Letter From the CEO
We are in a crisis of leadership. Leaders across the world are reinforcing a winner-takes-all approach, encouraging people to pull inward at the very moment that our interdependent world requires us to reach outward. Everywhere people are questioning capitalism and democracy, pointing to unsustainable levels of inequality, climate change, and a culture of growing mistrust and divisiveness. Our old institutions no longer serve, but we’ve yet to replace them.
Acumen has been experimenting with approaches to building a more inclusive capitalism to solve problems of poverty and enhance human dignity. We’ve learned what it takes to fight corruption, bureaucracy and complacency. We understand the difficulty of creating successful, sustainable companies and organizations that measure success not only in financial viability but on how the poor, the vulnerable and the earth are treated. We know that the answers to our greatest problems lie not in markets or government or charity alone but with all of us.
Most of all, we know that there is no roadmap to building the future in which every one of us matters. And that comes down to leadership.
This is why Acumen has built a corps of 546 leaders on the path to mastering the skills, attributes, and values of moral leadership. They must lead from a place of moral imagination: a combination of empathy, immersion, understanding and action. And leading today requires a sense of fellowship, the knowledge that you are not alone in the long and difficulty journey of making real and sustainable change.
What separates Acumen’s Fellows from most other leadership programs is the wide-ranging diversity of individuals and the program’s emphasis on values, not simply on skills. Some Fellows arrive with graduate degrees from the world’s top universities; whereas others, schooled entirely by life itself, grew up in far-flung communities in the tribal areas of Pakistan or rural Nigeria. What binds these Fellows is shared values, a common commitment to a world beyond poverty, a pledge to accompany one another, to help and celebrate one another, and to hold each other to account.
Our Fellows amplify these skills and values. Imagine Fellows teaching Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. to girls who are the first in their family to attend school, to fisher people living in dire poverty, to people who’ve for too long been overlooked and exploited. Imagine enabling a movement of young people with the skills and tools of moral leadership to build the same capabilities of those in their own communities. This is what we are beginning to do.
Further enabling the spread of our impact is +Acumen, an online set of learning experiences that has energized a growing global community. More than 400,000 individuals from 192 nations have taken courses on leadership including storytelling, adaptive leadership and design for the poor – all topics covered by the Fellows program.
As a collective, these leaders teach that change is possible. Our Fellows have impacted more than 8 million individuals directly through job creation or through serving low-income groups with education or healthcare or agricultural products, for example. They are building models of participatory capitalism and circular economy. They are leading school movements and waging peace in post-conflict areas. And they are organizing themselves into communities of practice.
Those who sign up for the journey of moral leadership with Acumen are looking not for safe spaces but to walk into the uncomfortable, to dare to reject the status quo as builders, not simply as disruptors. They are signing up for standing with the poor and to doing the hard work of lifelong change. We intend to accompany them as they accompany one another, all of us standing, ten thousand strong for a hard-edged hope in a world that demands we take on the impossible and not cease until we have built—together—a world of human dignity.
Thank you mightily for standing with us.
Jacqueline NovogratzGo To Next Page