Putting the “Partner” in Global Partnerships
by Ricardo Visbal, vice president, portfolio management
Our partnerships with microfinance institutions, cooperatives and other social enterprises are what enable us to do what we do: expand opportunity for people living in poverty. Partnerships allow us to reach underserved populations by leveraging existing local channels. Our approach is bolstered by a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article, which says, “To ramp up impact and create long-lasting change, organizations must explore ways to set the global standard in their field. This requires an ecosystem around the idea—replicating through partnerships.”
What do we look for when we seek out partners?
Our first and foremost concern lies in creating impact for people living in poverty. This means that when we search for partner organizations, we seek out high-performing organizations that:
1. are mission-aligned;
2. emphasize social impact first; and
3. are dedicated to reaching underserved populations.
It's important that there is mutual interest based on mission alignment. Successful collaborations happen when all parties work together based on "recognizing that both sides have strengths, and by identifying both sides’ points of view and the areas in which they overlap,” as described by Francisco Moreno, executive director of Espoir, a GP partner in Ecuador.
What does our partner selection process look like?
To select the highest performing partners, we employ a very rigorous process that is rooted in answering the following question: does this organization match the profile we are seeking?
The ideal GP partner has:
1. strong social impact;
2. alignment with one or more of our four impact areas (health services, green technologies, rural livelihoods and microentrepreneurship); and
3. a sustainable business model.
Identifying potential partners
Finding partners that match all of our criteria can sometimes be challenging, but in order to achieve the social impact we seek, we put on our “dreamer” hat and believe that everything is possible. When we find potential candidates, we then take that hat off and get down to business, because “a dream without a plan is just a wish.”
That is to say, once we narrow down potential partners, we conduct field visits to systematically and critically analyze the organization to determine if they are truly a good fit. A typical field visit lasts one week and involves a(n):
1. Interview with the social program manager to learn:
- how extensive the program is;
- if its business model is or has the potential to be market-sustained;
- how many people benefit from the program; and
- if its reach can be scaled.
2. Interview with the executive director and a board member to comprehend the leaderships’ level of commitment to the organization’s non-financial programs, and whether or not they are key drivers in the organization’s goals. This interview also helps us determine the strength of the organization’s governance.
3. Interview with the financial manager to validate the organization’s financial performance.
4. Interview with the business manager to analyze the organizations competitiveness against other peer organizations.
5. Interview with the internal auditor manager to inquire about their balance and checks system.
6. Interview with the IT manager to learn if the organization’s information management system is robust enough to keep financial and other essential information organized.
7. Interview with the accountant to learn how accurate the financial statements are.
8. Visit to one or two branch offices to ensure that the credit process and policies are followed as described at the head office.
9. Most importantly, an interview with the clients. They are the best source of information to learn if the organization provides a valuable service—beyond access to credit and financial services—that yields positive and lasting impact.
If the field visit goes well, and we have enough evidence to believe that the organization has strong social impact, is aligned with our impact areas, utilizes a sustainable business model, and possesses strong portfolio quality, we are then delighted to invite them to join us as a partner.
Interested in becoming a GP partner?
We currently work with organizations throughout 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. If you are a social enterprise that works in these regions, have reviewed our impact areas and believe your organization is a good fit, we encourage you to download this PDF and/or visit this link to fill out a pre-application. We will then be in touch with you after receiving your pre-application. If you work in other regions, please continue checking in with us as we continue to expand and grow.
GP Presents at SOCAP13 — Annual Conference that “Grows Social Good Economy” via Impact Investing & Social Enterprise
by Jason Henning, director of investor relations, Global Partnerships (GP)
UPDATE: Read our blog post on "3 Things Learned at SOCAP13" here.
As a fund development professional, my weeks are often filled with insular activities that lead to a rather intimate relationship with my keyboard and telephone. My day to day includes reviewing prospect lists, drafting investor reports, and setting up meetings with funders. Please don’t misunderstand me; these are all important aspects of my role at GP, but they often leave me wanting for face to face dialogue and discussion.
That’s why I look forward to real-world meetings and substantive impact investing events. Fortunately for those of us in this sector, the good folks at Social Capital Markets have been hosting the SOCAP conference series since 2008. SOCAP is a gathering of investors, foundations, institutions, and social entrepreneurs “dedicated to increasing the flow of capital toward social good.” Last year was my first time attending SOCAP, and I can honestly say that the quality of the conference content is equal to the ease with which you can make personal connections. Nearly 2,000 attendees are expected at this year’s event, dedicated to “Accelerating the Good Economy.” Among the attendees is my colleague, Lara Diaconu, vice president, Health Services Fund, who will participate on a panel on how different kinds of public and private sector investments can be used to create positive impact in global health.
The themes for next week’s conference include:
- Health: investing in health and well-being
- Oceans: investing in the link between people and planet
- Communities: place-based innovation and development
- Meaning: the connection between mission and me
- Investing: impact investing and philanthropy
From my experience it’s rare for a conference to provide both a platform for rich, meaningful dialogue on topical issues and the opportunity to engage with fellow attendees and practitioners. SOCAP gets this right.
I look forward to sharing anecdotes and insights from SOCAP13 real-time via the GP Twitter account (@GPSocialImpact). I’ll also provide a summary of the event after its conclusion, so please subscribe to our blog if you haven’t already—you won’t want to miss out.
You can attend SOCAP13 virtually by:
- Getting live tweets from SOCAP13 via our Twitter page @GPSocialImpact
- Following the conversation on Twitter with #SOCAP13
An Inside Look at the 6th Latin American Forum on Village Banks
Our team returned earlier this month from the 6th Latin American Village Banking Forum held this year in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Wonder what happened? Here’s a photo recap.
Who attended the conference?
- Mark Coffey, chief investment and operations officer
- Lara Diaconu, vice president of GP’s Health Services Fund
- Ricardo Visbal, vice president of portfolio management
You can learn more about our team here.
Here's what our team did:
1. Met with current partners that also attended the conference and got updates from them
2. Conducted field visits with partners to see their impact in action
3. Met new potential partners
4. Moderated a panel called “Sustainable Models of Village Bank and Health Services”
5. Celebrated Latin American culture
All photos © Global Partnerships 2013
One Way our Partners are Redefining “Productivity”
by Lara Diaconu, vice president, Health Services Fund, Global Partnerships
A couple weeks ago I moderated a panel on sustainable health services models at the 6th Village Banking Forum held this year in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Two of our partners, Pro Mujer in Nicaragua and ESPOIR, presented what they had learned about what it takes to implement high performing health services programs via the village bank platform. While much was shared, one main takeaway I had was the importance of investing in staff capacity, particularly investing in those on the “frontline” of integrated service delivery with clients.
One striking example was made by Gloria Ruiz, general manager of Pro Mujer in Nicaragua. She shared how one day of every week is spent training their credit officers – on health topics, on sales techniques, on participatory education techniques, on human development and financial education - skills, values, and knowledge that credit officers need to be able to stimulate conversations among clients, transmit key information about how to prevent and manage prevalent health conditions, and promote health services and behavior changes that can improve lives.
Investing in staff capacity may sound like a no-brainer. However, dedicating one day a week to staff development is a strategic (and costly) decision but one they believe is worth it to better serve their clients. Quick calculations indicate that the economic tradeoff for investing in building staff capacity results in a loss of thousands of dollars in potential income for the institution. This means an increase in costs per client which decreases productivity and efficiency, standard measures used to assess microfinance institutions.
That is to say that “productivity” of credit officers is generally interpreted to be a key indicator of institutional strength, as the more clients each credit officer can manage, the lower the costs per client to deliver a loan, and therefore, potentially the more profitable the institution. Lower costs per client is also key for those institutions with a mission to serve lower income segments, as it renders it more economically feasible to deliver lower average loan sizes. These key operational indicators signal to both senior management and the microfinance industry how streamlined an institution’s processes are, and how competitively they can price their financial services in the market. To all of this, Gloria simply stated, “We have redefined productivity.” In this instance, productivity is defined by strengthening their staff capacity to provide the essential knowledge, information and services to meet the needs of their clients effectively even if it means less income for the institution.
Pro Mujer’s approach enables them to deliver quality education and services that improve the health opportunities for women micro-entrepreneurs in Nicaragua. It’s a bold, strategic decision but it is very much aligned with their commitment to do what it takes to be more than just a financial services provider.
What’s it like to Intern at GP?
We were lucky enough to have several student interns join our team this summer and wanted to take a moment to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, as well as what they’ve learned about impact investing, global development, and the nonprofit space. They worked throughout GP in different departments, including development, green technology, and marketing and communications. We will miss having them around after they return to school this fall!
Meet our Interns:
Morgan Babbs is a rising junior at Tufts University double majoring in economics and international relations with a focus on development economics. She joined GP’s Green Technology team as a field intern in Managua, Nicaragua, where she assisted a new GP partner, MiCrédito, in implementing its budding solar product lending program. Morgan is pictured with Denis Membreño, a MiCrédito credit officer and one of her colleagues over the summer. To learn more about Morgan’s work and the challenges in bridging the energy gap in rural Nicaragua, you can read her blog post here.
Josh Ewing is entering his freshman year this fall at Washington State University, where he intends to major in civil engineering. He worked closely with Nathalia Rodríguez Vega, GP’s financial and economic analyst, and received training on how to build a Microsoft Access database before he helped start construction of a library of impact investing reports and materials for GP’s internal use.
Amelia Merritt attends New York University and is entering her junior year this fall. She is majoring in media, culture, and communications and minoring in both social entrepreneurship and French. As an intern for the marketing and communications team, Amelia aided in various projects, including the promotion of GP’s new website. Her main project consisted of researching various methods of analyzing social media metrics and developing a plan of action to optimize our social media channels.
Ella Van Cleve is a rising junior at The Northwest School in Seattle and interned with the marketing and communications team. Her main projects included helping with the launch of GP’s new website and composing social media posts. Ella also completed an in-depth research project on Google AdWords optimization. She subsequently implemented her findings into the structure of GP’s AdWords campaigns.
Helena Victor attends Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where she will soon begin her fourth semester as a math and economics double major; she also hopes to minor in anthropology. As the development intern this summer, the majority of Helena’s work focused on organizing GP’s fall events, including the Business of Hope Luncheon and the Escala celebration.
Questions and Answers:
1. How did you hear about GP and why did you decide to intern here?
“I’ve been interested in global health/foreign aid for a long time. When I heard about Global Partnerships from a close friend a few years ago, I immediately took interest because I strongly believe that GP creates a ripple effect that produces lasting, impactful results. [I believe that…] through improving the economic situation of an individual, we can create a ripple effect that improves all aspects of his/her life, including health, education, etc.” – Helena
“A good friend of mine talked to me about someone he knew in Seattle […] that worked with various organizations in Latin America– this "someone" was Peter Bladin (VP of GP’s Green Technology Fund)! My main field of interest in development economics is access to financial resources, so I was drawn to GP's mission from the start. Furthermore, this past semester I planned a social innovation symposium at Tufts, where I got my first exposure to impact investing, something I've been really into since then. Lastly, concerning microfinance institutions, I've always been drawn to the organizations that take the extra step to offer more than just credit-- things like financial literacy courses, community development, or access to technologies-- which is what GP focuses on with many of its partners.” – Morgan
“I was excited to apply to be an intern for Global Partnerships’ marketing and communications team after hearing about it through a family member. I wanted to be a part of the organization’s innovative work, pioneering a fresh, sustainable method of financial growth for families and individuals living in poverty in lieu of the traditional system of aid that has a high potential of relapse.” – Amelia
2. Please share one thing you learned during your internship about impact investing, global development, or a career in the nonprofit space.
“I learned that everyone in the nonprofit space works extremely hard, and it is a collaborative and team effort. The departments are smaller, so each member of each department has a lot of responsibilities and there must be communication between different departments for the organization to run smoothly.” – Ella
“Since I was working with the Green Tech fund and aiming to provide solar products through a microfinance institution (MFI) by partnering with solar tech companies in Managua, it was interesting to learn about the pros and cons of investing in an MFI versus a solar tech company to get maximum impact. Both present challenges, but investing in an MFI provides the benefit of a fully developed network of clients, a strong community influence and positive reputation, and an extremely well-trained, experienced, and knowledgeable staff keen on delivering excellent customer service.” – Morgan
“I learned through my internship that there is a big field for impact investing. I also learned that there are a lot of people with a lot of money are out there who are looking for sustainable ways of helping people living in poverty.” – Josh
3. How do you think what you learned and experienced at GP will apply to your future studies/career?
“Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn no longer conceal mystical algorithms or seemingly haphazard page displays; I have deeply researched the inner workings of these social media platforms as well as investigated several new sites such as Klout and Paper.li. This research project has grown my colloquial understanding of social media into a solid skill and expertise that I am able to offer to both nonprofit and for-profit companies.” – Amelia
“I feel that with the work I did building an internal library, I can now create a basic database that is user friendly for myself and others to keep things tidy.” – Josh
“I don't think I could have asked for a better experience. The mix of tasks–spending tons of time in the field, meeting with tech suppliers, working with credit officers, developing microbusiness models, planning methods of product delivery, working with financial models... It gave me such a well rounded experience that will apply to any sort of development work I plan to do–it was excellent to get some pilot program implementation experience under my belt. Lastly, considering that access to financial resources is my main interest in development, it was great to see how the network for an MFI can be tapped into to provide even further resources for development.” – Morgan
4. What did you enjoy most about your internship?
"I loved the diversity of tasks. At the end of my internship I put together an info session for people interested in selling the small solar products. Two attendees signed up for a loan right then and there and they were given a consignment product to try out for a week. The cherry on top was that one of them was a man that I was sitting next to on my bus commute out to the field one day that I just happened to ask if he was interested in selling solar products. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you!" – Morgan
"I do my best work when I feel some responsibility for the projects on which I'm working, and [my projects at GP] really gave me something to be excited about!" – Helena
“I really enjoyed seeing the "behind the scenes" work of a nonprofit. In this day and age, social media can help make or break companies and organizations, and I loved being a part of the social media process.” – Ella
“Global Partnerships was truly invested in my professional growth, not just my completion of the work that was assigned. They had an immense interest in my mastery of specific skills that I had mentioned were of interest and they continually checked in and made sure I was benefiting as much as I possibly could from the internship.” – Amelia
Volunteer with us:
- Please click here to see volunteer opportunities in our fundraising department.
- Please click here to see active internship opportunities.
How Social Enterprises Use Different Business Models to Make an Impact
While all of our partners are classified as social enterprises – mission-driven organizations which apply market-sustained strategies to achieve a social purpose – each employ different business models that catalyze the flow of essential goods and services to people living in poverty. Here are a few examples:
- Pro Mujer International utilizes a village bank model to integrate credit with health education and services. The village bank channel helps Pro Mujer mitigate credit risks, as a system of cross-guarantees strengthens repayment rates. This model also allows Pro Mujer to conduct its loan collection and deliver non-financial services in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
- Our partners within our Rural Livelihoods impact area make use of a variety of business models to provide credit, technical assistance and commercialization services to smallholder farmers throughout the region. Los Andes, structured as a credit and savings cooperative, delivers credit, education and health services to its members; because members own the entity, the cost of these services is affordable and tailored to meet their needs. NORANDINO, also a credit and savings cooperative, serves smaller fair trade and organic certified cooperatives with credit and savings products, while its member-cooperatives provide certification training and access to specialty markets to NORANDINO’s member-farmers.
- Within our Green Technology impact area, we’re exploring models that enable access to solar-powered products for last mile, non-electrified communities. While some of our cooperative and MFI partners provide financing for solar products, we are also looking at models of social enterprises that design, manufacture and/or distribute solar light and power products in the developing world.
From our observation, the best models protect against excessive credit risk, are market-sustained, scalable, and serve as efficient distribution platforms for appropriate services beyond credit. As a nonprofit impact investor, we will continue to uncover and invest in a variety of business models that advance our mission of expanding opportunity for people living in poverty.
- Read our latest Investors Report, which covers the second quarter of 2013 (April 1-June 30, 2013), and provides a sneak peak at one of our newest partners, Pro-Rural in Bolivia.
- Discover more about all 37 of our current partners by checking out their profiles, photos, videos, and "impact in action stories" in our interactive partner grid.
Three Challenges in Bridging the Energy Gap in Nicaragua
by Morgan Babbs, Green Technology field associate intern, Global Partnerships. Morgan is a rising junior at Tufts University, majoring in economics and international relations, with a focus on development economics. Morgan spent her internship navigating through rural terrains in the extreme heat of a Nicaraguan summer with a MiCrédito loan officer; together, they raised awareness about the benefits of solar energy to rural, off-grid communities that lack access to electricity. Morgan reported to our GreenTech team in Seattle and served as our contact on the ground as we continue to assist MiCrédito in the formation of its new solar-lending program.
MiCrédito is a new Global Partnerships (GP) partner in Nicaragua that aims to connect rural, off-grid populations with access to solar technologies. With technical assistance and funding from GP, as well as new relationships with Nicaraguan solar companies Tecnosol and NicaSolar, the social enterprise will begin offering financing for solar products, thus potentially connecting thousands with electricity that they otherwise could not access.
My role was to work on-site with MiCrédito full time, and work with their staff on the ground to design and implement a solar lending portfolio. With daily direction from the GreenTech team, I assisted MiCrédito in establishing partnerships with solar suppliers, overseeing product movement from suppliers to MiCrédito clients, and developing models of product delivery for both the large solar home systems and the smaller solar lamps. I learned a great deal during my two month internship, and would like to share three main challenges that GP is addressing in its GreenTech work with MiCrédito:
Challenge #1: How do we connect rural, off-grid populations with electricity?
MiCrédito’s pilot solar-lending program is currently operating in its Teustepe branch (one of seven branches), an extremely rural area where 70% of households do not have access to electricity. Most households spend anywhere between $2 and $10 dollars per month on alternative lighting solutions such as kerosene, candles, or battery powered flashlights. Furthermore, most households need to send one or two cell phones into town twice a week for charging. Not only are such “solutions” insufficient, but they are also costly, harmful to one’s health and the environment, and limit productive hours of the day.
GP is helping MiCrédito innovate its product offerings by establishing a wider range to accommodate clients with varying financial capacities. It is also assisting MiCrédito in designing distribution channels that can reach these rural families. GP’s provision of technical assistance comes from its ability to leverage its connections to local solar suppliers, provide knowledge of different business models, and share experiences designing solutions to similar problems.
With GP’s support, MiCrédito will be able to provide households with appropriate solar technologies; clients have the option to take out a loan to invest in large solar home systems that can power several light bulbs and a television/ radio, or they can instead purchase smaller, more affordable solutions such as solar lamps that include cell charging capability. Providing access to the larger solar home systems is rather straightforward because clients would just need to apply for a loan with MiCrédito. The bigger challenge in implementing MiCrédito’s solar program is the provision of access to the smaller solar products.
Challenge #2: How do we deliver smaller, more affordable solar solutions?
For a household that spends $2-$10 per month in lighting expenses and cell phone charging, an investment in a $50 dual solar lamp and cell phone charger pays for itself in just a year. Additionally, considering that the product has a 5+ year battery life, the investment provides benefits to families for years to come. However, because MiCredito’s minimum loan amount is $100, it means they are unable to finance smaller-scale solar solutions such as the $50 dual solar lamp and cell phone charger.
GP is working alongside MiCrédito to design and implement a potential business solution which consists of MiCrédito recruiting solar micro-resellers from its client base. This accomplishes three things:
1. MiCrédito can provide clients with loans to buy a large quantity (at least $100 worth) of solar products. GP is helping MiCrédito with the design of this loan product.
2. Client resellers serve as a valuable distribution channel of solar products to rural areas because of their connections to local communities.
3. Clients can earn additional income from solar product sales.
Challenge #3: Building a network of solar micro-resellers
Currently, it is a challenge to recruit clients that are willing to sell solar products. This is caused in part by lack of awareness of the benefits of solar products.
MiCrédito loan officers host micro-reseller info sessions for current clients; attendees are shown solar product demonstrations and receive basic sales tactics based on GP and MiCrédito’s experience in the field. Attendees are also informed of their possible loan term and amount. The first info session took place in the last two weeks; two men decided to sign up for a loan and test out the market for themselves with a consignment product. If all goes well, they’ll return in a week and finalize the loan request and MiCrédito will have its first two solar micro-resellers/microentrepreneurs.
In the past two months I have seen GP and MiCrédito’s pro-poor delivery system come together quite well. Providing credit for solar products through MiCrédito means that we’re able to tap into their understanding of the socio-cultural context, and adapt sales to their client demographic.
Accelerating Social Entrepreneurship in Latin America
by Amelia Merritt, marketing and communications intern, Global Partnerships
Earlier this year we had the pleasure of meeting Agora Partnerships, an organization committed to solving social and environmental challenges in Latin America through business-based solutions, and we wanted to take a moment to highlight what they do. We wanted to spotlight Agora because of our ongoing interest in organizations that support new social/impact enterprises* that show promise in expanding opportunity for people living in poverty. Agora does this by catalyzing the development and growth of up-and-coming “impact enterprises” through its six-month Impact Accelerator program.
The nine year-old organization recognizes that early-stage impact entrepreneurs who are willing to create businesses that meet a double bottom line often lack the financial resources and technical skills needed to succeed. That’s where Agora’s Impact Accelerator Program comes into play: early stage “impact entrepreneurs” are connected with the necessary start-up capital, mentoring, and technical assistance needed to build a sustainable business model to generate the maximum social impact. In Agora’s own words: “human potential + capital = impact”; Agora contributes the “capital” by tapping into its network of investors, experienced entrepreneurs, and knowledgeable mentors.
The Impact Accelerator Program helped María Rodríguez of Guatemala develop her natural fertilizer business, ByoEarth. To create an alternative to local farmers’ use of harmful, chemical fertilizers, ByoEarth produces a natural, sustainable fertilizer by utilizing the digestive power of worms. What's more, the creation of this eco-friendly fertilizer generates jobs for women living in and around Guatemala City. María’s organization is one of the 45 impact enterprises Agora Partnerships is serving to better leverage business for good.
To participate in Agora’s Impact Accelerator Program, impact entrepreneurs must submit a competitive application describing your business model and the impact it creates by solving problem in your community. Agora Partnerships is currently searching for 30 Latin American companies to be part of their class of 2014. The program consists of four components:
- A retreat in Central America where participants will aid in building the Agora community and network
- Strategy consulting and investment readiness services
- Attendance at the Impact Investing in Action conference in the United States
- Deal closing services to help entrepreneurs connect with the right investor
If you know of Latin American impact entrepreneurs that could benefit from Agora’s program, please contact Sara Cordero at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the program’s website. The deadline to apply is September 13, 2013.
*Impact Entrepreneur: An impact entrepreneur is a person who is intentionally using his/her business to solve a social, economic, or environmental problem in his/her community. Impact entrepreneurs run companies that are managed with the intent of creating shared value and consider the long-term effects of daily business decisions.