Remarkable People


ANDE Training Brings Together Organizations Serving SGBs

TechnoServe VP for Development Simon Winter speaks at ANDE training. (Photo by Brian Murray)

Last week, along with 40-plus other participants, the Acumen Fund summer associates participated in an energetic and informational training session run by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE).  ANDE is a member-driven organization whose goal is to dramatically increase the effectiveness of capital and technical assistance for entrepreneurs in developing countries.  This training was a definitive step towards that goal.

For the second year in a row, ANDE has organized this training along with Acumen Fund, Root Capital, Grassroots Business Fund, Endeavor and many other members of ANDE.  With the exploding interest in supporting Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) as a means of alleviating poverty, the importance of coordinating and connecting those entering the field has never been more critical.  Not only was the training immensely important to developing relationships across organizations; it also provided a forum to share best practices and to promote innovative thinking.

The two-day seminar was packed with a discussion of different business models, presentations on social metrics and hands-on case studies.  As if any of the graduate-level interns needed more motivation heading into the sector, the opportunity to hear from amazing speakers such as Christine Eibs Singer from E+Co, Brian Midler and Namrita Kapur from Root Capital, Susie Lee from IGNIA, Raj Kundra, Sasha Dichter and Ann MacDougall from Acumen Fund, Simon Winter and Jennifer Golden from TechnoServe, Ben Powell and Ricardo Teran from Agora Partnerships was inspirational.

I was uplifted to meet our peers who are now heading into the field to countries such as Pakistan, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Nicaragua and Guatemala. In particular, I was humbled and inspired by their backgrounds, skill sets and demonstrated passion for the work we will be undertaking.   I hope that this foundation of collaboration is something we all push to continue beyond the training amongst ourselves and by including more people interested in the sector.

My personal highlights were:

  • Sasha Dichter’s non-profit Venn Diagram
  • Learning more about the Global Impact Investing Network and its mission to educate and drive more investors into the sector
  • Quote to inspire by Ben Powell of Agora Partnerships:
    Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success

    ~ Sir Ernest Shackleton’s trans-Antarctic expedition recruitment advertisement

Although not exactly applicable to those of us heading out into the field (safe return = certain), it is a reminder that we all need support, encouragement and community to help us through the hard times when things don’t seem possible and barriers appear impassable.  I’m confident coming out of this training that this community is stronger than ever and I look forward to contributing.

For those of you who were at the training, please feel free to share your highlights in the comments section!


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]