Measuring Social Investments

Tuesday 2 October 2012 13:00 to 14:30
IDS Room 221

Vinay Nair discussed the rapidly evolving tools, techniques, opportunities and challenges of measuring social investments.

Listen to Vinay Nair (speaker) and Stephen Spratt (moderator) talk about how they think it is possible to measure and assess the impact of businesses on development, what the criteria and qualities are for an initiative in order for membership to be meaningful and what they took from the seminar. Hear the interviews on Mixcloud above and listen to Vinay Nair’s seminar on Measuring Social Investment.

Key points from the seminar

  • The Acumen Fund sit in between traditional investors on one end of the scale and philanthropists at the other end of the scale. They define themselves as ‘Patient Capitalists’. By blending the goals of achieving social and financial returns, The Acumen Fund invests in long term and high risk projects where traditional investors and philanthropists cannot.
  • Giving an investment is one part of the process, but providing post investment management is vital. Acumen fund follow five steps when working with a company:
  1. Select Metrics
  2. Set Targets
  3. Collect Data
  4. Synthesize Outputs
  5. Review & Take Action.
  • Measuring impact is not a ‘post mortem’; it should be about measuring the pulse of a business
  • There should be a standardisation of impact measurement to ensure all sectors are speaking in the same language and talking at cross purposes. Acumen Fund, with other organisations have come up with the following:
  1. PULSE - to gather and manage the financial, operational, and social data of companies across different geographies and industries. Metrics data are collected monthly or quarterly to help us assess the real-time health and impact of our portfolio companies (built by Acumen Fund and Google)
  2. Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) - IRIS is a set of standardised metrics that can be used to describe an organisation’s social, environmental, and financial performance (founded by Acumen Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation and B Labs).
  • The poor should not be considered as passive recipients of aid, but as active agents in their own decisions.

About the speaker

Vinay is responsible for Acumen Fund’s Business Development in Europe. He is a former Executive Director at J.P. Morgan London, where he was head of a fixed-income marketing team. He took a sabbatical to work on microfinance and social enterprise, primarily in India.

He subsequently worked for the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative in Mozambique, and on secondment to the Ministry of Health, co-led the successful application for $175 million, 5-year HIV/AIDS funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He has launched two social enterprises, one in rural Mozambique, working with HIV-positive women to make and sell jam, and one in the U.K., focusing on out-of-hours primary health care, for which he received an award from UnLtd. Vinay received his BA (Hons.) in Economics and Political Science from Trinity College Dublin and an MPA from the London School of Economics.

At LSE, he conducted a group capstone project on Indian rural electrification with Acumen Fund and its investee, Husk Power Systems. Vinay sits on the Board of Acumen investee, Durable Activated Residual Textiles (DART). He is on the Advisory Board of the Centre for Talented Youth of Ireland and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

For more information on this seminar, or any others in the series, please contact Vivienne Benson. This event is part of the Business and Development seminar series, hosted by IDS' Globalisation team.


Institute of Development Studies, Library Road, University of Sussex
T:01273 915653
E:v.benson@ids.ac.uk