October was an inspiring month for Acumen Fund and its chapter community. The month kicked off with the SoCap10 conference in San Francisco. As a volunteer, I got to see and often meet the biggest players in impact investing in exchange for my duties greeting people and giving directions.
I took the first flight out in the morning from Vancouver to San Francisco and arrived just in time to hear Jacqueline Novogratz speak. One of the key points she raised that really resonated with me is the issue of talent and how the industry is to harness the enthusiasm and compassion of young professionals who want to give back but need to make a living. Acumen Fund is at the forefront of addressing this challenge with their chapter model. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I became a Chapter Leader.
Canada was aptly represented at SoCap by a group of thirty-plus Canadians from Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Pieter Deitz, of socialfinance.ca organized a Canada Day dinner on the first night, at a kitschy seafood restaurant overlooking the water at Fisherman’s Wharf. I sat next to Shawn Smith, founder of Global Agents for Change and Louis Dorval, former volunteer with Engineers Without Borders. There wasn’t a dull moment during the entire dinner.
I thought that volunteering would take away from the experience of the conference; it was the exact opposite, however. It was just as interesting to hear how the other volunteers were contributing to this space, as it was hearing the keynote speakers. I also got to meet the Chapter Leader for San Francisco for Acumen, Mediha Abdulhay who was also volunteering.
Of the three days of speakers, breakout sessions and networking, there is one moment at the conference that stands out above the rest. It was at the end of the first day during one of Jacqueline’s interviews. San Francisco for Acumen leader, Mediha, and I decided that this was our chance to meet the woman who inspired us to become Chapter Leaders in the first place. Jacqueline was particularly interested in how we discovered the Acumen Fund and our motivations for supporting the organization. I absolutely glowed when she raved about how much she had enjoyed a recent trip to Vancouver.
I came home inspired and ready to spread the word at the first Vancouver for Acumen event last Tuesday at Guilt & Co – a cosy, speakeasy-esque bar in Gastown. 75 of our friends and colleagues came out to learn more about this organization that our team of 10 has become so passionate about. One of our team members, Mark McCoy, gave a brief overview of Acumen Fund, showing WaterHealth International as just one of the many examples of how Acumen is changing the way the world addresses poverty.
After Mark’s presentation, we introduced Mercy Murugi, the producer of the film, Togetherness Supreme. She and the director, Nathan Collett were in town for the Vancouver International Film Festival, where their film was shown as part of the series ‘Africa Today’. The film is set in Kibera, Africa’s largest shantytown, during the presidential elections. It follows three people in their quest for change in the community, after Kibera is torn apart by conflicting tribal loyalties.
All of the main characters from the film were from Kibera and had never acted before. Mercy told us about the non-profit arm of their production company – Hot Sun Foundation – which runs a film school in Kibera. Here, kids from Kibera learn all aspects of filmmaking, 6 days a week for 8 months.
The evening was a huge success; we raised money for Acumen Fund by raffling signed copies of The Blue Sweater, D.light lanterns and a limited edition Marc Jacobs/VisionSpring tote. But more importantly, we inspired even more young professionals in Vancouver to find out more about Acumen Fund.
We’ve set a deadline for ourselves to become an official chapter by the end of the year. Watch this space for updates.
Aki Kaltenbach is the Chapter Leader for Vancouver for Acumen, and works as the Business Development Manager for a restaurant group in the ski resort of Whistler, Canada.