An Evening Dedicated to the Value of Energy Access

+acumen chapters – self-organized, volunteer-led groups in cities and schools around the world – are actively supporting Acumen Fund’s mission to create a world beyond poverty through education, fundraising and service.  To start a +acumen chapter in your city, contact Jo-Ann Tan at jtan@acumenfund.org. You can learn more about +acumen chapters on our website.


Alarm clock – metro card – toaster.

What do all of these things have in common?

They are all answers given by attendees of DC+acumen’s energy salon when asked the question, “What is something you used today that required energy?”

On Tuesday, January 31 the DC+acumen community came together for a lively, thought-provoking discussion on the role and value of energy in our lives, and the challenges (and opportunities!) to address energy poverty.

The examples attendees gave highlighted the ever-present role of energy in our lives. Energy lights our classrooms, cooks our food, and fuels subways that bring us to work. And, in an increasingly interwoven and global world, connects us to one another.

However, for the over 1.6 billion people in the world that lack access to energy, energy poverty is very real. DC+acumen hosted the Energy Salon to better understand what this number really means and find solutions to address energy inequality.

As a group, we discussed what is energy, what it is used for,  and the promise and limitations of renewable energy. We explored what it means to be energy poor and how Acumen Fund’s energy portfolio invests in solutions that provide access to energy at the household and community level.

We then debated three themes in small groups:

  1. Global climate change negotiations: Should there be legally binding limits on carbon emissions? If so, should it be based on total emissions, or per capita emissions? While China is the world’s largest emitter, developed countries like the U.S. have the highest emission per-capita. How do policies shape energy use?
  2. Development policy and fossil fuels: Many donor nations, like the U.S., limit development projects that use fossil fuels and instead support projects that use renewable energy sources. Is this fair considering donor nations, like the U.S., continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels, and renewable energy sources are often more expensive and not always reliable? How can we invest in clean and sustainable energy that is mindful of geographic and social contexts?
  3. Hypothetical projects: The small groups debated the pros and cons of two hypothetical investment opportunities. The exercise highlighted the complexity of these types of decisions – and how energy is intrinsically connected to so many factors, including health, economic development, productivity, education and food production.

Our intrepid salon leader, Mohammed, and discussion facilitators, Glenn and Joel, guided our discussions and challenged us to think differently about our individual and collective responsibilities to conserve energy and increase access. What is our role and responsibility as individuals and consumers? As business owners and investors? As constituents and citizens?

The Energy Salon offered just a small peek into a very complex subject that is often highly politicized. (Being from DC, we know a bit about that!). I left with more questions than answers, and an increased awareness of the value of energy and how it is a building block for living a healthy and productive life.  Most importantly, I left knowing that this issue will become even more complicated and controversial as traditional energy resources dwindle and demand skyrockets.

There are now approximately seven billion people in the world. Seven billion people that need and deserve access to energy to fuel their lives.  Tackling this monumental challenge will require new ways of thinking about energy conservation and access, new investments in energy technology, and policies that govern the energy economy.

While our Energy Salon was a small step towards tacking these problems, it was an important and inspirational reminder that we are all invested in building a world beyond poverty that is sustainable and equitable.

Katica Kiss is a Government Relations Specialist at Independent Sector, and a member of the DC+acumen chapter.


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]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]