Acumen Blog


Failure is the first step to success

“Madam ji, this is for you. We cannot pay the fees but we can pay you like this.” A doe-eyed little girl carrying a bucket of warm milk stood on my door step. That girl not only opened the door to my room but also my eyes to the reality that my project, a language training center in my home village of Dandot, Pakistan, was beginning to make a difference in someone’s life.  I had received the highest reward—the gratitude of that girl was priceless.

This was the beginning of SunShine, an educational initiative I started as a response to the dire need for education in my home town. We initiated our first “school within a school” concept with a selection of twenty students. Today we have 800 students in two villages and we continue to grow.

Starting my career in the private sector and moving into the development sector, I eventually created my own path in social entrepreneurship. Along the way, I have seen some success and plenty of failure.  I have learned that success is directly proportional to the attempts made for it. In the face of failure, hope is a wonderfully powerful emotion. It puts you back on track whenever you lose the sight of your goal. I have had a recent series of failures in my project’s implementation and financing. However one thing has kept me going. I have seen that belief and conviction is the key to success. Despite these recent issues, I have come to realize that I am happy for what I am doing even when the setbacks get me down.

History is filled with examples of people, from Thomas Edison to Oprah Winfrey, who failed miserably and repeatedly before finding success. Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school basketball, but refused to give up on his dream, once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Life is full of successes and failures, but in my experience, the worst failures are still better than the regret of not even trying for what you hope to accomplish. Today as I work to reconfigure my organization and my strategies for bringing better education to Pakistani schoolchildren, I am uncertain about which path is best to take. Yet one thing that is clear is that I will try my best to make it work and will not lose hope.

So to all my friends out there, don’t let failure hold you back. Get up, strike back and fail better; for success is sometimes wrapped in your passion and belief and above all your unalterable conviction that it is possible. Don’t fear failures; they are the first step to success.


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]