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Starting in 2020, Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship teamed up to share the skills, step-by-step processes, and community needed for developing a scalable social enterprise model in East Africa.

Over 19 weeks, social enterprise teams — alongside their close-knit cohort — learned the essentials of building a business model that can achieve both social impact and profitability. During the program, they received access to case studies from Acumen social enterprises and curriculum materials pulling from IKEA’s business knowledge and insight. After diving into business lessons, they then completed their own assignments, applying these lessons directly to their own businesss. Biweekly, they came together as a cohort for interactive Learning Labs to give and receive feedback from their peers. In addition to regular peer-mentorship, they also received biweekly individualized coaching from our team of IKEA advisors.

In total, participants spent about 8 hours per week learning business skills and applying their lessons directly to their own organizations. Every other week, 1-2 leaders from their social enterprise came together alongside their cohort to discuss and deepen their understandings at facilitated Learning Labs. Although a max of 2 leaders could participate in the Learning Labs and receive access to the peer community, up to 10 people from each social enterprise received unlimited access to the curriculum.

The programs culminated with an in-person Summit in East Africa where they attended their final workshops, networked with peers and industry leaders, and pitched their ventures for up to USD $25,000 in seed funding. You can learn more about the 2020 and 2021 participants and coaches below.


Case Studies



Sandor Barna (2020, 2021)
Jonathan Bengtsson
Umberto Bigoni (2020, 2021)
Carlos Cruz (2020, 2021)
Dora Ding
Carlos Escoto Picazo
Zoey Feng
Andrew Fraser
Christoffer Frisk
Peter Fröberg
Mattia Gobbi
Jocelyn Goh
Anita Goyhenetche (2020, 2021)
Elisa Hendriksen
Per Henning Borgvall
Raul Jimenez
Catherina Klepper
Kertu Kuldmaa
Kerstin Lundqvist
Azaliah Mapombere (2020, 2021)
Delia Naicu
Christina Niemelä Ström (2020, 2021)
Emma Nilsson (2020, 2021)
Paulina Pajak
Sophie Post
Caroline Steene
Hana Tvrda Jakobova
Maria Valassa
Yuhua Wang
Anna Wieteska (2020, 2021)


Justyna Baber
Niklas Backstroem
Petter Björkebäck
Ioannis Charalampidis
Godfrey Ddamulira
Davide De Martin
Yvette Feek
Ettore Frizzi
Remco Hempenius
Jenny Hjalmar Åkerblad
Lena Julle
Alexandra Kirchner
Manne Krispinsson
Nils Kromhout
Libor Kuvik
Christoph Mathiesen
Josephine Meijaard
Emile Mohlmann
Jens Nielsen
Binna Park
Ivy Qian
Johann Spriet
David Svensson
Josja van der Maas
Anne van Steenoven
Joachim Verplancke
Anneleen Waterloos

Past Participants

External Studies

Findings and Conclusions

The Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship partnership finds success in fostering a culture of continuous reflection, learning, and desire to improve.

Building off of the 2020 inaugural program, the 2021 program featured an exciting new impact measurement module where social entrepreneurs learned tools for effectively collecting and assessing their data. Each Social Enterprise also benefited from a more strategically selected cohort of later-stage enterprises, which allowed them to create strong synergies as they accompanied each other through similar pain points, successes, and solutions. 

2021's cohort program concluded with a newly expansive 3-day final summit where social entrepreneurs, coaches, and the IKEA and Acumen communities gathered virtually to share parting advice on overcoming challenges and scaling for impact. The event concluded with a reinforced commitment to growing and strengthening a community of like-minded entrepreneurs across East Africa.

Key Takeaways

The program in many way can be seen as a success, from helping participating Social Enterprises to identify and listen to customers, to finding new ways to scale their business. However a few key learnings jumped out after two years of program administration:

  • Multiple Social Enterprises that took part in the program report that they are able to pass on new knowledge and skills to their team and they have started to work together to achieve goals to scale
  • The support and timing of the program has helped the Social Enterprises navigate the COVID-19 pandemic many mentioning that the program has increased their resiliency and given them a renewed focus on how to improve their business
  • The individuals who took part have benefited from leadership development which better positions them to run an impactful enterprise.
Today, we have a better understanding of our business and how to scale. We also have more confidence to do experiments and have been able to test our key assumptions.
John Nyagwencha, CEO, Aqua Clara Kenya
We had a great product and story but the path to scaling was a bit vague for me. This program has shown me the clear steps I need to take, and given me the tools to achieve them.
Azariah Mengistu, CEO, ENZI
We have a much clearer path forward. By working with our coaches, we now have a better idea of how to narrow our focus to be more efficient and better predict profitability.
Carly Oosten, Partnership Dir., Imani Collective