Press Releases


An Innovation Conference for East Africa

East Africa in 2012 is a truly exciting place to be. The social sector is expanding at an incredibly rapid rate, and more and more individuals are finding gaps in the system – and filling them. The 19 Acumen Fund East Africa Fellows are a testament to the passion, focus and commitment characterizing the work happening throughout the region across various sectors: agriculture, renewable energy, education, entrepreneurship training, microfinance, housing, media and activism.

The East Africa Fellows have put together an innovation conference dubbed “The Future of East Africa: Social Entrepreneurship”. Through this day-long event, we intend to explore both the needs and potential of the region, and how we can forge the way forward in practically imagining the future of East Africa. We will hear from industry leaders in various sectors, as well as from the Fellows themselves, in an exciting, intense and interactive conversation with a small, select group of people who are already doing the hard work involved in building the region. Invited guests include leading social entrepreneurs, fund managers, development partners and media.

The innovation conference will focus on three key areas:

1. The East Africa We Want – This introductory session will highlight the state of the social sector in the region. We will look at the needs and the players, the gains and the losses, and discuss the key areas of impact.

The speakers in this session will be: Manu Chandaria, Chairman of Comcraft Group; Aleke Dondo, Juhudi Kilimo; Mugo Kibati, Kenya’s Vision 2030; Erik Hersman, Ihub, Savannah Fund and Ushahidi; and Liza Kimbo, CEO and Co-founder of Carego Livewell.

The moderator will be Nick Wachira, Managing Editor of The East African.

2. The Types & Stages of Capital aims to explore in depth the role of grants in developing inclusive businesses. Impact capital alone will not unlock the potential of impact investing. Because of the extreme challenges facing those who are pioneering new models for inclusive business, truly realizing the impact in impact investing will require more, not less, philanthropy, and will need that philanthropic support to be delivered in new ways. Some of the areas that will be covered in this discussion include:

* How impact investing is constrained by the tough realities of inclusive business, and introduces the phenomenon of the “pioneer gap”

* The emerging practice of enterprise philanthropy

* Analysis of a number of company case studies from the Acumen Fund portfolio to understand both successes and setbacks

* Key recommendations for philanthropic funders and for impact investors

The Speakers in this session will be: Soha Ehsani, Grassroot Business Fund; Arif Nexy, Aga Khan Foundation; Chad Larson, M-Kopa; and Eme Essioen, Rockefeller Foundation. The session will be moderated by Biju Mohandas, Director of Acumen Fund East Africa.

2. The Leaders We Need – At the heart of Acumen Fund’s ethos is the concept of moral imagination. Can you really be an effective change agent without understanding what this means? This third session will explore what it means to be an ethical, empathetic leader, and what the implications of that are on your work.

This session will be led by Inuka Kenya’s governance specialist Tom Mboya. Other speakers include Rasna Warah, writer; and Martin Ojara, Chairman of the local council of Gulu District in Northern Uganda.

We believe that there is a real need to understand what’s happening regionally in the social sector. The panoply of conference invitations that the EA Fellows receive regularly indicate that there is no shortage of forums in which to showcase our work. This inaugural Innovation Conference, however, does not seek to let us pat ourselves or each other on the back. Rather, it is to help us dig deep into not only how much more there is to do, but to look at what we need and who we need to be in order to get it done.

For the evening the fellows have a story-styled presentation named “The story of the birth of a child called Africa” – a journey the guests will take with all 19 Fellows with a presentation in which each project the Fellows are involved with will touch the life of this baby until she grows up. The event will end with the graduation of the Acumen Fund East Africa Fellows Class of 2012 and launch of the next class by Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen Fund.

The invitation-only day long event will take place at the Tribe hotel in Nairobi on June 21.

To keep up with the Innovation Conference live, follow @Afrinnovator & @AcumenFund on Twitter.

Pauline Wanja is an Acumen Fund East Africa Fellow in the Class of 2011-12. Pauline is the Co- Founder & Executive Director of the LIST (Living In Shanty Towns) Initiative, which aims to unify young people living in informal settlements and prepare them for a productive and dignified adulthood and together work toward personal, social, economic and political justice.

The Acumen Fund East Africa Fellows Program is made possible through the sponsorship of KCB Foundation and the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations.


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]


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]

Give Impact Investing Time and Space to Develop

Impact investing has captured the world’s imagination. Just six years after the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term, the sector is booming. An estimated 250 funds are actively raising capital in a market that the Global Impact Investing Network estimates at $25 billion. Giving Pledge members described impact investing as the “hottest topic” at their May 2012 meeting, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the potential of the sector at the most recent G8 summit.  Sir Ronald Cohen and HBS Professor William A. Sahlman describe impact investing as the new venture capital, implying that it will, in the next 5 to 10 years, make its way into mainstream financial portfolios, unlocking billions or trillions of dollars in new capital. [Read More]

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]