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.


Why India’s Economic Growth Depends on Vocational Training

India has an enormous population of young people – over half of the 1.2 billion people are younger than 25 years old. Yet, only 2% of its 500 million person workforce has any skills or training. The majority work in the informal sector (90%), where there are few opportunities for education other than what workers ‘pick up’ on the job. This reality limits overall productivity, as well as upward mobility. [Read More]

Letter from Jacqueline: My Week in Ghana

I am writing on a return flight from Ghana. The country has not seen a single case of Ebola, yet the impact of fear is profound. As travelers enter the country, attendants screen for high temperatures. Hand sanitizer dispensers are omnipresent. Hotels and conferences have seen massive cancellations. Everywhere are constant reminders of our fragility and the strength of our connectedness. [Read More]

Six online courses we’re taking this year

+Acumen’s free online courses are a great way to learn tools that will help you develop both professionally and personally. Whether you are a social entrepreneur who wants to market to your customers or a young professional that wants to strengthen your leadership skills, we are offering six courses this Fall that will help you develop the tools, knowledge, and networks to change the way the world tackles poverty. [Read More]

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]