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.


Letter from Jacqueline: My Week in Ghana

I am writing on a return flight from Ghana. The country has not seen a single case of Ebola, yet the impact of fear is profound. As travelers enter the country, attendants screen for high temperatures. Hand sanitizer dispensers are omnipresent. Hotels and conferences have seen massive cancellations. Everywhere are constant reminders of our fragility and the strength of our connectedness. [Read More]

Six online courses we’re taking this year

+Acumen’s free online courses are a great way to learn tools that will help you develop both professionally and personally. Whether you are a social entrepreneur who wants to market to your customers or a young professional that wants to strengthen your leadership skills, we are offering six courses this Fall that will help you develop the tools, knowledge, and networks to change the way the world tackles poverty. [Read More]

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]