Market-based innovations to serve the poor
Acumen seeks to jump-start the creation of social enterprises that give the poor choice and help transform their lives. Between 2013 and 2016, we partnered with Acumen to invest in and scale-up five promising companies that improve access to quality education and job readiness in low-income communities and provide reliable and affordable clean energy solutions to off-grid communities.
Between 2013 and 2016, we partnered with Acumen to invest in and scale-up five promising companies that improve access to quality education and job readiness in low-income communities and provide reliable and affordable clean energy solutions to off-grid communities.
- Education portfolio: Acumen invested in LabourNet, a vocational training company in India that focuses on informal sector workers, and Edubridge, a customizable job training program that caters to rural and semi-urban students between the ages of 18 and 25 in India. LabourNet provides training in construction, information and communication technology, arts and fashion. Edubridge seeks to place trained students in entry level jobs in banking, retail, and financial services. Acumen also supported Hippocampus Learning Centres*, a company that provides pre-school and after-school coaching programs to children aged 3-12 in rural Karnataka, India.
LabourNet has trained over 450,000 students and Edubridge has trained over 70,000. During the period of Acumen’s investment from 2012-2014, Hippocampus served over 7,000 students.
(*Please note that Acumen has since exited Hippocampus).
- Clean energy portfolio: Acumen invested in BURN Manufacturing, a company that produces low-cost, highly efficient cook stoves in Kenya, and Frontier Markets, a company that tackles last-mile distribution challenges in India, working with small retailers to sell affordable clean energy products, such as solar lanterns and home systems, to rural customers living in remote areas.
BURN partners with microfinance companies to develop financing plans for their distributors and end users, and has impacted close to 1 million lives since Acumen’s investment in 2015. To date, Frontier Markets has sold close to 90,000 clean energy products in the Indian state of Rajasthan, and has impacted over 380,000 people.
- Women and Social Enterprises: a study
The Cartier Charitable Foundation also funded a study by Acumen and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to understand how social enterprises can engage and improve the lives of women and make markets more inclusive by integrating gender across the value chain. The resultant report “Women and Social Enterprises: How Gender Integration can Boost Entrepreneurial Solutions to Poverty” presents findings from several case studies of social businesses in Acumen’s investment portfolio, examining how they are engaging and impacting women and where there are opportunities to further do so. The outcomes, although preliminary, suggest that introducing gender-integration strategies in social business is not only ethically effective but also sound socially and business-wise.