Mission: Acumen Fund exists to help end poverty by changing how the world addresses it. We invest patient capital to strengthen and scale business models that effectively serve the poor and we champion this approach as a complement to both charity and pure market approaches.
Our Vision is that one day every human being will have access to the critical goods and services they need – including affordable health, water, housing, energy, agricultural inputs and services – so that they can make decisions and choices for themselves and unleash their full human potential. This is where dignity starts – not just for the poor but for everyone on earth.
Programs: Investing and portfolio management:acumen invests patient capital in business models that deliver critical, affordable goods and services to the world's poor, improving the lives of millions. Since 2001, acumen has invested in businesses that provide access to water, health, energy, housing, education and agricultural services to low-income customers. In addition to acumen's work in india, pakistan, east and west africa, acumen has most recently expanded its work into latin america. Acumen has cumulatively invested $88 million in 82 businesses serving the poor. Post-investment management has continued to be a key priority for acumen in 2014. In the first quarter of this year, our team conducted annual reviews for all portfolio companies to measure actual performance against social and financial impact targets and develop detailed post-investment engagement and management plans outlining the support and involvement required by acumen to help the companies grow. Acumen has also expanded its work with corporations to leverage their skills and experience to support our investee companies with technical assistance. Acumen partnered with unilever and the clinton giustra enterprise partnership (cgep) to launch the enhancing livelihoods investment initiative, to improve the livelihoods of as many as 300,000 smallholder farmers and their communities in africa, and south asia. In addition, acumen hosted its second technical assistance initiative summit in nairobi in partnership with dow and barclays to provide financial and technical support to help scale five of our investee companies.
impact and communications:the goal of the impact and communications teams at acumen is to support its mission of changing the way the world tackles poverty by sharing the insights from our portfolio to strengthen approaches that address poverty through entrepreneurial solutions. Acumen's impact team continues to advance the organization's role in leading and measuring impact in the impact-investing industry. In 2014, the impact team refined the framework we had developed in 2013 to measure and assess impact at acumen. The framework outlines three aspects of our impact rationale including: breadth, broadly synonymous with scale - how many people are our investees' products and services reaching? Depth: what is our theory of change and how deeply are our companies impacting a household's well-being? Poverty focus: what is the profile of our investees' typical customer? Are they reaching those most in need? What is their affordability assessment? In addition, the impact team has also been working to pilot new leaner methods of data collection from our companies called the "lean data initiative". This approach uses the grameen foundation's progress out of poverty index, an easy-to-administer 10 question tool that determines poverty likelihoods to assess just how poor customers of acumen's investee companies are, without adding the administrative burden to often resource-constrained social enterprises. Acumen also published a report titled growing prosperity in the last quarter of 2014. Growing prosperity was written in partnership with bain & company and produced with support from the bill and melinda gates foundation. It unveils how social enterprises can find new, effective ways to profitably serve these hard-to-reach customers at scale, specifically focusing on case studies from the agriculture sector. In 2014 we continued to communicate acumen's core ideas through mainstream media, presentations at leading conferences, widely disseminated articles and workshops held globally covering issues such as leadership and the types and stages of capital needed to build social enterprises that serve the poor. Acumen's work was featured in top-tier u. S. And global outlets including the financial times, forbes, the new york times, the guardian, and various publications in pakistan, africa, india and europe.
fellows and leadership programs: at the end of q4 2014, 183 fellows were a part of acumen's global and regional fellows programs and growth continued with the launch of our pakistan and india fellows program as well as the rapid expansion of the +acumen online leadership work. Acumen received more than 700 applications from 110 countries for our ninth class of 2015 global fellows. Our class of 2015 has five fellows from north america; one from south america, two from africa, asia, and europe each; and one from australia. The classes of east african, pakistani and indian regional fellows are equally diverse and interesting, ranging from a variety of different fields - including corporations, social enterprises, ngos, and government. As of q4 2014, the +acumen chapter network has expanded to 25 chapters and +acumen's online courses has grown to more than 122,000 sign-ups. This past year, acumen launched several new free online courses in partnership with organizations like accion international, individuals like erik simanis and bain & company to help social entrepreneurs and individuals interested in the sector build their skills and knowledge.