Acumen Blog

Celebrating success, collectively

Check out this piece on Venture Philanthropy Partners that highlights six years of hard earned successes in building local community institutions in Washington, DC using a venture capital-like approach. Mario Morino is a friend of Acumen Fund and an extraordinary leader. I share the article with you because it captures so many lessons that are relevant to building and scaling nonprofit institutions. I share Mario’s letter to his community because it reflects the kind of leader that he is - one who moves from a place of humility and inclusion and is always asking questions rather than believing he has all the answers. We need more leaders like him at all levels of society. Our hat is off to Mario and his entire team and there is much to learn from the work of VPP. [Read More]

Voices from the slums

As the Housing Portfolio manager, I am constantly excited to see the entrepreneurialism of residents of slums, who are taking initiative to improve their own lives. A case in point was the striking presence of residents of slums themselves at this year’s World Urban Forum III, sharing their success stories in their own voices. The power of their attendance was notable – whereas the discussion rooms were often full, they were more than overflowing for those panels on the plight of the residents of slums and their new ideas for change. [Read More]

Risk-sharing for water initiatives in Africa

This past May, two members of the Water Portfolio Team visited Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, to explore investment opportunities and learn more about the major water challenges. During the trip, we gained important insights into the context for water and sanitation issues. On the one hand, in the face of significant unmet need, we constantly saw potential for entrepreneurial models. On the other, due to significant dependence on donor funds and systemic challenges such as corruption and lack of infrastructure, we witnessed major hurdles that could easily limit investment opportunities. Through a series of meetings with a cross-section of entrepreneurs, banks, not-for-profits or NGOs, foundations, donor organizations and community-based organizations (CBOs), it became increasingly clear that creative partnerships – between the private, public and citizen sectors – present the richest opportunities to support the growth of sustainable water systems. [Read More]

The Malaria Wars

Recent stories in the New York Times on the fight against malaria highlight the complexities of creating effective malaria-prevention technologies and distributing these technologies to the poor. On the one hand, the W.H.O. and other agencies have raised hundreds of millions to purchase long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets that effectively combat malaria at the local level. On the other, distribution continues to be a challenge. [Read More]

The power of a PPP

The British metal firm BHP Billiton’s recent efforts to reduce malaria prevalance in Mozambique are a good example of a public-private partnership, driven through the efforts and innovation of a single company that saw the potential for doing something important and powerful. The world needs more such partnerships. I thought you would enjoy this article. [Read More]

A Big Idea in a Flat World

I recently attended the Aspen Ideas Fest at the Aspen Institute. While Acumen Fund values and works as a global community, and not from any one viewpoint, I was also speaking here as an American on Independence Day weekend – a reminder that we all speak as ourselves in different communities and have slightly different messages. What is important – and exciting – is to do so always with the view of reminding ourselves, and the world, that we are all in this together. And that, together, we really can solve tough problems. [Read More]

Bombay’s boom

This is a fascinating, insightful article on the complexity and power of Bombay. As the world becomes more interconnected and the gap between rich and poor widens, how we make decisions and how we treat our cities will become even more important, reflecting the future, and the world, we wish to create. Building real opportunities for the poor – legal ones that enable access and choice – is fundamental to the survival of all of us, urban and rural. [Read More]