SoCap10 + Van4Acumen

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.


Reflections on the India Fellows Seminar

Each year, the India Fellows Program brings together up to 20 emerging leaders from different regions, sectors, and socio-economic backgrounds in India. During the fellowship year, Fellows remain in their jobs and meet every 6-8 weeks throughout the year for 4 seminars and 2 collaborative projects, each about a week long. As the India Fellows Associate, Jacqui is responsible for supporting all aspects of the program recruitment, logistics, marketing and strategic planning. Below, Jacqui reflects on the first seminar, Foundations of Leadership. You can read more about the fellowship program here[Read More]

Adaptive Leadership in Action: Addressing Cultural Norms & Giving Women a Voice

In the fall of 2013, +Acumen launched the course Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change in partnership with the Cambridge Leadership Associates. This course is for anyone who wants to become more effective at leading their organization through change. Below, one of the course participants shared her story about how this course impacted her work and ability to affect change. [Read More]

Making Sense of Social Impact in Action: The Value of Educating Our Youth

At Acumen, one of the most common questions we get is how we measure social impact. Our newest +Acumen course – Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis. – will provide an entry point for how to think about impact and we’ll share frameworks that help us define what to measure and why. Makoto Matsuura, founder of cobon a not-for-profit focused on youth education in Jakarta, Indonesia and Osaka, Japan, took a pilot version of this course and shared his reflections with us. [Read More]

Good news for philanthropists in the U.K. and Europe

We are excited to announce that Acumen now holds a CAF Charitable Trust in the United Kingdom. CAF, the Charities Aid Foundation, is a registered U.K. charity. By donating to Acumen through CAF, you can use Gift Aid if the amount of Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax you’ve paid for the tax year in which you make your donation is at least equal to the amount of basic rate tax  [the charity or Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) and any other charities or CASCs] you donate to will reclaim on your gift. CAF will reclaim 25% Gift Aid from HM Revenue & Customs and pass this through to Acumen.  The donor can claim higher rate tax relief (for more information, please refer to CAF’s online resource, What Is Gift Aid?). [Read More]

d.light Leaders Named 2014 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year

We are thrilled for our portfolio company d.light and Donn Tice, Chairman and CEO, along with cofounders Ned Tozun, President, and Sam Goldman, Chief Customer Officer, for being named Social Entrepreneurs of the year 2014 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. d.light is a for-profit social enterprise that manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products with primary markets in the developing world, today announced that d.light, along with 37 other individuals and organizations in the 2014 class, will be fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the World Economic Forum. [Read More]