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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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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]

No, not silence again!

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below!  [Read More]

Announcing the Class of 2015 Acumen Global Fellows

Acumen Global Fellows are architects for the impact sector. They are innovators, game changers, visionaries, with various professional experiences looking to make substantial change in the world. They have thrived in companies such as Google; they have started their own companies in Sri Lanka and Canada.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training. [Read More]

Welcoming Ajit Mahadevan as Acumen India Country Director

We are pleased to announce that Ajit Mahadevan will be joining Acumen as India Country Director. Ajit joins Acumen from Ernst & Young, where he has served as Advisory Partner & Leader (Life Sciences) for the past six years.  At EY, he was a strategic advisor to the leadership of some of the leading Indian and global life science and healthcare players with the focus being business transformation and growth.  Prior to his time at E&Y, Ajit was President of Piramal Healthcare, one of the leading pharmaceuticals companies in India, where he built the international business from inception in 2002 to $300M by the end of 2008. Ajit held multiple leadership roles across strategy, M&A and business leadership. During his tenure at Accenture’s Strategic Services practice in UK and India, he led the development of one of the firm’s largest and most successful internal projects – the Offshore Development Centre in 2001, which has now grown to about 100,000 people across multiple cities in India. Ajit has worked in an advisory capacity to Acumen in the past, most recently participating in Regional Fellows selection panels in Mumbai. [Read More]