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Acumen Fund Launches WMD

World Watches in Shock and Awe

Mark your calendars: June 16 (tomorrow) is World Metrics Day! Our declaration of an official World Metrics Day (or WMD, as we’ve been calling it) is a little (well, actually, a lot) tongue in cheek, but Acumen Fund’s commitment to metrics is absolutely serious. Figuring out how to measure social impact has long been a challenge for philanthropists, social investors, practitioners and the development sector. Our focus has been on finding ways to collect, understand and use data to (1) best support the enterprises in which we invest, (2) improve how Acumen Fund works and (3) create common measures for the sector – in that order of importance. (We’ve blogged here before about metrics, on what we like to call cost effective cost effectiveness and our best available charitable option methodology.)

If you follow our work, you know that we’ve been developing a platform called Pulse, discussed in BusinessWeek and The New York Times when it was announced last fall at the Clinton Global Initiative. Pulse helps social investors track, measure, and evaluate operational data to understand whether different approaches to solving the problems of global poverty are working. Although originally designed as a tool to help us manage our own portfolio, we’ve been working with Salesforce.com to make it available for adoption by peer organizations and to share data across the sector. We have also been collaborating with the Rockefeller Foundation, B-Lab, Deloitte and PwC to develop standard definitions of social and environmental performance that can enable comparability across portfolios (for more on this, see www.iris-standards.org). About forty organizations are currently testing Pulse, which we expect to be widely available to nonprofits later this year.

We chose June 16 as World Metrics Day for three reasons. First, last year on June 16th we convened a number of our partners and leading thinkers on the topic at the Rockefeller Foundation to map out our current strategy, and we are simply taking stock of where we have come in the year. Second, it’s Bloomsday, a day notable for its devotees’ commitment (obsession?) to a singular topic, perhaps the least linear novel ever written (Joyce’s Ulysses). Finally, it happens to be my father’s birthday (happy birthday, Dad!). My father is a pathologist and the naming of Pulse was inspired by the autopsy metaphor. Most measurement and evaluation in the social sector is like an autopsy: intrusive, inconclusive and too late to help. We wanted to build a metrics practice that could take the “pulse” of our investments, with simple but meaningful measures that can help us make course corrections real time.

So we will be spending the day thinking about and talking about and, indeed, celebrating metrics. Celebrate with us — June 16 is the first annual World Metrics Day. Remember, count something. and make it count!

Updated 6/18/2009 – thanks to Sara Olsen of SVT Consulting for her great blog post over at Social Edge on World Metrics Day. Count what counts, Sara!

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Letter from Jacqueline: My Week in Ghana

I am writing on a return flight from Ghana. The country has not seen a single case of Ebola, yet the impact of fear is profound. As travelers enter the country, attendants screen for high temperatures. Hand sanitizer dispensers are omnipresent. Hotels and conferences have seen massive cancellations. Everywhere are constant reminders of our fragility and the strength of our connectedness. [Read More]

Six online courses we’re taking this year

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Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

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]

DE-BUNKING THE BURDEN MYTH: IMPACT DATA GOES LEAN

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]