A dash of (A)cumen: The recipe behind Acumen Fund’s investment strategy

Yesterday, Acumen Fund‘s Chief Investment Officer Brian Trelstad came to NYU to conduct a live case study on a real company that Acumen Fund invested in, in an effort to educate MBA and other students on the investing strategy and process of this innovative social venture fund. I actually wrote about Acumen’s approach sometime back.

The company under scope was Ziqitza Healthcare Limited (better known at Dial 1298), a for-profit ambulance service located currently in Mumbai aiming to provide ambulance assistance for all in 15 minutes. Using a willingness to pay revenue model, the company subsidies services for the poorest through fees generated from providing care to those that can afford to pay.

Before I jump into the heart of the case study, here is a video that we were shown at the outset of the lunch. In addition to providing ambulance services, the company is now also figuring out innovative ways to power their vehicles with renewables. You can read the rest of the review after the jump.

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Using future markets for social entrepreneurship?

  • A McKinsey & Co. report on prediction markets quotes James Surowiecki: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see prediction markets used in many more companies than today, not least as a tool to forecast sales. Consumer-facing companies should be particularly interested.”
  • Knowledge Management gurus Tom Davenport and Dave Snowden jumped into the fray to cool easy enthusiasm.
  • An article in the New York Times introduces the concept of futarchy. According to Robin D. Hanson, an economist at George Mason University and a fan of alternative institutions, futarchy is “a form of government enhanced by prediction markets. Voters would decide broad goals of national welfare, but betting in speculative markets would determine the policy steps to achieve those goals.”

When I read this post, I could not help but wonder if future markets could be applicable to social entrepreneurship. The first bullet point spoke to the use of such markets to predict the changing consumer preferences for companies. It would seem as though such information would be useful for understanding the evolving needs and desires of BoP customers as well. Can future markets be modified to be applicable to the BoP? Or is modification necessary, can we use them out of the box today?

Likewise, for social investors prediction markets could figure out what innovative approaches to specific problems are most likely to be effective and help guide them in their investing decisions. Anyways, just some food for thought. I need to think further about this, but I am sure you will hear more from me about this in the ‘future.’

Amartya Sen encapsulates why we should care

One of the ongoing discussions that is linked ot the field of social entrepreneurship is the very nature of what this concept truly means. In a talk held at Stanford University this week, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen eloquently and concisely spoke to the issues of empowerment and enlightenment, and I feel as though his words form a great basis for our own conceptualization of our purposes here.

1- If you feel threatened it makes intelligent discourse impossible
2- For creating a just society: Empowerment is not enough. You must to ensure “enlightened empowerment” which can only come from public discussion and giving a political voice (to those who are not being heard)
3 – Recognition (or fame) can useful unless it becomes a substitute for doing anything useful

These points were summarized by Neerja Raman on Digital Provide: From Good to Gold.

TED | Talks | Yochai Benkler: Open-source economics (video)

Here is an interesting video on social networking and the advent of open-source economics. This is a trend that I believe will have significant positive effects on the social entrepreneurship scene.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.ted.com posted with vodpod

2008 Skoll World Forum Starts Today

This looks like to be a very exciting event, and while it is too late to attend in person, Skoll has hired the help of livebloggers for the entirety of the conference. Go here for live updates. ThinkChange India will be following closely via the same feeds and will be providing periodic updates over what is being said during the conference, if you want a more concise recap of the events.

To make organization easier, we will create a temporary category labeled as SWF2008 so that you can quickly and easily head to it.

Back from exile and my reading list on vacation

This past week I was in Costa Rica on vacation, and while the trip was no doubt amazing it kept me away from a computer and thus unable to blog. However, the trip did give me sometime to catchup on some reading. I was able to rifle through the last four Economists, an Atlantic Monthly and the most recent issue of Fortune. On top of that I have managed to get halfway through Midnight’s Children. But I digress … here are some  articles I cam across from these periodicals that I thought would be of interest to the ThinkChange India community.

From the Atlantic:

  • A son that lets his parents be involved in choosing his bride in India is 11% less likely to marry a college educated spouse and 20% less likely to marry someone who works. The study suggests that since over 80% of parents live with their kids that they select mates for their sons in a way that retains the power dynamic of the household in their favor.

From the Ecoomist(s):

Podcast: Security in a Changing World — Multilateral Institutions in the 21st Century

Here is a talk conducted by the NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, Master’s in Global Public Health Program and Wagner’s Office for International Programs. It is part of the Conflict, Security and Development Series.