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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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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]