Our World

Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Happy 8th Birthday, Acumen!

Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Acumen Fund is eight years old today! It is hard to believe we were approved as a public charity on April 1, 2001 with the ability to raise nonprofit funds and invest loans and equity in both for-profit and nonprofit enterprises. The world was so different then – just after the dot.com bubble burst, just before 9-11, long before the financial crisis. The idea of investing philanthropic funds was a new one, and each day was one of discovery.

Eight years later, our learning curve continues to be steep, but we’ve accomplished a lot and learned enormously through the years. We now hold five investments serving more than a quarter million low-income customers sustainably. Water Health International serves more than 350,000 customers, bringing safe drinking water to 287 villages – and the company intends to grow to a million customers in the next few years.

LifeSpring Hospitals, a healthcare franchise in India – now with six hospitals – is opening a new hospital every 35 days, and the results in terms of women served with safe, reliable healthcare are remarkable. 1298 Ambulances runs a fleet of nearly 100 ambulances, providing services for people of all classes in Indian cities where for too long, people have expected little or no provision of emergency services. A to Z Textile Mills produces 20 million long-lasting bednets yearly, providing protection to nearly 40 million people and employing 7,000. Global Easy Water Products has sold drip irrigation systems to more than 300,000 of the world’s poorest farmers, enabling them to double their yields, on average.

Drishtee is bringing information services to nearly 5,000 Indian villages; and BEEPZ (formerly Advanced Bio-Extracts) is working with 3,500 farmers, producing artemisinin for 60 million doses of malaria treatment yearly. In Pakistan, more than 15,000 people now hold health insurance policies and more than 300,000 women are borrowing – and repaying – their tiny loans. And these are just a few of the 40 investments made by Acumen Fund in South Asia and East Africa. We established Acumen Fund to help create a world where all people had access to affordable, quality basic services like water, healthcare and energy – and we now see a number of important models to do that.

In the past years, we’ve also built a metrics platform - Pulse, formerly PDMS – that is being beta-tested by 50 partner companies, intermediaries and foundations – and we hope this brings greater accountability to measuring social impact as well as financial returns.

We’ve seen 24 Acumen Fund Fellows from around the world participate in our program; and most have gone onto help run important social enterprises or are running social investments funds: I believe we are planting the seeds for the sector’s next generation of leaders.

We’ve built our own team to 60 people in offices not just in New York, but in Pakistan, India and Kenya. These teams are supported by incredible advisors who give more of themselves than we could have hoped – along with our global board and advisory council who make our work possible. And we couldn’t be prouder to be supported by more than 200 Acumen Partners who have contributed significant financial resources, enabling us to have a $40 million portfolio that we hope to grow to $100 million in the next few years. Thanks to everyone who is such a vital part of our community.

Thanks, mostly, to our team members around the world who give so much of themselves every single day. To say it is an honor to work together is an understatement.

It has been an amazing eight year journey; and yet, in some ways, we’re just getting started. There is a lot of work to do, and we’re ready to take on the challenges. We are looking for new and creative ways to raise funds in this difficult economic environment. We are considering questions of talent: more than 600 individuals from top business schools applied for our 10 summer internship spots, and how the world uses this resource is a question we take seriously. We are working on strengthening our performance management as well as bringing for our insights from the work in order to influence others more directly.

These challenges – while big – aren’t daunting, for now we have a platform on which we can stand, one that is strong and clear and focused. I personally have never felt as energized by this work, especially in this historic moment, for we have a real chance to help imagine and reinvent our financial systems so that they can be extended, ultimately, to all people on earth.

Happy Birthday, Acumen!

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