Our World


Diving Deeper into “Deciding What ‘Works’”

Demonstrating impact is still one of the most elusive challenges facing social enterprises today.  Even with the increased focus on accountability and measurement that we’re seeing in the social sector, the debate continues on the best – and most efficient – way to measure the real difference these enterprises are making in the world.

The randomized control trial (RCT) has long stood as the “gold standard” for proving social and environmental impact.  But is it really our best option?  Steve Goldberg – author of Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn’t Advance Social Progress – has illuminated many of the fundamental problems with this “purist” approach to evaluation. That’s why we believe his blog post, “Deciding What ‘Works,’” is a must-read.

Aside from the exorbitant cost of RCTs, Goldberg makes a strong  case for why this method does not hold water as the exemplar of measurement in the evolving social enterprise sector. He also points towards several reasons why RCTs may not be as methodologically compelling as they have been previously touted in the past.

We believe Steve’s article is important because it illuminates (and rightfully disagrees with) the conception that program evaluations should be carried out “after-the-fact,” and always demand the most exhaustive level of methodological scrutiny, which can often be crippling to organizations.

This is not to say Acumen Fund doesn’t insist on tracking metrics, and doing so meticulously.  And we have given one or two RCTs a shot.   Metrics, and thinking about impact, are some of the most important drivers of our work, and we invite you to learn more on our approach by browsing the investment portion of our website and reading a piece I wrote a few years ago, “Simple Measure for Social Enterprise”.

Brian Trelstad is Chief Investment Officer at Acumen Fund.


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]