Acumen Blog


Summer Spotlight: Punching Above One’s Weight

About five weeks into my summer internship at Acumen Fund, I came back to my seat after a meeting to find a financial company’s annual report on my desk topped with a sticky note.  The note was signed by my supervisor – Sasha Dichter – and read: “I really LOVE this.  Can we do something similar?”

One of my main assignments this summer was to craft Acumen’s own annual report. Excited about receiving enthusiasm and direction for this creative and conceptual assignment, I opened the report to the first page.  It was terrible.  There was no information, no insightful commentary on the company’s success in the past year – just arrows.  Schools of arrows, gaggles of arrows, arrows pointing different directions and forming different shapes.  It was the equivalent of doing an interpretive dance at a shareholders meeting.  Not the vision at all I had in mind – and definitely not something I am qualified to create.

I collected my thoughts and walked over to Sasha’s desk with the report in hand to clarify the issue.

“Hey Sasha?” I opened tenuously, trying my best to sound like a competent, clearheaded adult. “Can you help me understand your vision here?  It’s… a little vague…”

Sasha turned in his chair and laughed.  Turns out, the team had conspired to play a joke on me.  Everyone joined in laughing and Sasha explained their plan to see how I’d react to this (almost) totally demoralizing situation.

I tell this story to illuminate a side of Acumen Fund that outsiders don’t normally see.  The extraordinary output of the small Acumen Fund team can lead one (myself included) to believe that everyone here is very nose-to-the-grindstone without time for fun. That, or they’re supported by hundreds of socially-minded elves who left their jobs at the cobbler for a more engaging career at a social venture capital firm.  Turns out, there are no elves, just a great group of incredibly thoughtful, inspired, talented people with a wicked sense of humor to go with their drive for excellence.  And I do mean excellence – this firm punches far above its weight.

I enjoyed working in Communications & Business Development this summer not just because of the great team, but because of the opportunities it afforded me personally and throughout the organization.  As a former communications professional, it was incredibly rewarding to use my professional skill-set for social benefit.  I’ve always been passionate about the power of messages and Acumen Fund’s message makes the job that much easier – and that much more critical.

On another level, the comprehensive nature of my project required me to familiarize myself with Acumen Fund’s internal culture and external personality deeply and quickly.  The breadth of my assignment allowed me to speak with people in every department and geography, which helped me to integrate into the fabric of the organization. Equally important, my team consistently supported my contributions and pushed me to challenge myself to achieve outsized impact.  Although I’m leaving without having seen my project to full completion, I feel a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

It’s been a great summer – and it’s hard to leave.  As a token for my hard work, I’ve been promised an invitation to this year’s Investor Gathering and 10-Year Celebration.  And now it’s in writing – so no backsies.  See you in November.

Marin Kaleya is a MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School.


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]