Last week our signups at +Acumen crossed the 200,000 mark. At the end of 2013, when we crossed the 20,000 mark, we celebrated. Now we are 10 times larger, our growth continues, and we are grateful. This milestone was not a result of fancy advertising or list acquisition techniques. Our growth has been driven by YOU, our community, spreading the word about our courses. We love that. Thank you.
Here’s what we’ve learned about you: You come from all walks of life – gritty international development professionals, new and experienced philanthropists, savvy designers, nerds, activists, lifelong civil servants, idealistic students, hardened business professionals, passionate teachers, retirees, interested parents, and more. You’re curious and compassionate. You’ve got big ideas about change, and you’re ready to take up a challenge.
Together you have completed more than 10,000 projects that have benefited more than 5,000 organizations in 170 countries.
Together you are an active and impressive force for good in the world.
So where are we headed?
Our goal at +Acumen is to give passionate and empowered people a way to step up and create change. We know none of us can change the world alone. It will take all of us building on the successes and failures that have come before. So we do our best to spread innovative tools and insights that work; share our failures and what they’ve taught us; and encourage others to do the same. We package this all into free and open online courses, a means for anyone to learn and apply this knowledge toward the problems and communities you’re passionate about. (In the words of Elon Musk at Tesla, “All our patent are belong to you.”)
We love this work — but it’s surprisingly difficult. Synthesizing lessons takes time and resources. No one really wants to talk about their failures. And organizations are rarely excited about giving away the intellectual property that is often a driver of their revenues and the core of previous growth. This is why we want to take a moment to thank our amazing course partners for taking a leap with us. IDEO.org, Bain & Co., Grameen Foundation, ACCION Venture Lab, The Ariel Group, Cambridge Leadership Associates, the Center for Creative Leadership, the Global Social Benefit Institute at Santa Clara University, our platform partner NovoEd and thought leaders like Seth Godin, Dr. Erik Simanis, Bob Dorf, and Mary Pat Ryan have all contributed generously to our growing library of knowledge. We also want to send big hugs and thanks along to our funders, particularly American Express, a Keystone Partner, for recognizing the importance of what we do as a public good and making it possible.
+Acumen and our partners understand that the world is changing and the urgent problems of today require a new approach: one driven by generosity, collaboration, the courage to innovate across boundaries, and the conviction that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things.
They didn’t tell us. And that’s great!
Last week something else happened. The U.S. Department of Labor decided to use our open online course to train their staff, agencies and grantees around the nation and to actively unlock new innovations that could help get more disadvantaged and unemployed Americans back in the workforce. Winners of the challenge get an invitation to The White House. The most amazing part is that they didn’t tell us about it, they just did it. And that is very cool.
We see more and more large organizations – businesses, government agencies, and international development organizations – seeking to support smart social innovation that starts from the ground up. They’re giving ordinary people the chance to lead change, by encouraging their belief that they can make a difference and giving them 21st-century tools that empower them to do it. Our courses offer a turnkey way to let them do just that — or we can even create a customized package (which also helps us to keep the lights on).
And what’s more, we’re going to continue to enhance the ways our community can actively make a difference while learning in our courses. We’ve always known the value of “learning by doing,” which is why our courses are project-based. And we’ve seen people work on exciting real-life projects in our courses. But we’ve also seen individuals struggle when they start a course with no concrete problem to work on. So rather than drawing case studies from the past, which may feel less immediate, we are experimenting with “live challenges” within a course, where students have the opportunity to apply their skills and newfound knowledge to address a real-life problem that’s affecting real-life people.
It all comes down to people.
Because people are at the heart of everything we do. And that includes you. We’re excited to continue to build learning opportunities that enrich your mind and your soul. We’ll keep on experimenting with new ways to connect people in our community to each other, both online and in the real world. And over time, we’re going to connect you to the best jobs in the sector, to unbelievable volunteer opportunities, and to other people you never knew could change your life.
+Acumen is a people-powered platform for change unlike any other.
Thanks again for showing up. We look forward to changing the world with you.
Founder & Lead Architect, +Acumen