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Investor Gathering 2008: Tip of the Iceberg

Yesterday, Acumen Fund hosted its annual Investor Gathering at the Rubin Museum of Art. More than 125 partners and advisors gathered to get the inside scoop on Acumen’s operations over the past year and our goals for 2009. Personally, the Investor Gathering prompted more than a little deja vu.

While I joined Acumen Fund’s staff only 8 months back, this was not my first Investor Gathering. Last year, while a staff member at the World Resources Institute, I had the opportunity to attend both the IG and Acumen’s Celebration. So much has changed since – personally, professionally, and in the world at large – that it’s hard to believe the 2007 Investor Gathering was only a year ago.

So – back to my deja vu. I spent a few minutes today looking at my notes from last year’s gathering – which I wrote about on NextBillion.net. Katherine Fulton spoke of “Acumen’s Moment”; Jacqueline, Brian, Yasmina and others told us how the vision of capital, knowledge and talent were being put into practice; the 2008 Fellows blew away the crowd with their inspiring spoken-word performance.

A year later, I sat in on similar presentations, but this time, from an insider’s perspective. While it was different, much was the same. We heard how Acumen Fund’s strategy of investing in entrepreneurs to solve the problems of poverty is working (and not). We heard how the portfolios are expanding and changing, and we heard how geopolitical realities – post-election riots in Kenya, economic crisis in Pakistan, financial meltdowns in the United States – impact Acumen Fund’s current and future plans.

I have 7+ pages of notes from the Investor Gathering, which I will turn into a series of blog posts as soon as I’m able. Yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out, but I have an excuse: tomorrow, the entire Acumen Fund team – colleagues from Pakistan, India, Kenya and New York – will begin a 2-day, off-site staff retreat to continue building strategies that will bring critical goods and services to the poor while enhancing the dignity and human spirit of every human being. No blogging allowed.

Stay tuned – this is only the tip of the iceberg.

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We Are Each Other’s Destiny

To reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to consider deeply our human interconnectedness and the world we want to build. Each year on this day, I re-read his extraordinary, elegiac “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to remember his commitment to human equality and the price he paid. I read it to remind myself of the power of idealism grounded in pragmatism. I read it to renew my belief in our individual and collective abilities to help bend the moral arc ever more toward justice. [Read More]

Let’s Work Together

Acumen has offices in New York, Mumbai, Karachi, Bogota, Nairobi and Accra. Last August, Avinash Mishra, a Senior Portfolio Associate in the India office, and Keya Madhvani, the Internal Communications Associate in the New York office, were nominated to attend the One Young World Summit in Dublin. Below, they share lessons learned at the summit.  [Read More]

Edubridge: Bridging the Skills Gap in Rural India

India’s demographic dividend is widely acknowledged as a strength that sets it apart from other emerging economies. One million young men and women enter the workforce every month, which will add up to an astounding 240 million over the next twenty years.  Rural youth make up two thirds of India’s population and are a major segment of these job seekers. At the same time, fast growing companies in retail, IT, BPO, banking and financial services struggle with finding employable staff, especially in rural areas.  Research shows that only 5-40% of the staff in such companies has undergone formal training. [Read More]

New Study By Acumen and Bain & Company Unveils How To Scale Adoption Of Agricultural Innovations

Acumen and Bain & Company today released Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models® to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations—a new report to help entrepreneurial companies, and others, unlock the potential of smallholder farmers through large-scale adoption of agricultural innovations and inputs. The report’s insights and findings—which are the result of interviews with more than 300 smallholder farmers, sector experts and pioneer firm management—demonstrate the transformative power of providing smallholder farmers with the right access to the right innovations at the right time. In parallel, the report addresses why very few pioneer firms have been able to achieve the scale needed to provide smallholder farmers with access to agricultural products and services that have the potential to increase their yields and pull them out of poverty. [Read More]

Why India’s Economic Growth Depends on Vocational Training

India has an enormous population of young people – over half of the 1.2 billion people are younger than 25 years old. Yet, only 2% of its 500 million person workforce has any skills or training. The majority work in the informal sector (90%), where there are few opportunities for education other than what workers ‘pick up’ on the job. This reality limits overall productivity, as well as upward mobility. [Read More]