Acumen Blog

Fasting against malaria

On May 11, a coalition of organizations is sponsoring an International Fast Day Against Malaria to raise awareness of and funds for the global fight against malaria. Proceeds will go toward the purchase of long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets – a product with which Acumen Fund is very familiar, given our investment to support their manufacture and distribution in Tanzania. (Click here for more info or to participate.) [Read More]

Do you moo?

The recent book The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable, edited by our good friend Seth Godin, includes essays from 33 top thinkers, including Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Acumen Fund’s own Jacqueline Novogratz. “The Group of 33” is collectively donating 100% of author royalties from The Big Moo to three charities. Acumen Fund is delighted to be one of them, along with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Room to Read. On April 1-2, MSN kindly donated its home page to run two innovative ads for The Big Moo, spreading the word to its vast audience. Our thanks to Seth, MSN, the authors and all those who have bought the book. [Read More]

Happy birthday, Acumen Fund!

Acumen Fund celebrated its fifth birthday this week. It is hard to believe in some ways, exciting to think about in all ways. On April 1, 2001, Acumen Fund was officially registered as a public charity. Since then, we have focused on building sustainable and scalable organizations that deliver affordable healthcare, water and housing to the poor. These efforts have helped yield significant social returns, including the following: [Read More]

Listening to “nobodies”

Peggy Noonan writes a compelling commentary about the kind of leadership needed in today’s world (and yesterday’s and the future’s as well). Leadership must begin with the people we are trying to serve. And that means listening to them, even if it isn’t comfortable, even if we don’t like them. We should think about organizing listening tours in the developing world for those in power – CEOs, government leaders, executive directors of powerful non-profit organizations. The point of such tours would be not to determine solutions after a few days’ exposure to the place, but simply to listen to what local people say, what they feel, what they articulate as their needs and desires. We might all learn a lot, not only about other communities, but also about ourselves. [Read More]

Talking social returns at Skoll

I just attended the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England. At the conference, Sir Ronald Cohen spoke of the need for a private equity model that would allow investors to back and build substantial businesses that promise a financial return plus social returns (increasing employment, role models, flows of capital, perhaps increased tax revenues, etc). The metrics around social returns, he said, are crucial to ensuring the true building of this market; otherwise, we will find it too difficult to connect with deep pools of capital. [Read More]

Focus on sustainability in water projects

The recent Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City was of a grand scale, with more than 10,000 participants from around the world, ranging from NGO’s and government agencies to large corporations and academics. Some common themes around the sustainability of water solutions were apparent. There was an increased focus on the need for complete and reliable management of water and sanitation projects, including both education and marketing to end consumers and ongoing maintenance and water quality testing. Many of the sessions and Acumen Fund’s own discussions revolved around the current shortfalls in these areas that result from the current “build and move on” model that many governments and NGOs have adopted. [Read More]

Insurance products for the poor

How to protect themselves from unforeseen circumstances is a major challenge to the poor in building assets and wealth. Acumen Fund has been exploring health insurance products, which are critical given that health costs can eat up more than 30% of an average person’s income in the developing world. Our investee, Kashf already provides – indeed, insists that its borrowers take life and disaster insurance as part of their lending contracts. The UN World Food Program (WFP) has announced an insurance program for humanitarian emergencies that would enable poor farmers some degree of protection in situations of drought and other natural disasters. Key to how the program functions is not only who pays and on what basis risk is calculated and priced, but also how quickly farmers can be reimbursed for losses. Quick response is one of the main concerns of relief organizations, which must move within the first 24 hours of disaster for maximum effectiveness. However, this is a separate need from reimbursing farmers themselves for longer-term rehabilitation of their farms and main sources of income. [Read More]

Overcoming perceptions in and of the Muslim world

As we become a single world, how all countries integrate diverse communities becomes vital to our collective success. It is heartbreaking to see negative perceptions of Muslims rising in the U.S. as we also see negative perceptions of Americans in the Muslim world. Leadership is needed on all sides to point to what unites us rather than what divides us. In Pakistan, Acumen Fund’s work illuminates the potential to work across borders and get concrete, measurable things accomplished together. Supporting effective solutions to poverty, focusing on stronger media communications that highlight what is working in the Muslim world, and insisting on greater partnership – and dialogue – are small but necessary steps toward knowing one another. And that is where change – and dignity – must start. [Read More]