Acumen started operations in 2001 with a pioneering concept, a non-profit venture capital for the poor, using philanthropic (patient) capital to invest in entrepreneurs that would be capable to create sustainable solutions to big problems in poverty. For the past 15 years, they have been helping to build companies, developing leaders and sharing ideas. Their impact to date: $103m invested in 96 companies, 200 million lives impacted, 310 leaders developed, 17 Acumen Chapters, and 320,000 people have signed up to the Acumen leadership courses. Impressive figures! However, why Acumen continues to be one of the leaders/innovators in this field is because they can’t be content on just seeing these figures. They go deeper in trying to understand the real impact (qualitatively) by developing impact measurement/metrics.
Our Impact Framework: We work to understand impact from the moment we begin due diligence on a company throughout the lifetime of the investment. Working closely with our companies, we generate, analyze and use data that enables them to understand and improve their social performance. Our aim is to unlock their full potential and achieve the greatest social change for the customers they serve. (source Acumen)
As Acumen defines its success as how well their investments are enabling the poor to improve their own lives for the long term, they measure the social performance across 3 dimensions: 1) the focus on the poor 2) the breadth (the number reached) 3) depth (improvements). So they look at impact from all these fronts. They use lean data which has made it much more efficient, faster and cost efficient to understand their impact. Another great contribution of Acumen is how they share their ideas and findings. +Acumen which comprises online free leadership courses and is rapidly becoming “the world’s school of social change”.
The ninth SOCAP, the conference at the intersection of money and meaning took place Sept 13-16 with 2500 attendants, 10 tracks and 12 parallel meetings. It looked overwhelming how this conference has grown but judging from the plenaries and sessions, it has grown in breadth and depth in a solid remarkable way and whilst expanding keeping its feet on the ground. The Opening Plenary discussions and talks made us reflect that the “why” is as important as the “how” on impact investments was a great way to set the tone for the conference. The sessions on impact evaluation and measurement, mapping the impact investment landscape with collaborative data, gender lens investing, a total portfolio approach on fossil investing and B Corps, show the richness and evolution of this movement. Congratulations to Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, and Lindsay Smalling for the tremendous work!
There are many talks and sessions you can find of SOCAP16 in youtube. Some of my favourites were:
Jed Emerson, Blended Value
Impact at Scale
Shifting Culture Towards Equity
Also the following three sessions were very interesting but it requires a bit more time to watch. The Transformative Edge of Impact Navigating Impact Investing: the Pursuit of Clarity and Simplicity Evolving Impact Measurement over the next decade
On July 10th, Prime Minister Modi of India interacted with 40 Solar Mamas trained by Barefoot College in Tanzania. PM Modi took great interest in all the vocational and entrepreneurial activities that the Solar mamas are conducting such as solar electrification, tailoring, bee keeping and honey making. In fact he was very happy to take home some of the products like robes and honey which are now sold commercially in Zanzibar.
Barefoot College has trained solar mamas in 74 of the least developed countries. This project is done in collaboration with the Indian government. The founder Bunker Roy has lead this organization for 42 years and recently handed over the operational responsibilities to Meagan Fallone, CEO of Barefoot College International. In the last 2 years BCI has started to scale the vocational training activities by building training centers outside of India. The first such training center was launched last year in Zanzibar. 5 more training centers will be launched in Africa and a few in Latin America, Asia and South Pacific.
Congratulations Bunker, Meagan, and the whole Barefoot College team!
(disclaimer: the author is a board member of Barefoot College International)
The European B Corp Summit, a celebration for People Using Business as a Force for Good, took place in Rome on June30 & July1. Two energetic days of learning, sharing, networking amongst the rapidly expanding global B Corp community (currently 1809 companies in 50 countries). The focus was on brainstorming and action planning on how can we continue to accelerate this movement. Powerful messages through numerous inspiring speakers including: Pedro Tarak of Sistema B, Lorna Davis of Danone, Thomas Van Craen of Triodos Bank, Bryan Welch of B the Change Media, Mirella Zuidgeest of thermaflex, Corey Lien of DOMI, Pablo Sepulveda & Eloisa Silva of Birus, and Christoph Barman of Loyco. Thanks to the B Lab Europe team and Nativa for organizing such an impactful event!
On Sept 24 B Lab UK hosted the event “Change is coming” the official launch of 62 certified UK B Corps at Proud Galleries in Camden, London. The B Corp movement is gaining momentum and now there are over 1400 companies across 42 countries that are B Corp certified and a number that is growing by the day. In this event it was inspiring to hear the founders of Bridges Ventures, COOK, Fairphone, and Streetlife talk about their businesses and their road to become B Corps. It was also a great gathering to network with the B Corp global community as many leaders were present such as Bart Houlahan, (B Lab Co-Founder), Marcello Palazzi (B Lab Europe Co-founder), and Pedro Tarak (Co-founder of Sistema B, B Corp South America).
There was also a big announcement made by Bart that B Lab is establishing a Multinationals and Public Markets (MPM) Advisory Council as of January 2016 as a strong response for the growing number of multinationals and publicly listed companies that are interested in joining the B Corp movement. In a video message delivered by Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, he announced that Unilever will participate in the MPM Advisory Council and invited others to join them to achieve a collective vision of a global economy where all businesses work to create a more shared and durable prosperity for all. Yes, change is coming!
The 12th Skoll World Forum took place April 15-17th in Oxford. It was my 9th Skoll in a row and it is still my favourite forum for its great content, inspiring conversations and unlimited networking opportunities. This year two of the topics that were most emphasized were girls’ education and the continuing need to collaborate amongst the three converging worlds; private, public and citizen sectors. Another positive,this year, many of the sessions were recorded (more than ever) so subscribe to the youtube page of Skoll so that you can check on the videos that are being uploaded. Check also content through their Facebook and twitter page.
We would like to introduce you to Karmafy
Karmafy represents a global social currency for doing good. The platform offers businesses, apps, and cause organizations the opportunity to attract new users and strengthen their existing user base by allowing users to track and make use of their socially responsible actions. We partner with businesses through a commonly used rev-share model and deliver more engaged users. Increased monetization occurs through cross promotion, use of gamification and functionality to make directed donations to vetted philanthropic organizations. More to come soon.
Swiss Financial Finance (SSF) is a new platform that aims to promote Switzerland as the leading centre for sustainable finance. This platform brings together financial service providers, investors, research organizations, public sector entities, and universities to foster social and environmental aspects in investment and financial solutions. SSF was launched at the beginning of July 2014. See the press release.