On my first day of work at Acumen Fund, I sat down in the “Nelson Mandela” room for a Monday morning meeting. There were about thirty of us, and we all gathered around a large rectangular table. Each team gave an update on the work they were doing, and talked about the progress being made on the portfolio, on fundraising, and on other projects. The updates ended, and it was time for “ah-has”.
At the end of each Monday morning meeting, anyone who wants to can share an “ah-ha” – a realization they had. We went around the table, and the Acumen staff shared a plethora of insightful realizations. One of them particularly stood out to me.
“It is difficult to find truth, but sometimes it is more difficult to seek truth, because you are afraid that what you find will not be the truth you want it to be.”
The intern that shared the “ah-ha” related this realization to the work Acumen Fund does, and spoke about how we are often afraid to actually question the work we are doing. We are ready to give updates on progress, but are afraid to question the premise that the progress we are making is actually progress at all. Acumen Fund, like many other organizations, is afraid to discover that all of its efforts are a waste.
Yet, it is important to do so. There has been a growing movement toward “assessing the impact of planned social change”. Organizations have been taking steps to empirically assess whether or not they have an impact, and what that impact is. Acumen Fund is one of those organizations.
The same intern that had shared the “ah-ha” had just finished designing a metrics system that would be used to gather and assess data on the Global Fellows Program. The Global Fellows Program team believes that
“Building transformative businesses that serve the poor requires a unique pool of talent comprised of individuals who have the operational and financial skills combined with the moral imagination necessary to create innovative solutions to global poverty. Acumen Fund is addressing this need for talent in the social sector by creating leadership programs that identify, train, and connect these leaders to become architects to the social sector.”
The Global Fellows Program team wants to know if we are indeed identifying, training, and connecting leaders, and if doing so is making an impact. Right now, we aren’t sure if we are making a difference, but we’re continuing to improve the program and hopefully the world until we discover otherwise.
There are so many classes called “Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention”, or “Problems with Foreign Aid” that teach us that the approaches we take to end global poverty may be wrong. However, I don’t think we should stop what we’re doing in order to seek truth. To stop all action would be worse. It is important to plow ahead with what we do know, or else nothing will be done.
All of us at Acumen Fund are here to do good, and intent and action are as important as anything. So here’s my “ah-ha”. Even if you do not know the truth, you can continue to pursue what you believe is right. Yet, it is important to not fear the truth, and to seek it if you can, so that if your actions do not result in the truth you had wished for, maybe you can change your actions so that they do.