Events

salon

A Women’s Salon Like None Other

65: # of women who gathered last week at an event hosted by Acumen founder/CEO, Jacqueline Novogratz. Women shared their stories, insights, lessons, fears, and hopes.

50: # of years fell between the youngest and oldest guest.

20: # of seconds you had to unfold from a reflective sitting position and stand up strong in front of everyone to express your answer to one of the two questions posed prior to the event:

For the older generation:

If you could go back and change one decision in your life, what would it be?

For the younger generation:

What is your biggest fear?  What’s holding you back?

Guests responded with written answers to these questions, and this “word cloud” reveals the variety of answers.

There were Wall Street executives. High profile lawyers. Young artists. Entrepreneurs. Writers. Recently engaged professionals. Mothers. Daughters. Friends. The single room that housed everyone provided an unintentionally symbolic space. The older generation sat in a nearly complete circle of chairs and spoke openly and freely about their lives, regrets, and things they would have done differently, if…. The younger generation was enveloped by this collective wisdom and honesty, forming the inner circle of cushions on the ground, from which they spoke about fear, hope, and uncertainty.

As the sun set, answers to the questions started flowing:

  • “My greatest fear is that I’ll arrive at a place in which I think that ‘I’ve arrived’ – I do not want to feel like I have stopped learning and feeling challenged.”
  • “My greatest fear is that I will not give the right amount of myself to those I love – I fear that I will give either too much or too little.”
  • “I regret that I didn’t embrace entrepreneurship in my 20s. Everyone told me to go work for someone, learn what I need to know first, then do my own thing. They were all wrong.”
  • “I regret that I spent my entire life rushing – to that next appointment, to that next dinner…”
  • “If I could change one thing, it would be to have had more frivolity and fun …”
  • “What I would do differently: Listened, learned, and laughed more – less PowerPoints, meetings, or not following my gut….and I would have made every decision through the lens of never accepting the unacceptable”

Inspiring advice followed too:

  • “As you move to different stages of your career, look behind you and be a mentor for a woman who can learn from you. Take your growth and as it propels you forward, help others propel themselves forward.”
  • “I have had a very successful, very happy life. Unfortunately I remember very little of it because I spent decades worrying! For the worriers out there, take time to seriously think about your worrying – and stop. It’s a destructive habit which saps your energy and hurts your soul.”
  • “I have finally learned that to rely on a team is actually not only smart but efficient and effective. My message is, ‘you do not need to do it all yourself. There is no shame in not knowing how to do something. What is important is having the talent to find people who either have the information you need or the skills to help you reach your goal.’”

Five women, in different stages of life, each told a longer, more personal story to the room. From these stories, we reflected on what it means to own our voices and diversity, to redefine our expectations and flexibility around motherhood and career development, and to embrace the women around us. The storytelling was interspersed with beautiful, soul-moving music, performance, and dance. The energy was nothing short of incredible.

Guests left the evening with their hearts swirling with the thoughtfulness and honesty of each story. The focus on leadership, living a whole life, and embracing choices made (and to be made) allowed for a safe and intimate space that differentiated this evening from so many other “women in business” events. Rather than being “talked at”, the guests were learning and growing along with each speaker.

Maybe the night is best described in a tweet from one of its guests, the wonderful @swissmiss, Tina Roth Eisenberg:

“I think I am attending one of the most exciting evenings of my 12 years in NYC.”

Tina captured a photo from the evening and shares her answer to the first question on her blog.

This was the first salon hosted by Acumen Fund. We have a sneaking suspicion it will not be the last!

Clare Hunt and Carissa Vados are Acumen Fund Summer Associates in New York.

Comments

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]

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]