Our World

Read our article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, co-authored with Monitor Inclusive Markets.

Closing the Pioneer Gap

In April 2012, Monitor Inclusive Markets published From Blueprint to Scale: The Case for Philanthropy in Impact Investing, in collaboration with Acumen Fund and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report examines which types of funding are the most catalytic for growing social enterprises, from the earliest blueprint phase when business models are still being validated, to later stages when successful models are ready to scale. Our analysis and research paints a clear picture: impact capital alone will not unlock the potential of impact investing for the global poor.

The report has been widely discussed and debated within impact investing circles (including being the opening topic at SOCAP 2012 this October), but we wanted to bring these ideas to a wider audience. To that end, we recently published “Closing the Pioneer Gap” in the Winter 2013 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The article focuses on the key issue identified in the Blueprint report: the importance of philanthropically-backed and low-return funds to fill the “Pioneer Gap” in the impact investing marketplace. The Pioneer Gap is one of the biggest hurdles social ventures must cross before they can reach any sort of scale.  In very early stages, a social enterprise often relies on grants and the entrepreneur’s personal savings to test out its ideas.  At later stages, once the business model has been proven and it is clear that the enterprise can scale its business, it can more easily can attract commercial capital.  However, there is a huge gap in financial support between these very early stages and later stages that prevents many social enterprises from succeeding.

One way to catalyze the growth of social enterprises that provide critical goods and services to the poor is through “enterprise philanthropy.” Philanthropically-backed investment funds like Acumen provide targeted investments that are more concerned with social impact than financial return. To close the Pioneer Gap and create social change, that is exactly what the sector needs.  Due to the extreme challenges facing those who are pioneering new models for inclusive business, truly realizing impact will require more, not less, philanthropy, and that philanthropic support will need to be delivered in innovative ways.

We encourage everyone to read the article and find out how you can help us close the gap by supporting lasting solutions to poverty.

Comments

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]

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]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]