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At the five-year anniversary of the Acumen Fund, I listened to Fareed Zakaria deliver one of the most insightful keynote speeches I’ve ever heard. Points: 1- Globalization is raising the global economic growth rate, pulling more people out of poverty in the last five years than at any other similar period in history.
2- Demand for oil has raised the income of Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Sudan and a dozen other countries, allowing their elites to be anti-American. For the many authoritarian oil states, it has allowed the ruling elites to be anti-democratic. Russia, for example, has backtracked on its democratic shift.
3- So while globalization is knitting the world ever closer economically, it is also setting other forces in play that are centripal.
David Kirkpatrick, senior editor at Fortune for technology told the audience that there were 1.5 billion cell phones in the developing world today and as they plug into mobile computing, they are connecting into new systems of health care, payment, and information. He thinks the cell phone may be the real platform for changing villagers lives, not the Negroponte $100 laptop, but David welcomes it and the Intel web communicator and anything else that might work.
Seth Godin talked about storytelling. A portion of the proceeds from his book, The Big Moo, is going to the Acumen Fund. He was up right before me and, unfortunately, I tuned him out a lot to focus on my own comments.
I spoke (we only 3 minutes so people really blasted through their presentations) about design thinking and how Acumen was using the same kind of strategies (consumer-centric, experimentation, iteration, etc.) that companies increasingly use to innovation and grow. Indeed, the line between profit and nonprofit is eroding as all organizations use design thinking to solve problems. What is the Bottom of the Pyramid but the consumer base?
I ended by telling Acumen that it is building a portfolio of innovation models at the Bottom of the Pyramid. that it should send up to the Top of the Pyramid. This is especially true in their health projects.
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