Acumen Fund Fellows Manager Blair Miller speaks at the 2009 Investor Gathering in NYC.
Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture fund, uses entrepreneurial approaches to tackle problems associated with poverty. Established in 2001 by Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Fund has pioneered the use of market-based approaches to bringing critical goods and services to low-income people. Working with innovative entrepreneurs in impoverished regions throughout the world, the businesses that Acumen supports focus on water, health, housing, energy, and agriculture.
Through its work Acumen Fund seeks to prove that small amounts of philanthropic capital, invested with large doses of business savvy, can establish sustainable and thriving enterprises. Acumen believes that poor people seek dignity, not dependence, and their global team -- with offices in four countries -- work to enable people to solve their own problems instead of providing them with aid. The key is patient capital. Acumen Fund uses philanthropic capital to make disciplined investments -- loans not grants -- that yield both financial and social returns.
With over twenty-five investments throughout Pakistan, India, and East Africa, and many more in the pipeline, Acumen believes that using entrepreneurial and market-based approaches to poverty, they will work to finally solve the problem of poverty.
Blair Miller is Acumen Fund's Talent Manager, a position she assumed in February 2009. Her primary responsibility as Talent Manager is running Acumen Fund's Fellows Program, a program created to develop global leaders with the operational, financial, and management skills to run successful businesses combined with the moral imagination to create lasting social change. Blair’s experience in market-based solutions for development is drawn from both business and policy. She has helped develop a social impact assessment framework for base of the pyramid (BoP) business ventures like VisionSpring and Hindustan Lever's project Shakti, spearheaded youth-centered policies and education programs at the United Nations, and worked on a micro health insurance project with Ashoka's Full Economic Citizenship Initiative in India. Blair also worked with CARE in El Salvador to develop the business plan for an investment vehicle aimed at scaling small and medium-sized BoP enterprises. Blair holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Virginia.
Through the Fellows Program, Acumen's goal is to build an entrepreneurial bench of professional talent with strong operational skills, experience in low-income markets, and the moral imagination to build enterprises that meet the needs of low-income consumers. Each year, Acumen Fund recruits highly talented and passionate young professionals to reflect on their role as leaders, build their leadership capacity, and provide much needed management support to our investees.