Acumen Blog


Do you have what it takes to be Unreasonable?

In the summer of 2009, an enthusiastic student from the University of Colorado – Boulder came into Acumen Fund’s New York office for a meeting. We sat down over coffee, and he told me he was launching a business accelerator to give social entrepreneurs wings. To be honest, I thought he was talking about Red Bull. His idea struck me as a bit crazy – perhaps even doomed to fail.  Boy, was I wrong.

That college student was Daniel Epstein, and his crazy idea was – and is – the Unreasonable Institute. The Unreasonable Institute is a mentorship and training program for entrepreneurs tackling the world’s biggest social and environmental problems. Each year, a select group of 25 entrepreneurs live under one roof in Colorado for six weeks; they receive mentorship, refine their business plans, and build relationships with prominent partners in the sector (full disclosure: Acumen is one such partner) who have the potential to bring capital to their businesses. Against all odds, Daniel and his team created what is now one of the most interesting and innovative social enterprise incubators I’ve seen.

Over the past couple of years, I have recommended multiple startup social enterprises to Unreasonable and seen them emerge stronger, sharper, and more ready for the world. Unreasonable is now taking applications for its next program that begins on September 26, 2012. Applications close November 10th so don’t hesitate, apply now.

Now in its third year of existence, Unreasonable consistently outdoes itself and has shown me that the idea is so crazy, it just might work. I tip my skeptic cap to the Unreasonable team, and don a much more optimistic one – they helping improbably ideas become possible, and filling a gap that our sector desperately needs in getting early stage social enterprises off the ground.

Rob Katz is a Portfolio Manager in Acumen Fund’s India Office.


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]