Dubai for Acumen’s Inaugural Spring Benefit at Cuadro Art Gallery in DIFC

Sonya Khan is on the leadership team of Acumen Fund’s Dubai volunteer chapter. Dubai for Acumen’s Spring Benefit successfully raised more than $10,000 for Acumen Fund. The Dubai chapter is Acumen Fund’s third official chapter and we are excited to welcome them to our Acumen Fund Partner community.

Surveying the crowd of professionals mingling at Dubai for Acumen’s first fundraising event in the heart of Dubai’s financial district, I felt a surge of satisfaction.  Only a week earlier, as the volunteers made our final push for ticket sales, we weren’t sure how many people to expect for our first event. Unlike many of the other cities where Acumen Fund and its Chapters operate; in Dubai, Acumen Fund was a completely alien concept.   The objective of the event was to make an impact on Dubai’s professional community and to get the word out about Acumen Fund, so numbers mattered.  Volunteers had been sending out emails, making phone calls, and talking to co-workers, friends, and acquaintances for weeks in a bid to reach as many people as possible and it had clearly paid off – the Chapter ultimately sold 300 tickets. The atmosphere at the art gallery was animated; people strolled through nibbling on canapés, enjoying the accompaniments of the pianist, some still in business suits straight from the office, others glammed up for an evening out.  Small groups gathered around scattered TV monitors, watching videos of various Acumen Fund projects and hearing Jacqueline Novogratz speak.  Once the presentation started, the chatter quickly died down and attention turned to the informational part of the evening.

Dubai draws many people from around the world through its reputation for decadence and the lure of a more luxurious life.  The informational session that evening was a call to action, daring us all not to be lulled into a life of comfortable complacency.  It started out with Ankur Shah presenting the facts and figures along with real world examples of how Acumen Fund is achieving its goals, appealing to the most practical minds in the audience.  He was followed by the keynote speaker for the evening Sarah Dimson, a Ghanaian-American Acumen Fellow, who iscurrently working at Ansaar Management Company, a low income housing company based in Lahore, Pakistan. Sarah challenged all of us to find a way to make a difference. She spoke passionately about how amazed she was by her experiences as an Acumen Fellow, even though it was radically different from what she had anticipated when she applied.  She presented the Acumen Fellows program not only as a means through which to make positive mark on the planet, but also an avenue for personal growth.

I expected the evening to wrap up quickly after that and was pleasantly surprised to see how many people lingered on, stopping volunteers to ask questions, sharing ideas and seeking ways to get further involved.  If as Voltaire says, the present is pregnant with the future, then this event will bring inspiration, growth, and energy to the Dubai for Acumen chapter.


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]

Give Impact Investing Time and Space to Develop

Impact investing has captured the world’s imagination. Just six years after the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term, the sector is booming. An estimated 250 funds are actively raising capital in a market that the Global Impact Investing Network estimates at $25 billion. Giving Pledge members described impact investing as the “hottest topic” at their May 2012 meeting, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the potential of the sector at the most recent G8 summit.  Sir Ronald Cohen and HBS Professor William A. Sahlman describe impact investing as the new venture capital, implying that it will, in the next 5 to 10 years, make its way into mainstream financial portfolios, unlocking billions or trillions of dollars in new capital. [Read More]

10 Books We’re Reading This Summer

What are you reading? It is a common question here at Acumen, an organization full of avid readers constantly trading favorite book titles that discuss leadership, impact, development and branding. Here are 10 stellar books we’re reading this summer. These books and others provide a framework of thinking, a spark of new ideas, a platform for debate. So, what are you reading? [Read More]

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! [Read More]

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! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]