Acumen Blog

Slums are the future of cities

This article in Forbes magazine makes a very important statement about cities as the future of the world and slums as the future of cities. It quotes a lot from the book Planet of Slums by Mike Davis, citing important aspects of rapid urbanization, such as:

  • By 2030, 5 billion of 8.1 billion people in the world will live in cities, of which 2 billion will be living in slums, mainly in Africa and Asia.
  • Slums do function, complete with social hierarchies, commerce, mini and micro enterprises and a form of home government
  • There is no free land available to urban squatters, and there is a price to be paid either to previous residents or corrupt politicians or local police.
  • Ignoring the massive urban influx, as governments have been doing for decades, keeps slum dwellers out of the legal systems and tax systems and gives them tenuous rights to land on which they live. This could spawn influential groups fighting for squatter rights, but it could and does spawn criminal gangs and militant movements as well.
  • The article mentions how Turkey has given legal and political rights to squatters that encourage them to invest in their homes and neighborhoods. This is a lone example but worth emulating.

The UN definition of a slum is one whose residents are missing at least some of the following: durable walls, a secure lease or title, adequate living space, access to safe drinking water and toilets. 20% of slums miss at least three of these requirements today.

Acumen Fund’s work toward funding enterprises that use market-based approaches to address critical needs of the poor is aligned with these needs of slum dwellers. For example, Acumen Fund has invested in urban squatter resettlement through loans for title to land and home improvement loans for incremental housing in Karachi. Acumen Fund is also exploring similar options for low-income housing finance in cities in India and Kenya, as well as business models for bringing sanitation services to slums. But the growing levels of poverty in cities demonstrate the need for more sustainable, scalable solutions that address the lack of critical goods and services among the poor.


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]