marketing and strategic planning. Below, Jacqui reflects on the first seminar, Foundations of Leadership. You can read more about the fellowship program here[Read More]

Adaptive Leadership in Action: Addressing Cultural Norms & Giving Women a Voice

In the fall of 2013, +Acumen launched the course Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change in partnership with the Cambridge Leadership Associates. This course is for anyone who wants to become more effective at leading their organization through change. Below, one of the course participants shared her story about how this course impacted her work and ability to affect change. [Read More]

Making Sense of Social Impact in Action: The Value of Educating Our Youth

At Acumen, one of the most common questions we get is how we measure social impact. Our newest +Acumen course – Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis. – will provide an entry point for how to think about impact and we’ll share frameworks that help us define what to measure and why. Makoto Matsuura, founder of cobon a not-for-profit focused on youth education in Jakarta, Indonesia and Osaka, Japan, took a pilot version of this course and shared his reflections with us. [Read More]

Good news for philanthropists in the U.K. and Europe

We are excited to announce that Acumen now holds a CAF Charitable Trust in the United Kingdom. CAF, the Charities Aid Foundation, is a registered U.K. charity. By donating to Acumen through CAF, you can use Gift Aid if the amount of Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax you’ve paid for the tax year in which you make your donation is at least equal to the amount of basic rate tax  [the charity or Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) and any other charities or CASCs] you donate to will reclaim on your gift. CAF will reclaim 25% Gift Aid from HM Revenue & Customs and pass this through to Acumen.  The donor can claim higher rate tax relief (for more information, please refer to CAF’s online resource, What Is Gift Aid?). [Read More]

d.light Leaders Named 2014 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year

We are thrilled for our portfolio company d.light and Donn Tice, Chairman and CEO, along with cofounders Ned Tozun, President, and Sam Goldman, Chief Customer Officer, for being named Social Entrepreneurs of the year 2014 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. d.light is a for-profit social enterprise that manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products with primary markets in the developing world, today announced that d.light, along with 37 other individuals and organizations in the 2014 class, will be fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the World Economic Forum. [Read More]