Acumen Blog

award winning pic

Capturing the best for World Water Day 2012

For World Water Day this year, we’ve compiled some of the best photos from across the water sector and our portfolio. For an in-depth look at Acumen’s perspective of the water sector, read Nijhad Jamal’s recent blog.

Photo Credit: G.M.B. Akash. Akash is the winner of the WIN Photo competition in 2011. His winning photo (above) was exhibited in Stockholm during the World Water Week 2011, which Akash was invited to attend. He writes about this photo:

“In this particular photograph, I tried to portray the true picture of the scarcity of potable water in slums. In slums, people have to stand in queues from early morning hours to get the daily supply of free drinking water from the government water tankers. As they have no idea exactly when the government tanker will come, they line up their water jars & sit beside them for hours waiting for the water tankers. Even after passing the long queue, the water that they receive is not of purest quality. Rather this impure water causes sickness. Still the poor people feel that they are fortunate not to have to leave with empty pots. This is the plight of the slum dwellers in the Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka.In my winning photo of WIN competition, I wanted to convey the ultimate state of heart wrenching vulnerability and helplessness of the poor little child, who is fighting along with a pigeon for few drops of water.”


A camp in Delhi home to about 4,000 migrant workers with no clean water supply. Workers are dependent on water tankers, and every day, they have to wait for the tanker and scramble for water. They are only part of the 1.1 billion people in the world without access to improved water supply.

Photo Credit: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images. A woman draws water from a well in Gonate, in Ivory Coast. “Since 1990 over 2 billion more people in the world have received access to drinking water. And this progress has not been driven by just big middle-income countries – smaller, less well-endowed countries have also shown the way. The majority of people without access to drinking water – 479 million – live in countries that are not among the poorest. The country with the largest number of people without access to improved water – 119 million – is China, the world’s second largest economy.” Source:

A river in the Qayyumabad District near Karachi suffers from extreme pollution.

On the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, men and children are bathing and washing their clothes. A recent government audit found that the level of fecal coliform in the Yamuna was 100,000 times the safe limit for bathing.

Progress on sanitation delivery currently lags well behind other Millennium Development Goals. As such, private sanitation providers, from retailers to masons, from public toilet operators to latrine emptying business, are of vital importance to BoP communities. In developed countries sanitation is the role of the water utility.In developing countries however, the sanitation market is dominated by small private providers, usually very local in nature and often benefiting from little outside support.


Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]


Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]

Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]

Give Impact Investing Time and Space to Develop

Impact investing has captured the world’s imagination. Just six years after the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term, the sector is booming. An estimated 250 funds are actively raising capital in a market that the Global Impact Investing Network estimates at $25 billion. Giving Pledge members described impact investing as the “hottest topic” at their May 2012 meeting, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the potential of the sector at the most recent G8 summit.  Sir Ronald Cohen and HBS Professor William A. Sahlman describe impact investing as the new venture capital, implying that it will, in the next 5 to 10 years, make its way into mainstream financial portfolios, unlocking billions or trillions of dollars in new capital. [Read More]

10 Books We’re Reading This Summer

What are you reading? It is a common question here at Acumen, an organization full of avid readers constantly trading favorite book titles that discuss leadership, impact, development and branding. Here are 10 stellar books we’re reading this summer. These books and others provide a framework of thinking, a spark of new ideas, a platform for debate. So, what are you reading? [Read More]

How Acumen Brought Back my Fire

Eda is an East Africa Regional Fellow from Nairobi, Kenya and is the Founder and Director of Halisi Trust, an organization that seeks to challenge the vices that plague society and encourage transformational development in Kenya’s youth. When Eda applied for the East Africa Fellows Program, she felt disillusioned and stuck. Below, Eda discusses how Acumen’s Regional Fellowship Program brought back her fire. Now, Eda has engaged nearly 6,000 people through outreach events and the Mkenya Halisi movement continues to grow. Acumen is currently accepting applications for the next class of East Africa Fellows. APPLY TODAY! [Read More]

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]