A Manifesto

By Jacqueline Novogratz on April 22, 2013

Twelve years after starting Acumen, we’ve learned a lot about poverty. On the one hand, we’ve seen that patient capital works: from nine ambulances to 1,000 answering 2 million calls; from a solar torch prototype to bringing light to 14 million. That’s impact that matters. On the other, we’ve learned the real costs of growing these investments. It takes more than capital, and demands leadership infused with courage, judgment, wisdom. We’ve seen that we as a world need to do better at measuring what we cherish, not only what we can count.

We’ve been asked how we might better communicate not only what we do, but as important, what we are learning.  To this end, we wrote a manifesto as a covenant of sorts, our moral compass to ground us as the kinds of leaders we hope to be. It is an aspirational document, one to inspire us to do better, be better. We wrote it for ourselves and as a reflection of the kind of leadership we believe the world needs. I hope you find it of use.

It starts by standing with the poor, listening to voices unheard, and recognizing potential where others see despair.

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.

To reflect that we started Acumen to change the way the world tackles poverty and not simply invest, we also are changing our name from Acumen Fund to simply Acumen. Our investment portfolio will continue to be the crucible of our work, generating impact on the ground and insights that drive our work in leadership and the spread of ideas. “Acumen” can hold all of our work and give us more flexibility to drive change in different ways.

Finally, we’ve refreshed our identity to mark this new chapter. Core to this is an “unfinished A,” to communicate that our work is never finished, that we don’t have all the answers, that we can’t do this work alone. Take a look around our new website to have a look. We hope you find the site more functional, more useful, and a better reflection of both our work and our spirit.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Acumen team. In the meantime, may we remember what is most important to us as a single world, and move together to build that vision – for it will take all of us.

Here’s to the future – with gratitude and excitement,

Jacqueline

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