Chris H&S

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!

A few weeks ago, while attending a seminar on human rights, I was engaged in an emotive conversation on discrimination and its often-ugly manifestations. We talked about religion, race, age, sex. As one might expect, it was a highly polarized discussion.

For the most part, I was silent. I felt alienated, like an outsider looking in. It was like a scene at a dance party: everyone seemed to be listening and moving to the same beat, and I to a completely different one. I felt completely disoriented, not because I did not understand the topic of discussion or was uncomfortable with it. In fact, during Seminar One of the Acumen Fellowship, we had an engaging 2-day session on human rights and freedom. Unpacking the Good Society Readings, we read and discussed controversial readings from Plato and Aristotle, Lee Kuan Yew and Martin Luther King. Rarely had I felt so intellectually engaged and invigorated.

So what had been the biggest difference between the two forums?

Acumen’s Pulse

As I contemplate this question now, I realize how very privileged I am to be part of the 2014 cohort of Acumen Fellows. Because therein lies the answer. You see, Acumen has a pulse – a regular, steady, reassuring pulse. It breathes life, feeling and emotion into every idea, every individual and every business that comes into contact with it.

That is what was missing from the seminar on human rights a few weeks ago. I felt alienated from that discussion precisely because it gave me no life, no emotion, no purpose. Where it should have left me challenged and inspired, it left me frustrated and alienated. If the popping veins and jabbing fingers were any indicator, it certainly had a pulse that others found invigorating. But it was a pulse alien to me, far removed from what I have come to identify with as my source of life.

Moral Imagination

I first came across Acumen’s pulse through the phrase Moral Imagination. Described as ‘the humility to see the world as it is and the audacity to imagine it as it could be’, it is a phrase that has completely shifted my thinking. The two-word concept gives life to my purpose and catapults me into a new world of possibility. It challenges me to stop making excuses and to get on with what needs to get done.

I dare to believe in possibilities, in a world that could be. I dare to ask more of myself, of others, of the universe. More importantly, I dare to share and influence others with this new powerful self that the Acumen fellowship has nurtured to life.


We Are Each Other’s Destiny

To reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to consider deeply our human interconnectedness and the world we want to build. Each year on this day, I re-read his extraordinary, elegiac “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to remember his commitment to human equality and the price he paid. I read it to remind myself of the power of idealism grounded in pragmatism. I read it to renew my belief in our individual and collective abilities to help bend the moral arc ever more toward justice. [Read More]

Let’s Work Together

Acumen has offices in New York, Mumbai, Karachi, Bogota, Nairobi and Accra. Last August, Avinash Mishra, a Senior Portfolio Associate in the India office, and Keya Madhvani, the Internal Communications Associate in the New York office, were nominated to attend the One Young World Summit in Dublin. Below, they share lessons learned at the summit.  [Read More]

Edubridge: Bridging the Skills Gap in Rural India

India’s demographic dividend is widely acknowledged as a strength that sets it apart from other emerging economies. One million young men and women enter the workforce every month, which will add up to an astounding 240 million over the next twenty years.  Rural youth make up two thirds of India’s population and are a major segment of these job seekers. At the same time, fast growing companies in retail, IT, BPO, banking and financial services struggle with finding employable staff, especially in rural areas.  Research shows that only 5-40% of the staff in such companies has undergone formal training. [Read More]

New Study By Acumen and Bain & Company Unveils How To Scale Adoption Of Agricultural Innovations

Acumen and Bain & Company today released Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models® to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations—a new report to help entrepreneurial companies, and others, unlock the potential of smallholder farmers through large-scale adoption of agricultural innovations and inputs. The report’s insights and findings—which are the result of interviews with more than 300 smallholder farmers, sector experts and pioneer firm management—demonstrate the transformative power of providing smallholder farmers with the right access to the right innovations at the right time. In parallel, the report addresses why very few pioneer firms have been able to achieve the scale needed to provide smallholder farmers with access to agricultural products and services that have the potential to increase their yields and pull them out of poverty. [Read More]

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]