The Generosity Exercise

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

 I like to think that I’m smart about the way I make charitable donations. I feel that social enterprises are generally more effective uses of money, therefore I’m biased to charities that follow this model. So when I came across an article in The Boston Globe titled, “Why we give to charity”, I was surprised to learn about a number of studies that found that the more people think about giving, the less generous they are.

One of these studies, done by scientist Daniel Oppenheimer, found that giving donors more information about a charity’s overhead costs makes them less likely to donate, even if the charity’s costs were low. This was due to something he called the ‘drop in the bucket effect’; the realization of how little their contribution is going to help in the grand scheme of things.

It forced me think about my own approach to giving and about all the times I ignored requests for money or just said ‘no’, and it made me realize that I may not be as generous as I previously thought.

So when our +acumen chapter conducted its own generosity experiment late last year, it allowed me to exercise my generosity muscle in an entirely new way: being generous for the sake of being generous; saying yes, instead of saying no.

My giving mainly consisted of small acts, giving money, time or assistance to those who asked. The results from my one-week experiment were subtle; a smile or a sincere “thank you”. But maybe that’s the point of this exercise.

There’s this great TED talk by Luis von Ahn, where he talks about his software reCAPTCHA, that is digitizing books using crowdsourcing. Every time you type in a security word while buying tickets on Ticketmaster or adding friends on Facebook, you are helping decipher older texts that can’t be read by computers. People are digitizing books at a rate of 2.5 million books per year, one word at a time.

I see Generosity Day as spurring something similar, a combination of many small acts that will result in the change we all want to see in our lifetime. Like reCAPTCHA lead to the translation of the web, this one day could lead to a change in the way we interact and make decisions.

In his own generosity experiment, Sasha Dichter talks about giving a man on the subway $20 for medication. There was no way to know whether this money would be used for medicine, and had Sasha not conducted this experiment, there’s a chance he never would’ve given the man money. But by being more consciously generous it lead him to change his beliefs.

There is no one solution when it comes to solving global poverty. Every one is going to need to pitch in. It’s this idea of a culmination of small, positive actions leading to something meaningful, that inspires me and instills hope that I can make a difference.

VANCOUVER+acumen is supporting Generosity Day with these t-shirts, with proceeds going to Acumen Fund. We will also be celebrating with a Generosity-themed Salon on Tuesday, February 28th at a restaurant to be confirmed. Email us at to be notified of details.

– Aki Kaltenbach, @akikaltenbach

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Making an Impact through Social Finance

We’re really excited to be participating in the inaugural Canadian Global Impact Investing Group event: Making an Impact through Social Finance. The event will bring together organizations working to deploy capital to transform lives, create a world beyond poverty, fund social ventures and support sustainable development.

One of our knowledge/education team member, Jocelyn Ling, will be presenting on behalf of Vancouver for Acumen Fund — shar­ing the acu­men model (both on a global and chap­ter level) to the impact invest­ing com­mu­nity in Van­cou­ver. The event will be held on Wednes­day, Nov 23rd from 6:30pm — 9pm at SFU’s Segal Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness in down­town Van­cou­ver. You can check out more details about the event here.

Three other orga­ni­za­tions will also be pre­sent­ing at the event: Vancity, Global Cat­a­lyst Ini­tia­tive and Oppor­tu­nity Inter­na­tional Canada. Also, at the event, they will be giv­ing away door prizes: Impact invest­ing: Trans­form­ing How We make Money While Mak­ing a Dif­fer­ence – Jed Emer­son, Antony Bugg-Levine and Banker to the Poor – Muham­mad Yunus.

Look­ing for­ward to con­nect­ing with other fel­low impact investing/social enter­prise champions!

Update: For those of you who could not make it out to the event, check out Jocelyn’s presentation at the event here.

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Workshop Spots Available!

The Education team has been able to secure a larger venue to host the Case Competition Workshops! If you weren’t able to register for the competition, but would like to participate in the workshops, you’re more than welcome to join us!

Workshop participate will cost $50 at the door and includes all 4 workshops!

The first will be held on Saturday, November 5th at 10am at Buchanan A104, UBC.

For more details on the workshop, click here.

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Case Competition – it’s back!

Excited yet? The Vancouver for Acumen Fund Case Competition: Investing for Impact is back! (more details)

Registration is open to students in undergraduate and graduate studies competing in teams of 3. Successful applicants will be notified by October 24th.

If you haven’t received your confirmation email – check your spam, or email us!

email us if you have any questions:

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A short video from our last Salon

Vancouver for Acumen from Chris McNally on Vimeo.

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The First of Many Conversations at +Acumen Salons

Tuesday, June 28thmarked the first of Vancouver for Acumen’s newly launched Salon Conversation Series; an event designed around conversation and inspired by the values and principles of Acumen Fund.

The idea sprung from our chapter’s two-day moral leadership workshop in early May after posing the question “How can we share more conversations about the values and principles of Acumen Fund in a way that is unique and enriching for participants but at the same time scalable to other chapters?”

Acumen Planning Workshop Vancouver Spring 2011

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Van4Acumen’s journey to implement the Blue Sweater Challenge

Part 1: Listen. Listen. Listen.

‘Jacqueline’s dream would be to see the Blue Sweater Challenge taken chapter-wide.’ said Jo-Ann Tan, our direct contact at Acumen Fund HQ, who has become a friend, mentor and inspiration to me and chapter leaders around the globe.

And that’s how Vancouver for Acumen started thinking about how we could make Acumen Fund’s dream a reality.

The Blue Sweater Challenge was a business plan competition held in Kibera, Nairobi; a challenge to individuals and groups to create change in their community. In true Acumen-style, the winners were given one-year loans instead of grants and charged a nominal interest rate to start their business ideas.

When Jo-Ann first proposed that our chapter implement the challenge, my first reaction was, ‘What could Vancouver and Nairobi possibly have in common?’. But after giving it some more thought, I started to see the similarities between Kibera, Africa’s infamous slum, and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), a neighborhood known as Canada’s poorest postal code.
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