The partnership between Acumen Fund, Dow Chemical and the Dow Chemical Company Foundation and select additional stakeholders will:
1. Accelerate the development and distribution of products and services in the agriculture, water & sanitation, and energy sectors through business model innovation and technical assistance to social enterprises within East and West Africa.
2. Provide practical insights into opportunities to better serve low-income consumers globally that entrepreneurs as well as global corporations can apply. These insights will emerge through a convening and subsequent initiatives focused on knowledge sharing as well as collaboration between Dow and regional entrepreneurs serving the poor.
In order to achieve these goals, Acumen Fund and Dow will:
- Create a technical assistance fund to provide financial support for projects that can support local social enterprises. Dow Chemical will be an anchor partner, with a commitment of $300,000 for this partnership for a minimum of 3 years. Acumen hopes the fund will reach $1,000,000 over 5 years which could include funds raised from other institutional partners.
- Host an Innovation Summit in Kenya as well as follow-up meetings that bring together key personnel from Dow Chemical and other partners, along with Acumen staff and local entrepreneurs working in the energy, agriculture and water & sanitation portfolios. Acumen's work has seen major growth in East and West Africa and the region is a critical new market for Dow.
- Facilitate collaboration between local entrepreneurs and members of the technical assistance team where there is a true alignment of needs and capabilities. Dow will provide in-kind contributions of talent and expertise, drawing from Dow's Global Sustainability Corps, a skills-based employee engagement initiative that supports Dow's Corporate Social Responsibility goals by harnessing the skills and capabilities of Dow employees. Similar engagement from others will also be sought to compliment Dow's capabilities.
Q1 2013 (Phase 1): Framing the partnership by establishing alignment on objectives, designing a framework to capture learning and shared insights, identifying participating entrepreneurs from Acumen's portfolio and matching resources with high level goals including outreach to other potential partners.
Q2 2013 (Phase 2): Innovation summit in Kenya with participants from all partners, and a subset of the 18 entrepreneurs from Acumen Fund's active investments in East and West Africa to identify opportunities for acceleration, technical assistance, learning, collaboration, and research. The summit would be carefully framed and expertly facilitated to draw out insights on local market opportunities and challenges, and to lay the groundwork for ongoing direct collaboration between partnership participants and local entrepreneurs.
Q3 2013-2015 (Phase 3A): Technical assistance funding and ongoing collaboration, including joint projects TBD between partners. Taking into account the recommendations of funding partners, Acumen Fund will provide the majority of the funds for technical assistance projects with 4-6 of its enterprises. Technical assistance funding could include support on technology and product development, manufacturing processes, environmental health and safety and supply chain management.
Q3 2013-2015 (Phase 3B): Capture and disseminate insights and impact milestones in partnership with academic or research partner. Additional dissemination through convenings and presentations at key fora.
Q4 2015 (Phase 4): Analysis and report, final convening of partners in US or Kenya. Evaluation of the project's success and possibility of replication in other geographies.
2016-2017 (Phase 5): Based on results from years 1-3 and an evaluation of impact, as well as continued funding from partners, the initiative will continue through 2017.
Despite the potential for people in the developing world to escape poverty through their own hard work and creativity, billions of the world's poor still struggle to meet their basic needs. Whole communities are limited by systemic challenges - the most critical among them being lack of access to energy, agriculture inputs and safe drinking water - and thus are unable to improve their circumstances. Today, more than 75% of East and West Africa's population lives in rural areas, the majority of whom are smallholder farmers living on less than $2 per day. In urban areas poverty is also pervasive, with 60% of Nairobi's population living in slums without basic services like water, sanitation and electricity.
Acumen Fund has addressed these gaps in access by investing patient capital (both debt and equity) in social enterprises providing critical goods and services in the agriculture, water & sanitation and energy sectors for people making less than $4 a day. The patient capital Acumen provides is accompanied by management support for companies on their path to scale. In part due to Acumen's support, the enterprises in Acumen's East and West Africa portfolios are able to bring affordable, life-changing products and services to the poorest communities. However, these businesses require and can benefit greatly from additional diverse forms of support, and there is an opportunity for corporate involvement in providing the resources, technical assistance and funding that can enable these social enterprises to grow and serve their target customer base.
This commitment, led by Acumen, Dow Chemical and the Dow Chemical Company Foundation, offers a model for corporate partnership that would combine the strengths of each partner to achieve a catalytic effect in the expansion of social enterprises serving the poor, with a focus on East and West Africa.
Acumen is seeking additional corporate partners to contribute to its Technical Assistance Initiative with both technical expertise and financial resources. These corporate partners are committed to responsible growth in emerging economies and understand the value in learning from and engaging with social enterprises operating within these markets. These partners are also interested in understanding how social enterprises best serve the poor with critical goods and services in East Africa, West Africa, India, Pakistan, and Latin America.