Acumen Blog

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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!

When I started Mkenya Halisi  two and a half years ago, I had an unquenchable fire in my heart to see a movement of people with an alternative value system take their place in changing the narrative of our country. Mkenya Halisi invites the community to have conversations around key Kenyan issues that affect our nation. I envisioned engineers, teachers and doctors standing up against corruption, mediocrity and negative ethnicity. I had a clear and compelling vision and I sold it to whoever would listen with a whole lot of passion. Soon enough, people who believed in me stood behind me and doors started to open. It was exciting, it felt like I was doing something that mattered, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that vision, passion and good intentions aren’t enough. I made some critical structural mistakes at the beginning and paid heavily for them. Two years later I was weary, disillusioned and stuck. I felt like I was sitting on my hands as a leader, unable to make critical decisions and extremely unsure of myself.

It was at this time that I applied for the Acumen East Africa Fellows Program. I was stretched beyond my capacity and I couldn’t actually see how I could possibly make time for a fellowship on top of my role as a leader, a wife and a mom. I went to an open forum where I heard the Acumen staff explain what the fellowship year was about. I walked out thinking, “I really want to do this!” It was exactly what I needed: direction, skills and a strong community.

I could not have imagined how timely, strategic and critical the learning in the fellowship year would be for me. By the time the program kicked off, I was in a major transition with the Mkenya Halisi movement. Every Seminar assignment addressed where I was as a leader and the difficult decisions I was facing. I found a community who extended their trust, networks and support at a speed that was genuinely surprising.

I was home! I found a place where I can be vulnerable, where I can be a hopeless idealist, where I can dream of a Kenya that is free of corruption, negative ethnicity and inequity without eye rolls.

My fire is back, my roar is louder. I am all of 5 feet 2 inches, but just half way in to the fellowship, I feel unstoppable. And at the end of it, I look forward to joining a strong alumni who share my deep conviction in changing the way the world tackles poverty.


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]