Acumen | COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 Response

Standing with the Poor on the Front Lines
of Crisis

For 19 years, Acumen has invested in social entrepreneurs and leaders delivering critical goods and services to some of the poorest, most vulnerable communities on earth. Now, the COVID-19 crisis is disproportionately threatening those communities.

With investees and leaders in 18 countries around the world, Acumen is in a unique position to ensure low-income people can continue to access the essential products and services they need to weather this crisis. Already, we are seeing our leaders respond with bold and concrete action. And they need our support.

Our COVID-19 Response Funds

Acumen’s Global Emergency Facility leverages our network of portfolio companies and Fellows in low-income communities in 18 countries to support them through the COVID-19 crisis. The Facility will address the urgency of now, while building pathways towards a brighter future for these communities.

Acumen will raise USD 5 million to provide grants (USD 5,000-50,000) and loans (USD 50,000-250,000) to entrepreneurs and Fellows on the front lines of COVID-19 relief efforts or those affected by the crisis. Use of funds include:

  • Resources to expand access to essential services, including education, healthcare and food security 
  • Salaries and short-term operating expenses for business continuity 
  • Emergency funds for vulnerable employees facing lost income  
  • Personal Protective Equipment and supplies for workers 

In the last five years, Acumen America has invested in more than 20 companies that serve nearly 25 million Americans living in diverse, low-income communities across the U.S. These companies are now on the frontlines of providing critical services to Americans most affected by COVID-19.  

In addition to supporting its existing portfolio with follow-on investments and strategic support, Acumen America will raise USD 2.5 million to provide grants (USD 50,000-250,000) to its companies in response to the current crisis. Use of funds include:

  • Direct support to frontline workers and customers
  • Resources to preserve and expand access to essential services, including food, shelter, job training, and more

In February 2020, Acumen convened several investors in the energy sector to address concerns about COVID-19’s impact on enterprises providing energy products and services to customers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. By March, the health and economic impacts of the pandemic were dire. In response, Acumen led a sector-wide effort to develop the EUR 100 million COVID-19 Energy Access Relief Fund. This fund aims to provide bridge loans to off-grid energy companies facing emergency funding needs. Use of funds include:

  • Resources to maintain low-income customers’ existing energy services
  • Salary funding to retain the staff required to deliver current and future clean-energy services

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Acumen has joined a group of 48 leading global organizations, including World Economic Forum, IKEA Foundation, ANDE and more, to launch the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs. Alliance members currently support more than 15,000 social entrepreneurs reaching 1.5 billion people cumulatively in over 190 countries – many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Organizations in the Alliance have mobilized USD 75 million to help social entrepreneurs withstand the impacts of the pandemic so that they can continue to meet the needs of their communities long after the crisis ends. The Alliance will coordinate support for social entrepreneurs in four key ways:

  • Assess and highlight needs across the members’ social enterprise portfolios
  • Amplify and expand available financial support under a joint Alliance dashboard, and help social entrepreneurs to raise additional money to expand their work
  • Coordinate non-financial support provided by companies and intermediaries, such as social procurement, legal services and technological support
  • Advance joint communication efforts to advocate for appropriate fiscal and policy interventions relevant to social entrepreneurs

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Our Response at a Glance

$190M+

IN EMERGENCY FUNDING

through 4 Facilities & Alliances to COVID-19 efforts
750+

FELLOWS & PORTFOLIO COMPANIES

serving low-income customers in 18 countries
$50K-$250K

LOANS & GRANTS

available immediately to entrepreneurs for relief efforts

Featured COVID Relief Enterprises

Sehat Kahani
PAKISTAN | HEALTHCARE

Acumen Fellow Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram is the Co-Founder and CEO of Sehat Kahani, an all-female medical team providing low-cost, virtual care to low-income communities via video conference and a mobile application.

Sehat Kahani is offering COVID-19 telemedicine services free of charge, enabling patients to access care quickly while also reducing their risk of contagion.

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KEEP
West Africa | Education

Fellow Brenda Brewer Moore is the Founder and CEO of Kids’ Educational Engagement Project (KEEP), a nonprofit increasing literacy in Liberia where only 48% of the population can read and write.

With schools shut down due to COVID-19, KEEP is conducting read-aloud sessions online with over 30,000 viewers weekly as well as providing free mobile phones to 250 students, enabling them to participate in both KEEP’s and the Liberian government’s virtual programming.

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Saral Designs
India | Healthcare

Fellow Suhani Mohan is the Co-Founder and CEO of Saral Designs, a company producing and distributing sanitary pads to women in semi-urban and rural areas in India.

In response to COVID-19, Saral Designs not only repurposed its sanitary pad machines to create masks but is now building an automatic machine to produce 60,000 masks per day for frontline workers and citizens.

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LabourNet
India | Workforce Development

Investee LabourNet’s skill-building and job placement programs have trained over 1 million informal workers in India.

LabourNet is now repurposing its 100-person staff of trainers to serve free food and sanitation products for nearly 300,000 migrant workers who are now stranded in cities without any source of income due to COVID-19.

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Green Afro-Palms
West Africa | Agriculture

Fellow Kwame Ababio is CEO of Green Afro-Palms (GAP), a company producing vegetables and palm oil sourced from Ghana’s smallholder farmers.

In response to Ghana’s lockdown, GAP developed an e-commerce platform to enable 500 retailers—who sell GAP’s vegetables and palm oil in Ghana’s markets—to conduct online sales.

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Mauqa.Online
Pakistan | Workforce Development

Fellow Muhammad Mustafa is the Co-Founder of Mauqa.Online, a household services provider employing former informal sector workers as professional cleaners, caretakers and cooks.

Mauqa.Online is now offering safe, disinfectant cleaning services to help essential businesses in Islamabad fight COVID-19—and in doing so, sustaining the livelihoods of 60 staff cleaners.

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How You Can Help

If you share our sense of urgency to stand with those on the front lines of the COVID- 19 crisis in low-income communities, please consider becoming a Partner.

Acumen’s Board and Executive Team have already committed financial support to subsidize the implementation of these initiatives so that all funds donated go directly to our investees and Fellows.

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