Our Team


Our Experiments with Generosity

In 2009, Sasha Dichter ran a  ’Generosity Experiment’, an attempt to say yes in a world where you often hear ‘NO’. It quickly turned into a worldwide phenomenon, and became part of a broader effort to reboot Valentine’s Day as “Generosity Day” in order to reconnect the day to the core ideas of love and human connection. Three years later, the Acumen Fund India office recognized this ongoing effort and partnered with Teach for India (TFI) to run our very own generosity experiment with students from a school in a low-income community in Mumbai. The video above documents the class’ experience, and the blog below comes from the two TFI Fellows, Sapna Shah and Prateek Kanwal.  Video Credit: Mihir Desai.


“The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials…the most money…or the most awards…they simply are the ones who care the most. We fail to remember the headliners of yesterday even though they are the best in their fields but we always remember those teachers and friends that aided our journey through school, helped us through a difficult time, taught us something worthwhile, and appreciated our efforts.”

-Charles Schulz

When we walked into our classrooms for the first time, we saw violence and a host of communal issues. The children lacked a value system and mutual respect. And our classrooms only reflected what our country at large faces; problems of poverty, starvation, hatred, terrorism, corruption and environmental issues. We believe at the heart of these problems lies a lack of the values of empathy, compassion, love, and gratitude; in short, all we saw was selfishness in thoughts as well as actions.

We joined the Teach for India movement because of our belief that education is the answer to a lot of the problems that plague our nation and the world at large. We defined excellent education as a means of putting our kids on a different life path and pledged to do all it takes to be successful in our endeavor. Throughout the year, we pushed our kids at every step to work hard, to reach the ambitious academic goals we had set together.

We soon realized academic achievement alone will not be enough to change the life trajectory of our kids, that along with academic excellence they need grit. The strength to overcome difficulties and challenges at every step, but also zest and optimism to face everything that life throws their way with a smile. They will need gratitude to be thankful for what they have and empathy towards others. Instilling these values in our children ensures that they grow up to be not only committed and hardworking but also loving, compassionate, empathetic and giving leaders.

Our first challenge was to show our students that many of the beliefs and actions they have grown accustomed to could be harmful to their fellow classmates. This process of change had to be slowly and carefully crafted to avoid backlash from society. When we were approached to try out this Generosity Day experiment, we recognized it to be an opportunity. We were asked to create a lesson plan that emphasized the importance of values and generosity, to teach our students how easy it was to give.

Once they started appreciating this new value, we had unknowingly instilled a cycle of positivity. Their academic performance leapfrogged and there was a visible change in the way they conducted themselves in their community. They started respecting their classmates and even went the extra mile to help each other. We could also see a difference in the way parents started conducting themselves around their children and how they also felt the inherent need to change.

The affirmation of this experiment came in the form of a generous act by one of Prateek’s students Pooja Patel. She spoke to him before school, one day, and asked if she could to sit with Tusshar Gupta, one of her classmate who was struggling to meet his end of year goals. She said, “Bhaiyya (elder brother), if I can get good marks, he can also do it, please give me a chance to help him”. From that day onwards for two months she relentlessly taught him before and after school hours and even went the extra mile by tutoring him at his house on weekends. The result was unbelievable. She showed the class that it was our collective responsibility to ensure everyone is on an equal footing.

Based on research done by KIPP schools a high percentage of their kids applied to 4 year college programs, but a very small percentage actually graduated. The ones who completed their course were not kids with the highest G.P.A but kids who scored high on C.P.A (character point average).

From our experience, we would strongly urge school leaders and teachers, to include value education in their curriculum and create ample opportunities for the kids to practice and cultivate these values. Children should be graded not only on their academic performance but also on character.

During this experiment we’ve learned that Generosity Day is about seeing the world from a different perspective, one perpetuated by selfless giving. Thanks to our kids, we too have learnt that there are many problems around us and we often pretend to not see them, choosing to remain blind in order to make our lives easier. We’ve taken a promise to make this world a better place by changing ourselves.  By giving a little more and complaining a little less. After all, if you want to make this world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change!

“Be the change you wish to see in this world” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Prateek Kanwal & Sapna Shah are Teach for India Fellows at a school in a low-income community in Mumbai, India.


Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

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]


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]