Acumen Blog

The link between poverty and peace

Acumen Fund congratulates Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for winning the Nobel Peace Prize! We could not be prouder for knowing him and for being one member of a community that stands on his broad shoulders. I first heard of Dr. Yunus in 1985, and it was largely his work in Bangladesh that inspired me to work with a group of Rwandan women to start that country’s first micro-finance bank. More than twenty years later, Dr. Yunus has inspired thousands of individuals to start micro-finance banks that have reached scores of millions – poor people who otherwise would not have access to bank credit. He is a man who demonstrates that one person really can change the world. He also has shown that a quarter century is not a long time to create a movement that shifts our perceptions of poor people and, in turn, helps shift our perceptions of ourselves. Micro-finance is now mainstream, supported by the world’s biggest commercial banks and reaching into most countries on the planet. [Read More]

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]