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A Night of Inspiration in Lahore – Exploring the World of Social Entrepreneurship

In June, Pakistan’s Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) hosted “A Night of Inspiration” featuring Jacqueline Novogratz. More than 110 students from all programs and age groups attended, reflecting the diversity of the LUMS student body. Ms. Novogratz gave a riveting talk about leadership and social change through entrepreneurship, chronicling her personal journey from investment banking to social entrepreneur, to eventually founding Acumen Fund a decade ago, highlighting the requirements in the world today for leadership with moral imagination, and a need to find real and lasting solutions to poverty.

The idea of social entrepreneurship is still relatively new in Pakistan and breaks away from traditional approaches to poverty. The social entrepreneurs that Acumen invests in work tirelessly towards providing access to critical goods and services to the poor in a manner that is financially sustainable and scalable. Acumen Fund Pakistan – now with over $11 million invested – has found dynamic individuals with innovative breakthrough solutions to the problems of access to health, water, housing and agricultural inputs and services.

Leading social entrepreneurs funded by Acumen in Pakistan include Shahzad Iqbal, a LUMS alumn, who after decades of banking and FMCG experience founded Jassar Farms, a dairy breed improvement project in Narowal to help small farmers improve milk yield and therefore income. Parvez Sufi of Pharmagen is bringing clean drinking water to low income urban slums at under Rs. 2 a liter. As of June 2011, Pharmagen outlets were producing 35,000 litres of water a day in low income neighborhoods in Lahore, and they aim to sell 1 million litres per day by December 2011.

Ms. Novogratz stressed the importance of leadership and how important it is for students to think beyond traditional measures of success She urged everyone to think about the problems we are facing in this world and how Pakistan needs every one of us to work on those problems. We should not wait for perfect opportunities to come along but rather do what we see as needed to get done in the world, knowing that life’s perfection ultimately lies in its imperfections. She ended with the words “I wish that you never stop dreaming, that you dare to take big risks and know that failure isn’t about falling down but about not having the strength to get up and try again. So dare to dream with me, dare to walk, to run, to fly and dare most importantly to imagine a future we together can create.”

“A Night of Inspiration” was just the beginning. The overwhelming interest and support exhibited for social entrepreneurship by LUMS students will undoubtedly lead to a broader movement among the student body.

Huma Haque is an Acumen Fund Business Development and Communications Summer Associate in Karachi, Pakistan.

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