Supplement | HBS Case Collection | September 2009 (Revised May 2011)

Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (B)

by Alnoor Ebrahim and V. Kasturi Rangan

Abstract

As Acumen Fund, a global venture philanthropy firm, moves forward with an investment portfolio exceeding $22 million, it runs into two critical measurement problems. First, how should it track the performance of each investment when its interest is not just the bottom line, but also social impact? What should its performance tracking system look like to enable ease of comparison and to identify problems before they become too significant to fix? The second challenge involves attracting investors. Acumen wants to build the field of "social investing" by creating a new asset class for investors who care about social impact. Doing so will require working with competitors in the field in order to establish benchmarks and standards of measurement. How can Acumen build industry-wide benchmarks when peer organizations are concerned about confidentiality of data? Without such comparisons, how will Acumen attract investors to the field?

Keywords: Venture Capital; Investment Portfolio; Giving and Philanthropy; Standards; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Performance Evaluation; Social Enterprise; Competition; Financial Services Industry; Kenya;

Citation:

Ebrahim, Alnoor, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 310-017, September 2009. (Revised May 2011.)