We Believe in Choice, Not Charity
At Acumen, we believe solving the problems of poverty starts by standing with the poor. Our manifesto serves as a compass for the kinds of leaders we hope to be and a reflection of the values required to take on the world’s biggest problems.
It starts by standing with the poor, listening to voices
unheard, and recognizing potential where others see
It demands investing as a means, not an end, daring to go
where markets have failed and aid has fallen short. It makes
capital work for us, not control us.
It thrives on moral imagination: the humility to see the world
as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be.
It’s having the ambition to learn at the edge, the wisdom to
admit failure, and the courage to start again.
It requires patience and kindness, resilience and grit: a
hard-edged hope. It’s leadership that rejects complacency,
breaks through bureaucracy, and challenges corruption.
Doing what’s right, not what’s easy.
Acumen: it’s the radical idea of creating hope in a cynical
world. Changing the way the world tackles poverty and
building a world based on dignity.
About the Manifesto
Everywhere, we hear people talking about a crisis of leadership, yet we constantly meet extraordinary leaders giving their whole selves to take on the world’s toughest problems. We see a generation yearning for shared values, for goodness, a shared sense of what is right.
It is easier to be an entrepreneur than to be a leader. Effecting real change requires both. As the great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe who we lost so recently wrote:
“Leadership is a sacred trust like priesthood in civilized, humane religions. No one gets into it lightly or unadvisedly because it demands qualities of mind and discipline, of body and will, far beyond the need of the ordinary citizens.”
True leadership requires a spiritual grounding, the humility to cultivate a shared consciousness that we are truly connected to one another.
It requires confronting our own internal fears and external resentments.
It means moving from a place that holds sacred the notion that “I am, because you are.”
The work of change can be bone-tiringly difficult. And there are no roadmaps, just a few newly worn paths in some places, wide open fields of possibility in others.
With this understanding, Acumen decided to write a manifesto, a covenant of sorts, to help guide us through the tough decisions around investing in companies and leaders daring to serve the poor in genuine, empowering ways, not counterfeit, exploitive ways. It is an aspirational document, a moral compass to ground us in the kinds of leaders we want to be. We find ourselves humbled at how far we sometimes fall short, and are constantly challenged to do better.