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Making sense of social impact: Acumen's building blocks for impact analysis

Feb. 16, 2015 - Mar. 29, 2015

Together with Acumen’s Impact Team, we’ve developed this free introductory course to help you understand how we analyze impact in our portfolio and how you can apply the same building blocks to any socially-focused company or organization that you are personally excited about. 


We believe this course will be especially insightful for those interested in impact investing, but it is by no means limited to that audience. Whether you are a philanthropist, a professional in the nonprofit, impact investing or social entrepreneurship field, or if you just want to “do good” in a better way, this course is for you. The world needs you to lead.


  • You are someone looking to create a positive change in the world and would like to know if you are actually having an impact
  • You are interested in using impact analysis as a guide to improving the effectiveness of the work you do
  • You are seeking clarity in the constantly changing conversations on defining impact
  • You are curious to gain perspective on how your way of thinking about impact compares to the way others may think ofimpact
  • You are curious about how Acumen considers and measures their work’s impact
  • You work in, or are keen to work in, the impact investing space and are interested in broadening your understanding ofimpact


By the end of this four-module course, you will:

  • Understand what Acumen means by social impact and how Acumen assesses it
  • Be able to apply that framework to an organization/an initiative that you personally care about – your “Impact Challenge”

This is an introductory level course.


There are no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course, but we will have technical and subject matter experts available to assist you online. You can take this course either in a group or on your own.

The course will be offered through a third party learning platform called NovoEd.

Course content will consist of readings and discussions/activities. Each week, you will receive an email with the links to the weekly learning materials and assignment details.

If you are planning to take this course in a group, please see the section ‘Interested in Taking This Course in a Group’.



Taking this course in a group is not required but encouraged. Many +Acumen course participants in the past have described this as one of the most rewarding components of the course experience, helping them to complete the course and build long lasting relationship.

If you already have people in mind to take this course with:

  • You are all set
  • Please make sure that everyone in your group is registered for this course individually
  • The ideal group size for this course is 3-5 but you may have group size smaller/larger than this

If you are interested in taking the course in a group, but do not have a group yet

  • Do not worry. There are various ways for you to find a group for you
  • We recommend a group with members that are physically located in the same place. However, we have had groups conduct group exercises over Skype, Google+ Hangouts or WhatsApps so it is possible to have a remote group
  • Several options
    (1) If you are located in cities where Acumen chapters exist, the chapter might be able to help you get connected with other individuals through meetups. Please check out the chapters’ event page to see if any events are coming up
    (2) You can invite your colleagues, friends, community members, family to take the course together
    (3) You can wait until course start date. We will include instructions so that you can form a group/join a group in the NovoEd platform



As with other +Acumen courses, this course will allow for active application of concepts to a real-life setting that is relevant and meaningful to you. Bring an organization or an initiative you (and your group members) care about to your first group session – your own impact challenge to work throughout the course.

The focus of your impact challenge can be your own social enterprise, a non-profit in your community, a well-known national charity, a government program, a CSR initiative, or a company with a social mission. We strongly encourage groups to decide on one single impact challenge for the whole group. Based on feedback from other courses and the pilot of this course, we’ve found that working on the same challenge leads to the most constructive dialogue and discussions.

We will give more instruction on the “Impact Challenge” in the Week1 material.


A good “Impact Challenge” will:

  • Have a clear statement of desired social impact
  • Allow you and your group to have access to firsthand knowledge of operations of the program, organization, or company OR
  • Allow you and your group to find out more about the operations throughout the course from in-depth secondary sources like: a friend or group member who works at the organization and/or a very comprehensive website, media links, and other publicly available information

An ineffective impact challenge will be one that:

  • Doesn’t have much publicly available information
  • No one in the group knows very well
  • Group members aren’t excited about



END DATE: MARCH 29, 2015



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