Acumen Blog

A jolt not soon forgotten

On a Saturday, one year ago at precisely 8:50 A.M., I was in my bed, sleeping soundly. Suddenly, everything began vigorously swaying left and right. At first, the shock of the motion had me confused, but as I opened my eyes, I realized it was an earthquake. I got up to go stand beneath the beam of the bathroom door (Dad’s orders since we were kids – apparently the safest place to be) but I couldn’t walk more than four steps without losing my balance and falling to the ground. The house was a big bowl of Jell-O and I was somewhere in the middle of it all. This was the biggest quake I had ever experienced, and I was certain my house would collapse any minute. [Read More]

Overcoming the day-to-day struggle for water

A recent series of articles in The New York Times highlights the everyday challenges of water access and sanitation in major cities all over India, and the significant consequences these challenges have on the lives of Indians. With over 700 million people lacking access to adequate water supply, and 2.1 million children under 5 dying from preventable water-borne disease, the toll is devastating. With both infrastructure and natural resources overstretched and misused, individuals take on a “me-first” approach, trying to get the water they need at any cost. This leads to accelerated degradation of pipes, which are illegally tapped, and water resources that are being drawn with little planning from depleted aquifers. Where in the midst of these governmental, social and market failures, is there cause for hope? [Read More]

Debate at the bottom of the pyramid

A recent paper titled “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage” stirs up debate around the business opportunity around the poor – and garnered a response from C.K Prahalad. The paper argues that the only way to alleviate poverty is to focus on the poor as producers – not as consumers – to raise their income. We, like Prahalad, believe that these are not mutually exclusive. Given the right access to choices, the poor can make consumer decisions that increase their ability to generate income and improve their overall quality of life. The fact that there is ongoing debate around this idea reinforces the need for Acumen Fund, and others in this space, to continue to find and support examples of enterprises that are successfully serving the poor. [Read More]

MacArthur’s social entrepreneur “geniuses”

The MacArthur Foundation recently announced their prestigious “Genius” Awards, and it was thrilling to see two of our peers, Jim Fruchterman of Benetech and Victoria Hale of One World Health, be named to this most exclusive list. Both Jim and Victoria are social entrepreneurs, using the practices of business to implement social visions to improve the world.  We’re proud to know them both and proud to see social entrepreneurs being honored in this way. The world is changing as this most vital sector begins to emerge and reshape itself. Congratulations to Jim and Victoria and all who work with them. [Read More]

More than money

Great article on the front page of the New York Times about our partner and its executive director, Larry Brilliant.  It is really exciting to see push boundaries around what is possible and how we need to use ALL of the resources at our disposal to solve tough problems of poverty. If there is one thing our work over the past five years has taught us, it is that to be more effective, philanthropy cannot be thought of only as money given to help people. Google has such great reach in the world that it can influence entire sectors using much more than its money – and their vision is an exciting one. [Read More]

Seeking effective vaccine distribution

Interesting article on looking at market-driven solutions for healthcare prevention. One of the main reasons cited for chronic poverty is huge expenditure on healthcare, in part because treatment is so much more expensive than prevention. This is what makes vaccines so important. In many cases, the world has vaccines but not the distribution systems. In Pakistan, for example, the cost of a Hepatitis-C vaccine is approximately $25; treatment for the chronic disease that attacks the liver and can result in death at least $600. In Lahore, Pakistan, it is estimated that 12-15% of the population is infected with the disease. Our partner, Kashf, is launching a micro-lending program to provide financial options to poor people infected with the disease to help them cope – for without treatment, they are often unable to earn any income at all to survive. [Read More]