Al Hammond

A Successful New Model for Enterprise Development

We received a notice recently that the Acumen Fund was celebrating its 5-year birthday. That’s remarkable, because the organization, with a mission to create and support sustainable enterprises that deliver affordable healthcare, water, and housing to the poor, has accomplished an amazing amount in so short a time, including:

  • More than six million Africans each year have access to life-saving long-lasting insecticide-treated malaria bednets.
  • Almost 7,000 farmers have seen their crops and incomes improve significantly through the purchase of drip irrigation systems.
  • 12,000 women in Pakistan have access to credit and borrowed to build their small businesses and improve their incomes.
  • 430,000 low-cost healthcare services have been provided to rural Kenyans
  • 18,000 South Africans are receiving anti-retroviral treatments through networks of private clinics.
  • More than 5,000 people in Southern India have access to affordable, clean water for the first time.
  • More than 2,000 people, most of them women, now have steady jobs.

Acumen is one of the more interesting of a new category of organizations that practice what I call strategic enterprise development, using imaginative strategies and smart capital and focusing on high leverage sectors. Like Development Through Enterprise, Acumen believes “the best way to solve social problems is through market-oriented approaches that begin with understanding who the poor are and then working with them to create effective business models. By starting with who the poor actually are (rather than who we think they are or should be) and using market approaches, we can gather important information about preferences – such as what price people are willing to pay and/or can afford. While we recognize that some goods, especially in health, must be given to some – but not all – people for free, we are convinced that by using entrepreneurial approaches, the world can do a much better job solving the tough problems of poverty.”

We congratulate Acumen on this milestone.