Acumen Blog

1379483_554769677593_1804586435_n

Mad to Live in Impact

John Collery is a Global Fellow working at Avani, a company that creates pine needle gasification power projects for remote communities in northern India. 

Towards the end of a conversation on impact investing, someone asked me if I was mad. While I didn’t readily agree to it, I did admit to being drawn to, and utterly captivated by, a certain kind of madness.

Hear me out.

I mean the kind of madness that would drive a 42 year old man with a mortgage, wife, and two young kids, to drop a salaried, pensionable job and bootstrap a business that would go global. 25 years later and he’s been at it ever since.

It’s that same madness I see in friends who have run international festivals, built killer apps, launched airlines, taken jobs in the harshest of developing countries, become world class chefs, hit financial ruin and come out the other side smiling, screamed like maniacs at rugby matches, cried after victories and grown resilient in defeat. It’s the inability to accept no. It’s a wildness and ferocity tempered only by the clarity of purpose, vigorous intellect, and time it takes to achieve.

It’s a madness that would drive a young couple living in Delhi to up tent and peg and move to the deepest Himalayas to start an organization that would impact thousands of lives. They didn’t stop there, and went on to launch an energy business that will impact hundreds of thousands more.

It’s a kind of madness that would push a New Yorker to take on the most pressing challenges of our time, eliminating poverty, embrace it with mind boggling enthusiasm and, beyond that, build a movement of others who are relentlessly committed to doing the same. Not just committed to doing it. Doing it.

In “On the Road,” Jack Kerouac talked about the mad ones:

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Mad? Maybe a bit. In impact, it’s our madness, our staunch refusal to say no, and our ability to see the world as it could be that will bring about real change.

Comments

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]

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]

DE-BUNKING THE BURDEN MYTH: IMPACT DATA GOES LEAN

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]