New report reveals impact of Acumen’s 10 years investing in off-grid energy
New York, NY (January 23, 2018) – Acumen, the nonprofit global venture fund, today launched its Energy Impact Report, a comprehensive look at the impact of its 10 years of investing in off-grid energy. Since 2007, Acumen has invested $22.1 million in 20 energy companies, ranging from d.light to BURN Manufacturing, that have impacted the lives of more than 81 million people.
The Energy Impact Report, the first of its kind for the organization, is the culmination of 7,500 interviews with 5,500 off-grid energy customers across 11 countries using Acumen’s Lean Data methodology. Designed specifically for social enterprises, Lean Data is a customer-centric, technology-based approach to impact measurement that enables Acumen to speak directly with low-income customers at scale and collect high-quality impact data at a fraction of the cost of existing approaches.
For the report, Acumen’s Lean Data team spent the last year gathering information across more than 18 different indicators—from customer income levels to changes in quality of life—to understand how the organization’s investments are impacting the lives of the poor. The results present detailed customer data on both poverty focus and depth of impact across Acumen’s entire energy portfolio.
The impact headlines include:
- 58 million of the 81 million impacted have access to modern energy for the first time
- 73% of these customers live on less than $6 a day
- An estimated 6.4 million tons of CO2 and black carbon have been averted by Acumen’s energy portfolio
“The content in this report is a first for us and, we believe, for impact investing as a whole,” said Sasha Dichter, Acumen’s Chief Innovation Officer. “Our hope is that this work contributes to resetting the standard of what it means to be a successful impact investor, with a full, detailed understanding of both financial and social returns, so we can move beyond just counting the number of unit sales towards understanding what it means to create meaningful change in the lives of low-income people everywhere.”
The qualitative feedback Lean Data uncovers helps to identify what matters most to low-income customers, allowing Acumen to establish first-of-their-kind impact indicators aligned with the issues and priorities important to them. From this customer data, Acumen is pioneering benchmarks that will distinguish between high- and low-impact business models to ensure their investments are as impactful as possible.
“What’s most exciting of all is that this report provides the energy sector with the very first benchmarks for impact performance,” said Kat Harrison, Associate Director, Impact and Lean Data, at Acumen. “Our aim for these Lean Data results is to drive informed conversations around how we can better serve the 1.06 billion people still living without access to energy.”
By allowing for rapid, large-scale deployment of impact measurement across multiple companies and geographies, Lean Data breaks through many of the current limitations in impact measurement. It collects large volumes of customer data quickly and at a low cost, so Acumen can see how shifts in business models and different product and financing characteristics result in tangible changes in the lives of underserved populations around the world. Acumen has already begun to work with leading impact investors and organizations, such as Omidyar Network, Injaro and DOEN Foundation, to use Lean Data so their companies can gain insights on how to better serve their customers.
“We want to share this customer information, along with our Lean Data tools, so the social sector can learn faster and become even more effective,” said Tom Adams, Head of Lean Data at Acumen. “We hope that this will lead investors to direct more capital toward the highest-impact businesses and look at both social and financial results when rating their own performance, so ultimately we can build a faster path to creating solutions that will make the most difference in the lives of the poor.”
Download the full report here.
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