GIIN Investor Forum: Common Themes Emerge from Inaugural Meeting
by Jason Henning, director of investor relations, Global Partnerships
Blended capital. Bottom of the pyramid. Pay for success contracts. MFIs, CDFIs, IRIS and SMEs. Dive headfirst into a conversation on impact investing and it’s likely you’ll need a glossary of terms within reach.
Fortunately, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) was established not only to help industry participants navigate the field, but also to build the field itself. The GIIN is aimed at increasing the scale and effectiveness of the impact investment industry by creating infrastructure and developing education and research. I recently had the pleasure of participating in the inaugural GIIN Investor Forum, an event designed to address common themes and best practices from the industry.
Topics covered a range of salient issues facing the sector, including a focus on specific impact areas (viable food systems, financial services for the poor) and discussions on the legal, operational and political aspects of investing. But two themes were given consistent voice throughout the two-day conference:
1. market-rate solutions in impact investing; and
2. the need for catalytic first-loss capital in getting more money flowing to viable programs.
As more institutional investors with financial obligations look to link their investments with social impact, capital that seeks market-rate returns is stacking up. Fund managers can often be caught in the middle, as some investors look to maximize profit while others are seeking high social performance within the same fund.
Speakers at the forum, however, mostly issued words of caution. Matt Christensen, Global Head of Responsible Investment at AXA Investment Managers, warned that if investors don’t adjust return expectations to risk, an impact investing bubble is on the horizon, much like the shock Andhra Pradesh sent through the microfinance sector. Investors were urged to tie pricing and time horizon directly to the impact they’re seeking; in rural settings, for example, where there are fewer economies of scale, investors must be more patient and be realistic on rate.
The value of risk capital also permeated the conference. With the GIIN’s most recent issue brief as a backdrop, many presenters spoke to the importance of catalytic first-loss capital in generating the flow of more traditional capital into the impact investing space. Most capital within the industry is sitting on the low-risk end of the spectrum, while most impact investment deals are higher risk. A range of credit enhancement products aimed at unlocking private capital was explored—including grants, subordinated debt and guarantees—all designed to peel back the first layer of risk.
Topics discussed at the GIIN Investor Forum parallel much of what we’re trying to accomplish here at Global Partnerships. Our goal is for 100 percent of our capital to be catalytic and aimed towards impact. We see the importance of philanthropy within impact investing to seed early-stage opportunities and later attract private investors. And we work closely with our investors on establishing rate expectations to align with the specific impact we’re seeking. We look forward to continuing to add our voice to the conversation and help build the industry.
Global Partnerships Featured in Annual List of Experienced Impact Investment Fund Managers
We are honored to share that we have been chosen for the ImpactAssets 50 (IA 50) list for the third year in a row. The IA 50 is a free online resource for impact investors and their advisers which shows the diversity of available impact investment opportunities by highlighting fund managers that have demonstrated experience and impact.
The list is selected annually by industry experts and thought leaders, such as Jed Emerson, ImpactAssets’ chief impact strategist. We look forward to continuing our mission of expanding opportunity for people living in poverty.
The Impact of Giving
by Carol Gullstad, Global Partnerships donor
All parents want the same thing for their children—they want their kids to be healthy, educated and have sustainable economic opportunity. We heard this sentiment expressed in every household visited during our recent PartnerTrip to Peru. However, not all have the access and opportunities to succeed.
My own family is lucky. We are educated, healthy and economically secure. Knowing that only a very small percentage of the world population enjoys these comforting thoughts, we want to help others. However we always struggle to determine the right mix of personal time and money to apply to all the great causes just in our own backyard, let alone the rest of the world.
As a family we want to do the most good for the most people with our available resources. Thus, after attending the Business of Hope luncheon for many years, we decided to learn more about GP’s impact work first hand.
This past June I traveled to Peru with my 12-year-old son and saw Global Partnerships’ (GP) support of microentrepreneurship in action. We visited 10 clients with businesses ranging from seamstress to fruit cart vendor to farmer. We observed training sessions provided by GP's Peruvian partners and attended communal bank meetings.
Since its inception GP has invested nearly $100 million in loans and grants to 66 different partner organizations—who together now serve over 2.26 million people. These are impressive statistics, but it’s not just the numbers and the money. It’s the method. For an entrepreneur it’s about planning, budgeting and support networks. It’s about how to create a customer experience, deliver the service or product at a good value and get repeat business. All of this takes time, money and training. We saw how GP’s approach knocks it out of the ball park and has been such an important catalyst for change.
Adelaida Quispe, a client we visited in Tomilla, outside Arequipa, used to earn $30 per week sewing for someone else. She began with a $75 loan that allowed her to purchase a sewing machine. Initially she sewed traditional costumes for holidays. Then through the training received by GP partner ADRA, she broadened her product line to include costumed dolls. These dolls are now sold in several area shops and she was able to buy a second machine to expand her business. She now earns $350 per week. A loan of $75 has transformed the life of her entire family and will allow her to educate her children.
In Urcos we attended a “tambo” (communal bank) meeting conducted by partner Credivision. We witnessed a training session on the five key elements of marketing and sales presented in a visual of a hand. This was business literacy provided in a way that was actionable for clients who may have left school in 5th grade. The women enthusiastically chanted the tenants and said they looked forward to the meetings. They loved the learning, support and the camaraderie of their peers.
We visited a communal bank meeting in Chincero that had a session focus on customer service. One member of this group known as Las Leonas, Hilda Huallpayunca Callanuapa, had embraced the training thoroughly and was encouraging others. Through interactions with tourists she learned enough words in five languages (Italian, French, English, Chinese and Portuguese) to converse with customers. She insisted we go to her store. She was so effective in her presentation of product and customer interaction that we fondly called her the “Nordstrom” of Chincero for the rest of our journey.
On the last day of our trip we were buying last minute souvenirs in Cusco. I asked my son if he was ready to negotiate price. He said, “I really don’t feel comfortable bargaining because I know that one sol (Peruvian dollar) means so much more to them than it does to me.” At that moment I knew he understood the importance of Global Partnerships’ work. GP has made an incredible impact on people’s lives in a way that is measurable, scalable and sustainable. That is why I can so enthusiastically support GP. We have seen that every dollar my family donates or invests will creates exponential leverage, right in our own “backyard.”
Opportunity: The Value of a Chance
by Enrique Godreau, III, board member, Global Partnerships
In honor of the International Day to Eradicate Poverty (October 17, 2013), we wanted to share remarks from Enrique Godreau, III, keynote speaker at our 11th annual Business of Hope Luncheon, held on Oct. 8, 2013 at the Westin Hotel in Seattle. He spoke about the value of having the opportunity to create a successful life for himself, and how people living in poverty around the world also deserve to have a chance at success.
As a kid living in Puerto Rico, I often swam in its warm surrounding oceans. While looking for the next larger wave to body surf, the current would pull me further and further out. And when I had to swim back in, it was only then, fighting the invisible forces of nature, that I knew that I had swam too far. I took chances, and as a result, struggled to make it back to shore.
All of us here have stories to tell of chances we took while young. And many of us have stories to tell of the chances we are taking today. We take chances in business. We take chances with relationships. We take chances when we take that new job. Every day, we make decisions that consider the possible outcomes, and we choose to take a chance.
Now, stop for a moment and imagine a world where there are no chances to take. A world that because of where you were born, when you were born, or the circumstances that you were born into, that your life is choice and chance free. Where that sacred geometry of chance combines to say, "No, you don't have a chance."
I have lived a life that could easily have been chance free. This in spite of the fact that I had two parents that gave all they had, and didn't have, so that my brother and I would have a chance. As a Hispanic going to school in the South Bronx in the early seventies, there were few chances to be had.
As a fourth grader, I remember crying all the way home because a 6th grader had forced me to take a puff of a cigarette. With urgency, I apologized to my mother believing I would die of cancer by morning. “If only I had a chance,” I remember thinking; “I would go to a better school.” Ultimately, I got a chance, made some choices, and changed my life.
In 2005, Mike Galgon, a member of the board of directors of Global Partnerships, approached me about a nonprofit organization he was involved with. That organization was Global Partnerships. He told me that they were thinking about a different model for supporting the organization’s mission. Mike asked if I could meet with the Chief Investment Officer and comment on the idea. Ten minutes into the conversation, I was hooked. Even to a geeky, computer scientist turned entrepreneur, the concept seemed innovative, simple, and scalable.
The gift of Global Partnerships’ concept is based on leveraging our relationships with microfinance institutions (MFIs), built with the support of many of the donors and investors in this room, to create a distribution platform for a suite of life-changing services. Across five funds, Rick Beckett, Global Partnerships’ President and CEO, and his incredible staff have developed a sustainable model for helping people living in poverty that otherwise would have few chances. People that live on less than $2 a day. People that lay awake at night wondering how they can get a break, how they can get a chance. And with that chance, the opportunity to make a different life for themselves, for their families, and for others.
In April of this year, the Board of Directors of Global Partnerships took a week-long trip to Nicaragua and Honduras. The purpose of our visit was to meet with some of our MFI and cooperative partners and their members in those regions. What was most striking to me about the trip was reaffirming the tremendous, life-changing value of a chance. When we met with Elma and Olivio who run a pharmacy, a convenience store, a pool hall, an auto garage, and grow coffee in their 2 acres of land so that they can feed and educate their immediate family, I witnessed the value of a chance. When we met these women who told me in Spanish, “Take our picture, because we are the prettiest things here,” outside of a women’s health clinic providing their inaugural pap smear, I witnessed the value of a chance. When we visited with Raphela in her home in the hills of Nicaragua and toured the land that she, her husband, and 7 kids harvest, allowing many of them to go to school, and even some to build cinder block homes, I saw the value of a chance.
And take a close look at this picture. Hanging from the ceiling is a solar light that had been installed just 30 days prior. This family had owned this property for years and years, yet it was the first time that they had an electric light in the house. Though Edison’s first demonstration of the electric light bulb was on December 31, 1879, this family got theirs last April thanks to the support of one of our MFI partners. This solar light also charges their cell phones. Before they had this charging capability, they had to walk an hour into town, pay up to 4 US dollars, and waste the better part of a day charging phones.
Global Partnerships' Impact and Catalytic Investment model has been consistent, and frankly, executed better than many for profit companies I know.
They thoughtfully test the viability and sustainability of a new service. They identify and fund partners to enable a distribution channel. And finally, they assess the impact and refine the operational model as needed.
For nearly 20 years, Global Partnerships has been singularly focused on one mission, providing opportunities for people living in poverty. The brilliance of what Paula and Bill Clapp founded is an organization driven by shared values and a shared vision that harnesses the power of shared responsibility and shared opportunity.
As we dine together in this room, I ask you to join with the Global Partnerships’ family and take advantage of this opportunity to help us give many, many more people a chance. One of the persons that we collectively help may be the one with the insight that finds the cure for cancer, that advances our understanding of the laws of physics, or that dramatically increases agricultural yields. Providing opportunities to those that don't have them actually gives all of us a chance to realize a better life.
Earlier, Margaret mentioned that we have a very special guest with us. Florinda Salinas, an Honduran wife, mother, and entrepreneur is here to tell us what the value of a chance has
meant to her and to her family. Let’s watch this brief video and learn a bit more about Florinda. Thank you.
What’s the Challenge in Getting Solar Technology to Poor Families?
by Danny Stokley, Green Technology Fund Program Officer, Global Partnerships
“I’m sorry,” offers Alicia, the co-founder and president of Buen Power, a social enterprise that sells solar products in off-grid communities surrounding Cusco, Peru, “We don’t have any more of that model in stock.” Francisco, a farmer from Acchauata, has hiked for two hours, and then taken a two hour bus to reach the Buen Power office in Cusco, essentially dedicating a full day just to buy two d.light products. Unfortunately, due to the challenges of a global supply chain, Buen Power has just sold out of the model Francisco is requesting. This is not just bad for business; it’s heartbreaking for Francisco and the families who would benefit from this technology.
Francisco is part of a network of entrepreneurs who buy small solar lights from Buen Power and resell them in their home communities. Buen Power is a small, entrepreneurial, mission-oriented social enterprise. They spend a great deal of time working in off-grid communities and finding creative ways to reach the most remote villages with solar energy. Buen Power is connected with many of the industry leading manufacturers of affordable off-grid solar products, and have developed an innovative last-mile distribution network (i.e. distribution to those who live in the most remote, rural regions). Still, they struggle to find the working capital to keep up with demand.
THE CHALLENGE: LACK OF WORKING CAPITAL
One of the main challenges for social enterprises, like Buen Power, who are trying to reach the most remote populations with solar lamps, is the lack of working capital available to purchase products. It’s really that simple. The smaller, more affordable solar products are usually manufactured in China, and importers often have to pay in full before they ship. In addition, the largest manufacturers prefer to work with importers that can place orders for a full container (typically $100k and up). This means distributors have to invest large amounts of capital 3-4 months before they even have a product to sell which presents a major challenge for startup social enterprises, particularly those who work with more remote populations.
DEMAND IS THERE; THE INVENTORY IS NOT
The most troubling part of this is that the demand, typically the biggest obstacle when selling products to poor customers, is strong. Replacing kerosene with solar light is an obvious improvement that most off-grid families immediately recognize. At the end of the day these products are practical for families – helping them lift themselves out of poverty by extending their work day and study time while also saving them money. One thing is for sure – if someone is willing to travel for an entire day to buy a product with such enormous social impact, we must find a way to keep up with inventory.
CAPITAL CONSTRAINTS ACROSS THE VALUE CHAIN
Our research has shown that capital constraints hinder all levels of the solar light value chain, and I got a chance to witness this first hand in Peru last month. From manufacturers that are reluctant to offer credit to importers to last-mile resellers like Francisco who could sell many more lights with access to a small loan, lack of working capital sector-wide is a recurring theme. To address this challenge, we are currently in discussions with manufacturers, distributors, and microfinance institutions involved in the supply chain, and are committed to leveraging GP funds to increase access to solar lighting products that have the potential to change lives.
Could Social Impact Bonds Be Used to Capitalize Preventive Health Care Solutions in Latin America?
by Lara Diaconu, vice president, Health Services Fund, Global Partnerships
Social impact bonds (SIBs) are an emerging impact investment vehicle that enables governments to innovate in the prevention of costly social ills. The way it works is that impact investors (i.e. foundations and high net worth individuals) receive a return linked to clearly defined program results. Social impact bonds have to date been devised to finance interventions that reduce recidivism rates, teenage pregnancy rates, juvenile delinquency, and to increase employability of students.
In early October, the US Department of Labor announced $24 million in grant awards to pilot SIBs to increase employment and reduce recidivism among formerly incarcerated individuals in Massachusetts and New York. And at the IDB’s annual FOROMIC conference last week in Guadalajara, Mexico, experiences were shared from the UK and Colombia. Despite relatively recent reports that remain skeptical about their efficacy noting that it’s too early to see results, SIBs seem to be gradually gaining in popularity as a means for the public sector to encourage funding innovation for social impact – using more risk-tolerant sources of capital.
On the surface, it would seem that there could be lot of potential for SIBs to work in the health sector as well. We know that investing in prevention (like PAP exams to detect cervical cancer) and behavior change (replacing sugary drinks with water, eating healthier, getting more exercise) can reduce the incidence of cancer and diabetes. We know that the overall costs of care decreases, and quality of life increases, when those living with chronic conditions receive maintenance care from a primary level health care provider instead of waiting until their condition deteriorates so much that they require hospitalization.
Could SIBs be used to capitalize preventive health care solutions in Latin America?
A couple of initial thoughts:
- In many countries, the public sector does not currently absorb the long term cost of health care, so the economic incentive to invest in prevention might not yet be clear. Across Latin America governments are struggling to finance the most basic health infrastructure, and budgets may not be bearing the burden of preventable conditions such as cervical cancer or diabetes. The costs of not getting an annual PAP exam, or of consuming foods high in fat and sugar, is currently being borne directly by individuals, who incur exorbitant costs treating chronic conditions diagnosed in a later stage. At least this is the case for the large majority of people working in the informal sector with no insurance coverage.
- Many health prevention interventions are largely proven, but lack the resources and distribution channel to reach the last mile. SIBs might be an option if the public sector in fact has the mandate and resources allocated to address a given preventable condition (for example cervical cancer), but decide to take a risk on a lower cost distribution channel (like a microfinance institution, or a non-profit organization).
In reflecting on my time at the FOROMIC conference, I see many possibilities and I look forward to learning more as the sector grows. Social impact bonds appear to have some supporters, but the jury is still out on whether or not they’ll have an impact.
Beyond Strategy and Vision: Let’s Create Opportunity
By Gregg S. Johnson, board member, Global Partnerships
As we approach our 20th anniversary in 2014, we’re beginning to craft our vision for the future as a nonprofit impact investor. Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in several strategic planning sessions at Global Partnerships (GP). It’s a delight to work with my fellow board members and the GP team as we consider all facets of our work, think about bold ideas and wrestle with the strategic choices before us. We’re using a three-pronged approach to inform where we’re headed and where we want to go. Simply stated, we:
1. LOOK: Our vision must be informed by looking at the broader landscape and context of the world around us. Global development is constantly being shaped by forces and trends that influence the solutions we pursue and goals that we set. From climate change to the role of information communications technologies (ICT), to the maturation of microfinance as a viable and readily capitalized channel we must understand the effects these forces and trends have on the direction we’re headed and the role we wish to play as leaders.
2. LISTEN: We listen to industry thought leaders, but most importantly we listen to the people that have the closest relationships with the people we serve: our partners. Our teams in Managua and Seattle gather information, insights and knowledge about the needs, challenges and conditions that impact our partners and the borrowers they serve. Listening to what our partners tell us, we’re able to understand and co-create solutions that we can then invest in for testing, sustaining or scaling up. We also talk to our peers and other leaders in the space; drawing wisdom from their years of experience. We don’t want to reinvent anything. We just want to reflect and refine in order to achieve our collective goal of creating opportunity for people living in poverty.
3. LEARN: We’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years. We’ve learned that integrated services coupled with access to capital and delivered through existing channels like microfinance organizations and cooperatives can have a deeper, longer-lasting impact. We’ve learned that grant capital is needed to catalyze innovative, market-sustained solutions. And that taking risks is easier said than done. Some will join us on the journey and others will not. We’re learning about that, too.
I can’t help but get excited at the amazing work we’ve done, but I’m even more excited about the new opportunities before us. Looking, listening and learning is embedded in our work and helps us improve and continually strive to become a better organization. It’s not easy work and it takes time. But at the end of the day, our goal is to create opportunity no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. As the authors of a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article say:
In the coming few months, we’ll be finalizing our strategic plan and vision for the future. We look forward to sharing it with you so, be sure to watch this space and if you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog. Sharing and staying informed of our work is a great way to help make a difference.
Light Up Hope on October 8
We hope you'll join us for this year's Business of Hope Luncheon (BOH) on October 8, which will highlight our early-stage Green Technology (GreenTech) work. Your attendance will help support our GreenTech work, which aims to connect families that live in rural, un-electrified areas, with access to affordable, renewable energy solutions, such as solar technologies.
Currently, our GreenTech initiative includes new investments in social enterprise partners in Honduras and Nicaragua; our partners have developed business models that allow rural families to purchase affordable solar solutions. Solar technologies have the potential to help increase family incomes, boost educational achievement, improve health, and reduce negative impacts on the environment.
Our BOH guest speaker, Florinda Salinas, is an example of the benefits that solar technologies can offer (her story is below). Please click here to learn more about or register for BOH. Jane Stonecipher, a GP board member and BOH event co-chair, would also like to share with you 3 reasons to attend BOH (click to watch).
Meet Florinda Salinas, this year's featured BOH guest speaker
A pile of utility poles lay on the ground one block from Florinda Salinas’ house in rural Santo Domingo, Honduras. They have been there for months, maybe even years. Florinda explains that the poles are intended for an electrical expansion project that will connect her town to the nearest energy grid. She then laughs and says, “I will believe it when I actually see light bulbs glowing in town.” Electricity will not be coming to Santo Domingo any time soon.
Roughly 1.4 million people, or 40 percent, of Hondurans living in rural areas do not have access to a reliable and affordable source of electricity. This means not having enough light to work or study at night, spending limited and often unstable income on expensive and unhealthy sources of energy such as kerosene, and difficulty charging electronics like cell phones to conduct business or keep in touch with loved ones. Through hard work, Florinda qualified to receive a loan to buy a solar home system through Global Partnerships’ (GP) partner, COMIXMUL, a cooperative that provides women with savings and credit products and access to health services/education and green technologies.
With the solar home system, Florinda and her husband Oscar save money on kerosene costs and can continue weaving hammocks after dusk; the Salinas’ hammock business is their main source of income, so maximizing work hours is critical. They can also charge their cell phone, which they use to communicate with their wholesale hammock buyer and keep in touch with their eldest son, who is studying on scholarship in Tegucigalpa, a city over 100 miles away.
Additionally, their younger sons, Edras (8), Edson (10), Lester (15) and Eric (17) can now study under bright solar powered lights. Florinda, who only attended school until the sixth grade, is certain that education is the key to her sons’ success. “I want my kids to become professionals. I don’t want them making hammocks. I want a better life for them,” and having the solar home system helps light the way forward.