Acumen Blog


Acumen Hosts Workshop on Building High-Impact Partnerships at Skoll World Forum

Acumen, with support from EY, Sainsbury’s, Pfizer, and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, is hosting their second Beyond Dialogue workshop today as a part of the Skoll World Forum. The event, Beyond Dialogue: Three Models for High Impact Collaboration, will bring together leading global corporations, innovative social enterprises, experts and intermediaries to work together to uncover new knowledge and opportunities to partner.

This workshop builds on the report entitled ‘Beyond Dialogue: Building Sustainable and Inclusive Business Models in Partnership with Social Entrepreneurs’ launched by Acumen and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Saïd Business School in 2016. The report explores the different models of partnership between corporations and social enterprises that can help achieve inclusive and sustainable business solutions, and features specific examples and case studies that illustrate what has worked and where major challenges remain. The workshop will specifically explore three models of partnership presented in the report, Skills Partnerships, Channel Partnerships, and Venture Partnerships, that have been proven to help social enterprises and corporations work together to achieve social impact goals and business growth.

Each of the sponsoring organizations have committed to partnering with social enterprises, and see business as a force for good and a means to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. Jon Shepard, Director of Enterprise Growth Services (EGS) – a skills partnership model at EY, believes “Social entrepreneurs are leading a quiet revolution, building sustainable businesses that are changing lives and creating economic opportunity. EY is proud to support these extraordinary innovators and help them scale their reach and impact.”

“At Pfizer, we believe that a robust private sector is critical for generating sustainable and permanent solutions to healthcare challenges,” says Jenny Sia, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Pfizer. “That’s why the Pfizer Foundations is partnering with social entrepreneurs and organizations. These individuals are thinking big by starting small, implementing local innovation today that can lead to wholesale change tomorrow.”

Acumen’s efforts to bring together corporations, social enterprises, and intermediaries has illustrated the need for an ecosystem of players committed to working together to push forward solutions. “There is a need for leadership, a willingness to take risks and experiment in order to uncover new ways of working together. We are encouraged by the energy and excitement we have seen by stakeholders across sectors embracing this idea, and by their willingness to learn together,” says Yasmina Zaidman, Chief Partnerships Officer at Acumen.

Leading businesses such as Sainsbury’s have understood that this is simply a key new component of how they do business. Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s Brand says, “Given the scale of our business we know that we have a sizable impact on everything from the environment to the livelihoods of those in our supply chain. As we work to ensure the resilience, sustainability and integrity of our value chain we have an important role to play in fostering sustainable development. Our sustainability plan lays out our ambition and we know that partnerships will be key in achieving positive and lasting impact.”

The Beyond Dialogue Workshop is designed to yield new collaborations, and Acumen and the event sponsors plan to publish insights and case studies from the conference to accelerate learning among corporations and social enterprises seeking to partner.

Since its founding in 2001, Acumen has invested $101 million to build nearly 100 innovative enterprises addressing the problems of poverty in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Acumen’s approach includes not only provision of long-term private equity for early stage social enterprises, but also management support, technical assistance, insights into consumer preferences, and links to business opportunities and partnerships.


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