Press Release: Acumen Launches 60 Decibels to Make Lean Data an Impact Measurement Standard for Impact Investing
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Acumen today announced the spin out of Lean Data SM, its unique approach to impact measurement, into a separate social enterprise, 60 Decibels. By creating a standalone company, Acumen and 60 Decibels aim to accelerate the adoption of Lean Data and set a new standard for how impact is measured by social enterprises, impact investors and the international development sector as a whole.
Developed by Acumen under the leadership of Sasha Dichter and Tom Adams, Lean Data leverages the power of mobile technology to communicate directly with low-income customers and beneficiaries, collecting high-quality impact data efficiently and at a fraction of the time of traditional approaches. In five years, the Lean DataSM team has gathered social impact data from more than 85,000 customers from 33 countries and worked with more than 150 social enterprises and not-for-profits including Omidyar Network, Ceniarth, Global Partnerships, CDC Group and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
Lean Data builds on Acumen’s work over the last 18 years to advance and standardize impact metrics: Early on, Acumen co-developed PULSE, a framework and data management tool to track impact data with Google and SalesForce, and later helped create the Impact Reporting and Investing Standards (IRIS), playing an important role in shaping performance metrics for impact investing.
“Acumen has always been committed to working toward a future where social impact matters just as much as financial returns,” said Acumen’s Founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz. “We wanted to prove to the world that we need to measure what matters to change business as usual. Lean DataSM makes this possible and stands on the shoulders of our efforts along with many others across the sector. What started as a tool for Acumen to better understand how our investments serve low-income populations has quickly became an exciting new vehicle that has the potential to fundamentally change how we look at social impact. We believe there is an incredible opportunity to scale this approach to impact measurement and deliver more value for companies, investors and beyond.”
The spin out comes at an important stage in the development of impact investing. While the sector has grown to more than $500 billion in assets under management, there is still no commonly accepted approach for gathering and reporting high-quality impact data. There are also no widely adopted benchmarks for impact, making it difficult for investors and enterprises to assess their impact performance against peers.
The Lean DataSM approach addresses these issues, putting the voice of the customer at the center of impact measurement in ways that are responsive, fast, and help social businesses better serve their customers and create more impact. Dichter, who was with Acumen for 12 years, most recently as Chief Innovation Officer, and Adams, who was Acumen’s Chief Impact Officer, will lead 60 Decibels as co-founders.
“When we began to build Lean DataSM, we knew first-hand the challenges social enterprises and investors face in gathering meaningful data to guide investment decisions and improve performance,” said Dichter, 60 Decibels Co-Founder. “Our goal is to reset the impact management conversation. Impact boils down to a person’s lived experience, but no one is talking to customers, suppliers and employees in a systematic, comparable way.”
As part of the spin out, 60 Decibels raised $1.7 million in an investment round led by Ceniarth, a family office based in London, with participation by Acumen and four individual investors. Acumen and Ceniarth will both hold board seats in the social enterprises and remain major clients, continuing to use the Lean DataSM approach to inform their impact measurement and investment processes.
“As an impact-first investor willing to make financial trade-offs for deeper impact, we, at Ceniarth, are frequently confronted with nuanced decisions around the specific demographics of the customers that our investees are serving, as well as the long-term effects of various product and service offerings,” said Diane Isenberg, Ceniarth’s Founder and Director. “Lean Data provides us with the practical insights that we need to make evidence-based comparisons and investment decisions. We are proud to support 60 Decibels, not only as a client, but as an investor, as we believe it brings critical transparency to the impact investing sector.”
“Ultimately we want to help bring investors and social business leaders closer to their customers to make impact management both real and useful,” said Adams, 60 Decibels Co-Founder. “To effectively manage impact, this kind of measurement must be standard rather than surprising. Imagine a time when reliable, comparable measures for impact are as common as those for revenues or internal rates of return. That will be the moment our sector is powered by the sort of information it needs to reach its full potential for creating positive change.”
Photo courtesy of Dean Hochman.
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