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.


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]

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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

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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]