Measuring What Matters
We are a geographically distributed, deliberately diverse community that is locally rooted and globally connected
Our community of innovators often follow three distinct paths
Borja Paladini Adell — +Acumen Learner
A peacebuilder gathering evidence on the Colombian peace agreement to help the Colombian government and the FARC see patterns that will enable them to make better decisions.
Hawah Nabbuye — 2013 East Africa Fellow
The Deputy Director of Educate! Uganda, managing strategic partnerships with governments and monitoring and evaluation. With Hawah’s partnership, Educate! has reached 42,000 children in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.
Ankit Agarwal - 2017 India Fellow
Co-founded HelpUsGreen, a social enterprise that prevents the river Ganges from becoming a sewer by flowercycling® the waste dumped in the river into patented lifestyle products providing livelihoods to 128 manual scavenger families in Kanpur, India.
Measuring What Matters
Our Fellows Program has had a deep focus on developing moral leaders. As we reflect on the impact we’ve created, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the Fellows to better understand the power of moral leadership.
While measuring impact for leadership development programs is not easy, the effect of the Fellows work is clear. For the Acumen Fellows Program, we consider impact in three ways: Acumen’s Impact on the Fellows; the Fellows’ Impact on their Communities; and the Amplification of Leadership Content through the Fellows.
Acumen’s Impact on the Fellows
At its core, the Fellows Program is developing individual capacity to take on longstanding problems of poverty. Our work is to create communities of practice that enable the Fellows to hone the skills, attributes and values needed to create change in today’s world.
We carried out a survey in 2018 to understand the role of Acumen’s Fellows Program and our community in refining Fellows’ sense of purpose and values, building skills and networks, and converting their values into practice. We asked the Fellows to share how likely they are to recommend the program to others, a question which determines a Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS measures a user’s overall satisfaction with a product or service, where anything above 0 is generally deemed good, and an NPS of +50 is generally deemed excellent.
Acumen received a world class NPS score of 78 for the fellows program.
The Fellows Program has positively affected Fellows’ ability to lead in complex environments with a moral grounding. It has given them a network and community that accelerates the rate at which they create.
Fellows also consistently identify the need to access funding and networks. To meet this need, Acumen has invested or given grants amounting to $1.5 million in Fellows’ companies, and they include:
- Ansaar Management Company, Pakistan’s first private affordable housing company
- Saral Designs, addressing the taboos around mental hygiene in India by manufacturing and distributing sanitary napkins made in-house
- Kheyti, a greenhouse solution for smallholder farmers in India which uses 90% less water to produce 7x more food
- Amal Academy, enabling students to acquire leadership and professional skills that make them highly employable
- The Orenda Project, addressing Pakistan’s education sector gap with gamified lessons for primary school students (which are based on the national curriculum)
- Clinic-5, a primary care model in which Pakistani clinics partner with schools to provide timely access to quality treatment to school going children
Fellows have raised over $20 million from Acumen partners or introductions facilitated by Acumen, and Fellows leverage our community to seek advisors, mentors, and board members.
Fellows’ Impact on Communities
8 Million Lives Impacted
2,200,000 — Individuals Educated
2,200,000 — Patients Served
882,000 — Farmers Served
714,000 — Individuals Trained
700,000 — individuals Provided Electricity
570,000 — Individuals Banked
500,000 — Marginalized Individuals Served
70,000 — Clean Water Access
22,000 — Jobs Created
22,000 — Volunteers Mobilized
Our 546 Fellows have impacted eight million lives across sectors such as education, technology, and agriculture. Their commitment has enabled over 21,000 people to find gainful employment, over two million children to gain education, and millions to access finance, electricity and healthcare. Acumen Fellows are bridging divides in their communities with the people they serve, not for them. A few examples of the work the Fellows are doing include:
- Aaron Kirunda, East Africa 2016. Aaron’s enterprise, enjuba, has improved the literacy skills of one million children in Uganda.
- Gayatri Jolly, India 2017. Gayatri’s company, MasterG is teaching women the advanced skills of pattern-making and fabric cutting, an industry largely dominated by men. In two years, MasterG has trained 500 women and helped them increase their incomes seven-fold.
- Raghav Raghunathan, India 2015. Through Raghav’s work with the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited, over 500,000 farmers now have access to e-markets to sell their produce freely and at fair prices.
- Iregi Mwenja, East Africa 2018. Iregi is a mental health advocate and Founder & CEO of Psychiatric Disability Organization (PDO) in Kenya. From an early age his life was impacted by ADHD, which led him to start his organization. Through PDO, Iregi has supported 5,927 individuals through direct treatments, awareness and tragedy responses.
- Joel Montgomery, Global 2009. Through his work at CloudFactory, Joel is creating short-term jobs for over 10,000 people in the developing world.
Catalyzing Social Entrepreneurship Globally
Shiroi Shaiza and Lezo Putsure
Nagaland is a state in India that has experienced insurgency and inter-ethnic conflict since the 1950s. With a majority of the state’s resources tackling the violence in the region, Nagaland has seen limited economic development. Two Acumen Fellows are changing the narrative.
Shiroi Shaiza is part of the senior leadership at Entrepreneurs Associates (EA), an organization committed to advancing entrepreneurship, social justice, and workforce development in the region. To date, EA has trained almost 150 startup entrepreneurs and trained 500 people with little-to-no education in business skills. At YouthNet, Lezo Putsure leads the “Impact 5000 by 18 Campaign,” a partnership with the Government of Nagaland to enhance the skills and employability of 5,000 young people by 2018. He also manages Nagaland Job Center (NJC) which has helped over 700 youth secure jobs in the private sector in the last three years.
Lujain set up Tasamy in 2012 to find sustainable and innovative business solutions to society’s problems by enabling social entrepreneurs and collaborating with government and private institutions. She catalyzed the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country, a sector that didn’t exist before 2011. Saudi Arabia, a country of 32 million, is rapidly transitioning from being a petrostate to a knowledge economy, and youth unemployment currently stands at 33%. The potential is clear. To date, Tasamy has incubated 35 social entrepreneurs, providing seed funding to 17 of them, making Tasamy the only social entrepreneurship incubator in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to leading Acumen’s West Africa Fellows Program, Wale Ajiboye co-founded Elab Accelerator, which has trained over 2,000 small growing businesses and helped them access state funding to propel growth. The company has enabled equity financing for two businesses focused on renewable energy: Voltze and A4T amounting to $300,000. Elab has also formed a strong government alliance to establish the Global Entrepreneurship Network Nigeria (GENN) and approve funding of $230,000 as seed grants for entrepreneurs in their network.
Fellows influence Policy
Partnering with the Indian Government to Make Smallholder Farmers Climate Resilient
In June 2016, India Fellow Sathya Raghu secured a meeting with the State Agricultural Minister of Telangana, India through Vasumathi Kothuru, a 2014 India Fellow. However, as is often the case with high-level Minister meetings, Sathya was offered 15 minutes. He came prepared to present the challenges of the smallholder farmer, specifically focused on the financial and operational challenges of securing a greenhouse - they were too expensive, not designed for smallholders and not effectively covered in government subsidies. As Sathya started to make his case to the Minister, the Minister cleared his schedule for the day and the intended 15 minute meeting became a 7.5 hour policy reform discussion. Sathya successfully influenced the policy for smallholder farmers to reduce the cost per acre by 50%, encouraging the government to push farmers to purchase half-acre structures to reduce costs and to have this covered by government subsidies.
Amplification of Content
The curriculum for the Fellows is designed in partnership with content experts and facilitated in-house. Increasingly, Fellows take this content and share it with their employees and communities. They even take it to new communities including some of the most remote and marginalized areas in their regions. By sharing the content, Fellows are equipping a generation exponentially in ways that Acumen cannot do alone.
We are now intentionally going deeper, curating both data and stories to discover who benefits from Acumen’s Leadership content. Already over 78% of Fellows share the Fellows Program curriculum with their teams, and 60% of Fellows share this content with their communities1. Felipe Spath, a Global Fellow from 2017, took +Acumen’s Human Capital Strategy course when he was setting up an office for Acumen investee, BioLite, in Nairobi, Kenya. It was crucial for him to set a positive and productive culture:
“(This course) generates a very important space to discuss Human Resources; to have conversations that most often won't happen; to align on the plan for HR development. I learned how important it is to have your values as guiding principles as you build culture.”
The two most highly shared content blocks are Adaptive Leadership (54%), a framework that enables leaders to adapt and thrive in challenging environments, and Authentic Voice (36%), which develops a leader’s capacity to articulate a hopeful vision, speak across lines of difference, and move others to action.
(India Fellow 2017)
Sudish Kumar is the State Pedagogy Coordinator for the Chhattisgarh Government, Department of School Education where he oversees quality improvement at the elementary level. He sends out a monthly newsletter to every primary school teacher across the state, and includes Acumen’s content such as the Good Society readings and Adaptive Leadership exercises in them. Speaking about his proudest achievement since the fellowship, Sudhish said, “I personally try to convince our teachers to join different courses to learn innovative practices. I got more than 90 thousand teachers to join one of the courses meant for their professional development.”
(India Fellow 2015)
Vimal is the Founder of Movement for Scavenger Community, a nonprofit which advocates for the rights of one of the most marginalized communities in the world. Since completing his fellowship year Vimal has become an Adaptive Leadership trainer with Acumen faculty member Eric Martin. In two years, he has trained over 100 individuals in Adaptive Leadership and regularly co-facilitates with Eric. He is also a public speaker and PhD scholar focused on caste violence at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. Vimal represents an emerging voice in India’s civic space, as a social justice advocate who is determined to change the caste system of the nation.
(India Fellow 2015)
Upon completing his fellowship year in 2015, Madhukar partnered with Arhan Bezbora (2016 India Fellow) to create a Systems Leadership Learning Community with the Teach For India (TFI) Community in Pune. Over 8 months they met for about 20 hours to engage in Good Society Readings, Adaptive Leadership frameworks, and the basics of systems thinking. “Although Arhan and I were not masters of any of the concepts, the space pushed us to deeply think about our own perspectives,” Madhukar said. Taking their learnings from Pune, Arhan and Madhukar set up a national level System Leadership Accelerator. 26 participants across India met for a 3-day event in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan with Kaivalya Foundation (led by another 2016 India Fellow, Manmohan Singh) where they tackled the challenges of education in the district.
Fellows lead Fellows Programs
Fellows amplify the Acumen ethos by starting Fellows Programs in their countries.
1Based on a survey conducted in 2018, n=235.