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Acumen Fund Chapter leaders meet during the 10-Year Celebration

Changing the Way the World Tackles Poverty – Starting with our Own Communities

Acumen Fund Chapter leaders meet during the inaugural 2011 Chapter Leadership Retreat.

An “Aha moment” is an instant of sudden realization where the crux of a problem, or a key insight into possible solutions, becomes clear.  Over the past 10 years, the Acumen Fund community has achieved many such moments, and gathered in November to celebrate their continued exploration of solutions to issues of global poverty.

Timed to coincide with Acumen Fund’s annual Investor Gathering and 10 year anniversary Celebration, leaders of Acumen Fund’s volunteer chapters from the UK, Asia, Middle East, and North America convened on Nov 10th to Nov 12th in New York for the inaugural 2011 Chapter Leadership Retreat.  I was given the opportunity to attend the gathering as a core member of the recently launched BOSTON+acumen chapter. What resulted from the 2.5 day retreat was a heightened sense of inspiration, empowerment, and an increasingly connected community around the concept of patient capital.

At Acumen Fund, there is an undeniable sense of innovation, entrepreneurship, and inclusiveness that is encoded in the organization’s DNA. Conversations with Jacqueline Novogratz, Jo-Ann Tan, and other staff and chapter leaders in attendance revolved around leadership, building a deeper understanding of Acumen Fund’s vision, and scaling patient capital in our communities. In dozens of conversations over the weekend, a handful of fundamental questions surfaced: How can we take the values of Acumen Fund including moral leadership, dignity, generosity and accountability mainstream? How can we serve as a breeding ground for the idea of patient capital in our own communities? As leaders, how can we manage ambiguity and inspire others to contribute to social change?

The strategic alignment of the chapters to Acumen Fund’s vision was directly reflected in the “aha moments” of the last decade. The Investor’s Gathering on Nov 10th showcased snapshots of defining moments through stories and vivid images, depicting the evolution of the last decade of Acumen, the people behind it, the patient capital work, and the field. Lesson #4 of the 10 Things We Know to Be True seemed to encapsulate the vision of the community chapters. “We won’t succeed in the long term without cultivating local leaders, local money, and strong local communities.”

Acumen Fund chapters are self-organized, volunteer-led groups. We provide a platform in our respective communities for spreading Acumen Fund’s principles and its approach to help create a world beyond poverty, and through our activities, we cultivate leadership within our network of volunteers.  Our hallmark event, Dignity in a snapshot (next event is 12/1 in Toronto), is an example of an initiative which brings the community together around Acumen’s values and raises funds to support its mission. Going forward, the chapters are positioned to build local leaders, money, and communities around patient capital. Many chapters are already piloting initiatives to build robust local solutions with potential for long-term viability. The TORONTO+acumen and VANCOUVER+acumen chapters are piloting a venture network to identify a pipeline of noteworthy social enterprises in their communities. The TOKYO+acumen chapter is exploring ways to support a local nonprofit investing in small businesses in disaster-struck northern Japan on measurement frameworks such as GIIRS and IRIS.

As chapter leaders, we aim to take Acumen’s principles and ways of working to create a long-lasting impact on our communities. I look forward to next year’s chapter retreat to exchange ideas and build on our list of aha moments.


Elly Brown is a Project Consultant at Root Cause, a staff writer for NextBillion, and part of the leadership team for BOSTON+acumen, a volunteer-organized chapter supporting Acumen Fund’s mission.

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