Acumen Partnership Opens Doors to Improve Lives

Monica Cederstrom, Matt First, and Mike Kephart are making a difference in the lives of people in the developing world by doing what they do best.


The trio of Dow Human Resources professionals volunteered their time and talent through Acumen, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to tackling poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. Acumen invests in businesses whose products and services enable the poor to transform their lives. Since being founded in 2001, Acumen has invested more than $86 million in 77 companies across Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

One of those companies, Sproxil, has developed technology for cell phones and mobile devices to identify counterfeit products. In one case cited by Sproxil, Australian officials found oranges with fake Australian fruit company labels that had actually been imported after being colored with toxic dyes to improve their appearance.

But Sproxil had neither a business structure in the developing world nor the expertise required to set one up. So Cederstrom, First, and Kephart stepped in, spending eight months helping Sproxil develop and refine approaches to identify, recruit, grow, and retain mid- and senior-level talent, as well as formulate sales commission plans.  

Sproxil is just one example of Dow involvement cited by Acumen in its new report “Social Enterprises and Global Corporations: Collaborating for Growth with Impact.” In the report, Acumen trumpets a new development philosophy that expands opportunity for people to live better lives through purpose-driven entrepreneurs who cross traditional industry boundaries and harness new technologies.


Yasmina Zaidman, Acumen director for Strategic Partnerships, writes in the foreword of the new report about a meeting with representatives from across Dow’s venture fund, foundation, sustainability, and human resources operations.

“I had never before had a meeting like that with one of our corporate partners, but I was unwittingly part of an emerging shift in how social change organizations and corporations are working together,” Zaidman wrote. “Since then, Acumen has developed a partnership with Dow that reinforces investments that both of us have made in scaling social enterprises, developing leaders and creating more sustainable and inclusive business models.”