Acumen, an international non-profit NGO working across various developing countries of the world in different initiatives for empowerment, has been shut down by the Government allegedly over security issues. The organization used to empower individuals and companies working towards sustainable business and ideas.
Acumen has over 15 years of experience working for alleviating poverty throughout different regions of the world. In Pakistan, they had a fellowship program which brought together 20 odd Pakistanis each year working across social media change from across the country. Unfortunately, following a more strict policy towards foreign-funded NGOs (particularly international NGOs), the government has ordered to shut down the Acumen Pakistan fellowship program.
Last year, the government of Pakistan ordered 18 international NGOs to shut down their work in Pakistan. Most of these NGOs worked on human right issues, however, one of these international NGOs was accused to be following “an anti-state agenda”. ActionAid, the mentioned NGO said that it received an expulsion notice from the Ministry of Interior to pack up their business and leave Pakistan.
While the state affairs regarding security is an extremely sensitive matter and we cannot comment about which side was right and which side was wrong. This does, however, pose an important question which is that this new policy towards the social sector of Pakistan adopts a much stricter stance and potentially means bad news for the local business and social sector. If we take the example of Acumen Pakistan, which was working on the social well-being of Pakistanis and focused on developing entrepreneurial skills in Pakistan and to help low-income Pakistanis out of poverty. The termination of such NGOs is disappointing news for Pakistan’s social sector.
Devastated to share that the Acumen Pakistan fellowship journey I began this year will no longer continue. The government has shut Acumen, an INGO, down in Pakistan. Me and 18 other fellows are heartbroken. (1)
— Atika Rehman (@AtikaRehman) June 13, 2019
Acumen Pakistan Fellowship Program
Acumen Pakistan Fellowship Program was harnessing the power of entrepreneurship to reduce poverty and build sustainable models to move millions of Pakistanis out of poverty. This program focused on investing four sectors in Pakistan:
As evident from the areas of investment, Acumen Pakistan is investing in areas which primarily focus on human development and social well-being. Their termination is definitely bad news for Pakistan since Acumen Pakistan’s investment approach has been to assist companies in their early stages and bring commercial value with lasting social impact and play a key role in human development. According to the Acumen Pakistan website:
“We look for companies at the earliest stages of innovation that are creating real commercial value while driving lasting social impact. Unlike a traditional nonprofit or a VC, we invest philanthropic dollars, rather than give them away, into extraordinary entrepreneurs committed to improving the lives of Pakistanis living in poverty.”
Acumen Pakistan achievements
Some of their important achievements include:
- $16M invested since 2002 in breakthrough innovations in Pakistan
- 7M lives impacted by providing jobs and household support
- trained 109 emerging leaders
As for tech and startups sector, many tech leaders in Pakistan have gone through the fellowship program of Acumen, namely, Waqas Ali, Founder of Atoms & Markhor, Maryam Mohiuddin, Founder of Social Innovation Lab, Saad Hamid, Community Manager at Google, Daniyal Noorani, Founder of Wakhra Studios, etc.