A Great Acumen Conference.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 14, 2006

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.

Reader Comments

niti bhan

November 15, 2006 12:25 AM

Hi Bruce,

David Kirkpatrick is right on the button with his observations. I've been tracking the mobile as a post industrial platform for socioeconomic development at the bottom of the pyramid and in emerging markets for over a year now and can certainly confirm with confidence that all the data point towards the mobile. While other communicators may be developed effectively, the penetration of the mobile has already created an existing technological base for any innovation that we may choose to do on this platform. Self plug here:

http://www.nitibhan.com/perspective/2006/10/broadband_natio.html

Now, if we can mash that up with what Acumen is hoping to achieve, via the cellphone, i.e. services and applications that support commerce, connectivity and communication for those who need it the most, that would be truly superlative.

Best,
Niti

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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