Course Partner: Acumen Impact Team


November 11, 2014

End Date:

December 15, 2014

Group Size:

3 to 5


4 to 5

Please add yourself to the ‘Watchlist’


Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis


We will offer this course again later this year. Please add yourself to the ‘Watchlist’ and we will send email when the course is open for registration.


Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s  Building Blocks for Impact Analysis

What does social impact mean?
How does Acumen assess social impact when considering potential investments?
How can you apply the same concepts elsewhere?

One of the most common questions we get is how we measure our impact. Is it just the number of lives impacted? How do we know if the goods and services our companies provide are improving lives? When do social and financial goals coincide, and when do they deviate? These questions are core to our work to create a world beyond poverty.

Together with Acumen’s Impact Team, we’ve developed this 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, an individual working at a non-profit, an impact investor or an social entrepreneur, or if you just want to understand what it might take for you to “do good” more effectively, this course is for you.

The world needs you to lead.

Collaborative learning

+Acumen courses are unique in that it highly recommends course participants to take this course in a  group. Many course participants have recruited their colleagues, friends, community, family members to take the course together. We recommend a group of 3-5 people. We will also offer instructions to support those that need to connect with peers virtually.

Please see ‘How the Course Works’ below and the FAQ to learn about groups and how this course works if you want to take it on your own.

Bring Your Own "Impact Challenge"

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 and you will be given the tools with which to think about its social impact – your own impact challenge to workshop 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

You'll Love This Course If

  • 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 of impact
  • 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 of impact

What You'll Learn

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.

How The Course Works

There are no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course. You will work through the course with a group of classmates we call your “Lab Group”. If you want to take this course individually please actively participate via our Google+ Community to make up for the group discussion experience with your Lab Group. Please see FAQ for more information on groups.

Course content will consist of readings and discussions/activities. Each week, you will receive an email with the materials for the upcoming Lab. Each week you will receive:

  • Lab Prep (1-2 hours): To be completed individually before your Lab Group meets (in person or virtually)
  • Lab Guide (typically 2 hours): To be used with your group during your Lab.
  • We ask your group to choose a rotating Lab facilitator for each week. He/she will need to pre-read the guide, and the discussion/activities are to be completed together with the rest of your Lab Group when you meet.

If you are taking this in a group, we  encourage everyone to coordinate with your group members to schedule all of your Labs in advance (for this course, there should be 4 times) to stay on schedule and complete the course in time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do my group members need to be in the same location?

We recommend signing up with a group that is all physically located in the same place. Much of the value of this course derives from the in-person, peer-to-peer learning that happens between group members. With that said, we have had groups cover many of the labs over Skype or Google+ hangouts so it is possible to have a remote group.

Remember, all members of your group need to individually register for this course.

How much does it cost to take this course?

All +Acumen courses are offered for free.

What is the ideal size for my group?

We generally recommend a group of 3 to 5 individuals. It is okay to have larger group but if your group is too big, it can be more difficult to coordinate schedules and make decisions. Having individuals who can contribute to the group from different angles enriches your learning experience. As explained in the section on “Impact Challenge’ above, it is important that your group members have something in common so that they will be all excited to work on a shared Impact Challenge.

What happens if I don't know anyone interested in taking this course with me?

There are a few options:

1) You can still recruit your colleagues, friends, community members, family to take the course together. They can add themselves via this link.   (Please make sure you forward Module 1 email if they are joining after the 12th)

2) Please follow this ‘Looking for a Group’ guide 

Is there a set class schedule every week?

No, the time in which you review the prep material each week is up to you. We will give you estimates but please adjust. Similarly, the time you choose to meet with your lab group each week is a decision between you and your group. So it’s a good idea to consider all your availability when forming a group.

We set the schedule regarding what topic to cover each week but you are free to meet with your group within each week whenever it is convenient for the group. Since we are offering this course globally, across different time zones, it isn’t realistic to deliver the content at a specific time; therefore, we will e-mail each week’s material out on Mondays 00:05am PST of each week and within that week you are expected to review the prep material. Please meet your group to complete that week’s lab during the suggested schedule when possible. More instructions will be provided in Week 1 material.

Will a certificate be awarded upon completion of the course?

The course is really for you and your own personal development; therefore, you will get as much out of this course as you put in.  We will provide an acknowledgement of participation for individuals that complete all 4 weeks of the course and complete all the course surveys and reports. The instruction will be provided in your Week1 material.

More questions?

Please contact Tomoko at

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Community Stories

  • Makoto Matsuura

    Osaka, Japan | "Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen's Building Blocks for Impact Analysis"

    I joined this course thinking I already understood the framework for measuring social impact, but the course materials and the discussions with my course group really challenged my thinking. These examples pushed my group to think more critically about quantifying the ways our work in the field…

    Read More

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