Our World


Our 5 favorite blogs from 2012

Happy New Year! Before we dive headlong into all the exciting developments we have in store for 2013, we wanted to pause, reflect and say thank you. 2012 was a tremendous year at Acumen, which included (among a lot of other things) opening a new office in West Africa, launching a Pakistan Regional Fellows Program, and impacting 100 million lives through our investments.

The support of our community during the last year has been truly remarkable. Thank you for reading our updates, sharing our work with friends, and helping to change the way the world tackles poverty. We could not be more humbled by this outpouring of support from our community!

Before we fully embark on another year of impact and innovation, let’s take a look back at our 5 favorite blogs from 2012:

5. Another face of Pakistan

In this post, Chief Innovation Officer, Sasha Dichter, talks about his recent experience in Pakistan. He contrasts the Pakistan we often hear about in the news with what he saw on the ground.  He shares the stories of several inspiring entrepreneurs who are bringing positive change to their country.

4. Jugaad – The art of frugal innovation


2011 Global Fellow, Cherian Joseph, shares a new word he learned while working for Ziqitza Health Care Limited in India. As Cherian demonstrates with lots of great photos and examples, jugaad essentially means finding a solution with limited resources, or “frugal innovation.”  It’s a concept that can be found throughout the countries where we work. What’s most interesting is that the concept of jugaad has made its way into some of the biggest multinational companies, with large corporations drawing direct inspiration from innovators at the bottom of the pyramid.

3. Living in a Shanty Town – Breaking the Poverty Cycle

Pauline Wanja, a member of our first class of East Africa Fellows, shares her experience of growing up in and returning to Kibera, where she started a social change project called “Living in a Shanty Town” (LIST). LIST focuses on empowering youth by ensuring that they have the appropriate skills and resources to obtain a sustainable income. It’s an inspiring project and well worth a read.

2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Jacqueline reflects on Katherine Boo’s extraordinary and award-winning book, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.” She discusses how this book reaffirms Acumen’s mission of standing with the poor.  Making markets work for and with the poor requires serious risk-taking. To break the back of poverty and build systems that are inclusive, we have to do what other organizations are often not willing to: focus on impact over financial return.  We tackle poverty by investing patient capital that supports entrepreneurs for the long haul.

And why are we so adamant about investing philanthropy for social return? The answer brings us to our top post of 2012:

1. From Blueprint to Scale: The case for philanthropy in impact investing

By far our most popular post of the year, this blog announces the Blueprint to Scale report that we released with Monitor.  If you are interested in the sector and haven’t read it, you should check it out. For those looking for a quick takeaway, the report demonstrates that investment capital is not sufficient to unlock the potential of impact investing for the global poor. Due to the extreme challenges of creating new inclusive businesses in emerging markets, philanthropy is needed to bridge the funding gap for game-changing companies that serve the poor.


Happy New Year to all! Together we can make 2013 the most impactful year yet.


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]

Beyond the Aid Debate

Blair Miller is VP of the MDG Health Alliance, a coalition philanthropists/businessmen that use private sector approaches to address global health issues. Prior to this, Blair spent 5 years here at Acumen. Below, she writes about the aid debate and why we need to move beyond these simplistic arguments and dive into more realistic issues. This post was originally posted here. [Read More]

Letter from Jacqueline Novogratz – May 2014

Springtime. A day trip to speak in Washington, D.C. coincided with the peak of the city’s prized cherry blossoms, a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912. I walked at dawn, mesmerized by those venerable trees, their gnarled trunks and knotted branches adorned with fragile blushing flowers, promises of a renewal at once beautiful and fleeting. Life is so short: if not of purpose, then of what? [Read More]