Acumen Blog


Monis Rahman Responds to Acumen Fund’s Lesson #4: We won’t succeed in the long term without cultivating local leaders, local money, and strong local communities

Acumen Fund is committed to sharing the learnings we have collected over our past 10 years. In this spirit, we have published  a document called “10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.” Each week on the Acumen Fund Blog, we will be posting the next lesson in this series of “10 Things,” along with a guest response from a valued member of our community.

4. We won’t succeed in the long term without cultivating local leaders, local money, and strong local communities

There is a vast ocean between good intentions and impact.  Sustainable impact requires deep roots in local communities.  It requires understanding regional sensitivities, dynamics and nuances.   It requires indigenous entrepreneurs with passion and courage to navigate unchartered waters to do what has never been done before.  And sustainable impact requires nurturing through local capital and ownership of purpose within the communities in which they operate.

It was punishingly hot day in June 2007 when I pitched ROZEE.PK’s online recruiting tools to a senior Human Resource executive at one of Pakistan’s largest companies.  With a sympathetic smile, he explained that credible companies post jobs in newspapers, not on the Internet.  Around this time, a well-established international job portal was just winding up its operations in Pakistan after licking similar market wounds.  But we persisted and offered our services free of charge for over a year with stoic patience.   We didn’t have the option of packing up our bags and going back to Dubai.  Pakistan was home.  So we customized our products to bridge the chasm between incumbent practices and rapidly evolving innovation.  We persisted and catalyzed a market that was not eager to change, because this was our market.  Today, four years later, more jobs are posted on ROZEE.PK than all of the newspapers in Pakistan combined and over 150,000 people have found employment.

Similarly, we have seen millions of well-intentioned foreign aid dollars being spent on worthy causes with little impact time and time again due to a disconnect with local realities.  And yet we’ve also seen high impact indigenous social ventures touching thousands of lives and executed on shoe-string budgets.  The difference has come from local wisdom, ownership and engagement.

The lesson of cultivating local leaders, local money and strong local communities comes from dozens of inspiring and heroic examples of success from Acumen’s portfolio across six different countries.

Whether it is a local microfinance bank figuring out how to circumvent exploitive aartis to help farmers get higher prices for their produce or a low cost housing venture cutting through painful layers of government bureaucracy through the powerful networks of local investors, the lesson is clear.  Impact is not made simply through a sound analysis of a business model in New York – it is made by the magic that happens across oceans, on the ground thousands of miles away.

Monis Rahman is the Chairman and CEO of Naseeb Networks, a new media company in Pakistan focusing on consumer Internet applications. He is also an Acumen Fund Partner.

Click here for the full “10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.”


Reflections on the India Fellows Seminar

Each year, the India Fellows Program brings together up to 20 emerging leaders from different regions, sectors, and socio-economic backgrounds in India. During the fellowship year, Fellows remain in their jobs and meet every 6-8 weeks throughout the year for 4 seminars and 2 collaborative projects, each about a week long. As the India Fellows Associate, Jacqui is responsible for supporting all aspects of the program recruitment, logistics, marketing and strategic planning. Below, Jacqui reflects on the first seminar, Foundations of Leadership. You can read more about the fellowship program here[Read More]

Adaptive Leadership in Action: Addressing Cultural Norms & Giving Women a Voice

In the fall of 2013, +Acumen launched the course Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change in partnership with the Cambridge Leadership Associates. This course is for anyone who wants to become more effective at leading their organization through change. Below, one of the course participants shared her story about how this course impacted her work and ability to affect change. [Read More]

Making Sense of Social Impact in Action: The Value of Educating Our Youth

At Acumen, one of the most common questions we get is how we measure social impact. Our newest +Acumen course – Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis. – will provide an entry point for how to think about impact and we’ll share frameworks that help us define what to measure and why. Makoto Matsuura, founder of cobon a not-for-profit focused on youth education in Jakarta, Indonesia and Osaka, Japan, took a pilot version of this course and shared his reflections with us. [Read More]

Good news for philanthropists in the U.K. and Europe

We are excited to announce that Acumen now holds a CAF Charitable Trust in the United Kingdom. CAF, the Charities Aid Foundation, is a registered U.K. charity. By donating to Acumen through CAF, you can use Gift Aid if the amount of Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax you’ve paid for the tax year in which you make your donation is at least equal to the amount of basic rate tax  [the charity or Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) and any other charities or CASCs] you donate to will reclaim on your gift. CAF will reclaim 25% Gift Aid from HM Revenue & Customs and pass this through to Acumen.  The donor can claim higher rate tax relief (for more information, please refer to CAF’s online resource, What Is Gift Aid?). [Read More]

d.light Leaders Named 2014 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year

We are thrilled for our portfolio company d.light and Donn Tice, Chairman and CEO, along with cofounders Ned Tozun, President, and Sam Goldman, Chief Customer Officer, for being named Social Entrepreneurs of the year 2014 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. d.light is a for-profit social enterprise that manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products with primary markets in the developing world, today announced that d.light, along with 37 other individuals and organizations in the 2014 class, will be fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the World Economic Forum. [Read More]