Acumen (formerly known as Acumen Fund) is a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of poverty. Its aim is to help build financially sustainable organizations that deliver affordable goods and services that improve the lives of the poor. Acumen is a 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in New York City, with regional offices in India, Pakistan, Kenya and Ghana.
Acumen was incorporated on April 1, 2001, with seed capital from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco Systems Foundation and three individual philanthropists. Acumen’s investors and advisors include also the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google.org and the Skoll Foundation. Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and CEO of Acumen. Ali Jahangir Siddiqui is Director of Acumen Fund Pakistan.
Acumen uses patient capital to build businesses. It makes investments – loans or equity, not grants – that yield both financial and social returns. As of July 10, 2014, Acumen had approved $88 million in investments in the following countries: Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. It has invested in 82 enterprises since inception, helping over 100 million people and creating 60,000 jobs. Investments are separated into six portfolios: Water, Health, Housing, Energy, Agriculture, and Education. Acumen commitments range from $300,000 to $2,000,000 in equity or debt with a payback or exit in roughly seven to ten years.
The Acumen Global Fellows Program selects young professionals each year to work with Acumen portfolio organizations in the countries where it invests. The Fellows spend one year, starting in September, working with the Acumen team and local social enterprises.
Starting in 2011, Acumen launched Regional Fellows Programs in East Africa, Pakistan and India. This is a one-year fellowship program targeted at local leaders and entrepreneurs who manage an existing social change project in their region. Amal Academy an organizational development academy is funded by Acumen.
Volunteer-run +Acumen chapters supportive of Acumen’s mission have formed in over 20 cities around the world. These volunteer groups raise money for the organization and hold events related to poverty reduction and global development.
In 2013, +Acumen launched free online leadership courses under the +Acumen Online Leadership Academy. The courses are offered on a rolling basis and are free and open to the public. Past courses have included “Acumen Leadership Essentials”, “Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation” (with course partner IDEO) and “Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change” (with course partner Cambridge Leadership Associates). In 2015, +Acumen will launch “Acumen On Demand” which will include short courses on MLK, repeatable models, lean data, and market analysis at the bottom of the pyramid.