Keystone Performance Survey: Social Investment 2010

Last Fall, Acumen Fund worked with Keystone Accountability to develop and execute a survey of all of our investments. This was the first time we had done a portfolio-wide survey in several years, and we felt that we had reached a point in our growth where it was important to pause and take in look in the mirror to see how we were doing as partners to our investees.

The survey was designed in order to provide us with aggregated, anonymous feedback that would help us be better investors. In 38 questions, across 5 categories—General Perceptions, Due Diligence, Financial Support, Interaction and Communication, and Social Impact—we received tremendously valuable insights, confirming some of what we knew and surprising us in other aspects, both in terms of what we do well and where we can improve. For instance, most of our investees felt that our due diligence process was reasonable and straight forward. However, we learned that we can do a better job in communicating what we do with the social impact data we request.

Not one to rest on helping a single organization like Acumen Fund look at our own processes, David Bonbright and his team at Keystone had much larger aspirations. Using a field-tested survey similar to the one we executed last Fall, Keystone will be conducting the first ever benchmarked survey of investees’ views of their investors in the social investing space. This is powerful stuff. This means that at Acumen Fund, not only will we gain a better understanding of how our investees think we’re doing, but we will also be able to understand how we fare relative to our peers in the sector. What do we do well? Where can we improve? And most importantly, this will all be done while giving our investees a true voice in how we work together.

By creating a larger data set of impact investors, we will, for the first time, be able to truly gauge our performance. Much like the survey last Fall, this data will empower us with the information needed to make meaningful changes to our operations. And at the end of the day, this will make us better partners to our investors, making us more effective investors of patient capital in building sustainable, impactful enterprises.

The Keystone Performance Survey: Social Investment 2010 is now open to other interested funds. The survey that will be conducted in May will, we hope, build a large and useful data set for the sector. We strongly encourage our peers to join us in the collective mission of becoming more effective and more thoughtful impact investors. Full details are available on the Keystone website.


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]

No, not silence again!

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below!  [Read More]

Announcing the Class of 2015 Acumen Global Fellows

Acumen Global Fellows are architects for the impact sector. They are innovators, game changers, visionaries, with various professional experiences looking to make substantial change in the world. They have thrived in companies such as Google; they have started their own companies in Sri Lanka, Canada and Malaysia.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training. [Read More]

Welcoming Ajit Mahadevan as Acumen India Country Director

We are pleased to announce that Ajit Mahadevan will be joining Acumen as India Country Director. Ajit joins Acumen from Ernst & Young, where he has served as Advisory Partner & Leader (Life Sciences) for the past six years.  At EY, he was a strategic advisor to the leadership of some of the leading Indian and global life science and healthcare players with the focus being business transformation and growth.  Prior to his time at E&Y, Ajit was President of Piramal Healthcare, one of the leading pharmaceuticals companies in India, where he built the international business from inception in 2002 to $300M by the end of 2008. Ajit held multiple leadership roles across strategy, M&A and business leadership. During his tenure at Accenture’s Strategic Services practice in UK and India, he led the development of one of the firm’s largest and most successful internal projects – the Offshore Development Centre in 2001, which has now grown to about 100,000 people across multiple cities in India. Ajit has worked in an advisory capacity to Acumen in the past, most recently participating in Regional Fellows selection panels in Mumbai. [Read More]

Why We All Need A ‘Rikki’

Caren Wakoli is an emerging leader in East Africa who has launched a foundation to support the next generation of female leaders for Africa. Caren applied twice for the fellowship and was not accepted, but she did not give up. Her resilience and grit allowed her to persevere, and this year we are proud to have her as an East Africa Fellow. Below she shares her story on why everyone needs a ‘Rikki,’ and failure is never final.  [Read More]

Acumen Joins Beyond the Grid as Founding Partner

Acumen is proud to be a founding partner of Beyond the Grid, an innovative framework under President Obama’s Power Africa initiative to increase energy access for underserved populations across sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond the Grid will leverage partnerships with investors and practitioners committing to invest over $1 billion into off-grid and small scale solutions for this underserved market. [Read More]

Life after Lean

In May 2013, Sabrina Natasha Premji & Afzal Habib participated in +Acumen’s inaugural Lean for Social Change course based on Lean Start-Up principles. Enrollment for the next session of the Lean for Social Change course is open now. If you are working on a social issue in your community, are interested in pursuing your own social venture, or are just interested in creating an impact in this world…Register today! Sabrina & Afzal joined the course with a simple idea and the passion to transform the childcare crisis in East Africa’s informal settlements. Seven weeks later, they had developed a customer-tested business model ready to pilot in Kenya’s densest slums. Read their story below. [Read More]