Innovations to Eradicate Global Poverty

Innovations to Eradicate Global Poverty

A Long Now Boston Community Conversation with
Eleanor Murphy (Acumen) and Katherine Collins (Putnam)

See the post-event Summary here: Innovations.

June 3, 02019: 7PM at the CIC Venture Café — Doors open @ 6pm — Come early and meet other Long Now thinkers – Tickets are available on Eventbrite

Extreme poverty has been a “normal” part of human experience since our species’s origin. For hundreds of years, those who live beyond poverty have been trying to “help” those who are poor. Yet after all of those efforts, and despite the wealth, technology, and connectivity that exist today, deep poverty persists. There must be a better way.

Traditionally, poverty was a charitable concern, to be addressed locally or within ethnic or national boundaries.  In the 20th century, a new humanitarian ethic began to emerge, giving rise to big government philanthropy and development.  While both private charity and government play important roles, vast populations remain in poverty. Half of the world’s population is poor, and many lack access to infrastructure and resources that would meaningfully improve lives. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879, but electricity does not yet reach one in seven people on earth today. A billion people worldwide live in communities without basic health care. Acumen and Last Mile Health are two philanthropic organizations taking novel approaches to remedy these gross inequities.

Acumen ( is a philanthropic organization that embraces a radical approach, rooted in the mission of providing dignity to every human being.  It starts by listening to the voices of the unheard. It provides capital that works for, rather than controls, and serves as a means, rather than an end.  Innovation is key: Embracing what works; Letting go of what doesn’t; Taking risks supporting entrepreneurs who treat the poor like customers, delivering both profitability and outsized social benefits.  The approach requires lots of patience, combined with a healthy infusion of business acumen.

Last Mile Health ( began with a vision of universal justice, quality, and care, and the ambitious goal of achieving access to health care for everyone, everywhere, every day. The focus is centered on the power and effectiveness of community health workers who are part of the communities they serve.  By training, equipping, supporting, and paying these professionals, quality care can be delivered effectively. By partnering with government and others in the field, the community benefits are amplified.

Together with other trailblazers whose work is driven by a similar moral compass, these organizations are embracing and navigating the tensions that exist in an interdependent, interconnected world.  The goals are lofty, and also achievable: to use innovation, capital, and – most of all – deep human connection, to create a future without the poverty and injustice that have persisted through the millennia.

Come hear their stories and join the conversation.  Be part of the solution.


Eleanor Murphy is Director for East Coast Development with Acumen, a philanthropic investment company founded in 2001.

Katherine Collins is Head of Sustainable Investing at Putnam, Founder of Honeybee Capital Foundation and author of the book, The Nature of Investing.  Katherine is also the board chair at Last Mile Health.

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

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