What it Takes to be Impact-Led
By Peter Bladin, Chief Impact & Research Officer
Long before we invest in a partner delivering life-changing products or services to households living in poverty, we begin by identifying what impact our investment will have on those households. We call this being impact-led. It is a defining characteristic of what makes Global Partnerships who we are.
To ensure that we invest in a partner that is dedicated to reaching underserved populations, and that the product or service they provide results in a positive impact, we research and develop investment initiatives designed to target a specific aspect of poverty. These initiatives clearly identify who is served, what product or service is delivered, why it is impactful, how it is sustained, and what is the expected impact.
A new initiative must address five key areas of analysis that are rooted in our mission: to expand opportunity for people living in poverty.
Our work starts with an assessment of how many people are affected by a specific problem, such as lack of access to financial services or living beyond the electrical grid. We work on problems affecting as many people as possible; large-scale problems are likely to attract more entrepreneurs trying to solve them, allowing GP to apply resources more efficiently and impact more people.
Using a combination of primary and academic research, we determine which services and products are making a positive and measurable impact on impoverished households. It is important to note that impact comes in many forms. It can be an economic opportunity, such as when a smallholder farmer increases her yield or has better market access leading to higher prices and more income. Or it can be an innovation like a solar light that provides a clean, reliable and cost-saving energy solution, replacing toxic kerosene lamps that are expensive, unsafe, and contribute to upper respiratory disease.
Next, we analyze whether the market can deliver these solutions in a sustainable way. We identify social enterprises that strive to reach marginalized populations with a focus on women and rural communities. These include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), for-profit social businesses, and cooperatives. We primarily invest debt capital into these social enterprises – our partners – who provide their clients with access to credit and affordable, high-impact products and services. This enables people in poverty to save time and money, access quality healthcare and earn a stable income. Our market-driven analysis is essential to ensure that each solution is affordable, easily accessible, and provides enough value for clients to choose it over existing options.
Fourth, we look at the potential for scale. Systematically addressing poverty is a massive undertaking, so we target solutions that can ultimately reach millions of people in the markets we serve — Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. We continually research market trends to see what could drive supply and demand for a product or service long-term, and whether the solution fits the market.
Once an initiative gets to this stage, we then build a pipeline of potential partners in which to invest. To be investment ready, a social enterprise must have finance needs that match the investment instruments we offer and qualify for our impact-led capital.
Developing these high-impact initiatives is made possible by you, our donors. Your gifts help fund the work of GP’s dedicated impact and research team. We work with leading industry experts as well as entrepreneurs who are pioneering innovative solutions. We meet with partners and their clients in person to learn about their preferences, challenges, goals and progress. We seek to understand the best outcomes through our research, helping us deploy capital to the best partners.
Your support allows us to remain impact-led, ensuring we invest in the most meaningful solutions for households living in poverty. It also enables us to monitor our results so we can continue to improve for even greater impact.
Between now and May 10th, all donations to Global Partnerships will be matched 100% (up to $16,000). Your gift will help us develop new initiatives and discover new partners that reach more families in poverty. Donate during GiveBIG to double your impact:
Expanding OPIC is Good for America and the World
By Rick Beckett | President & CEO, Global Partnerships
For more than 20 years, Global Partnerships has been committed to its mission of expanding opportunity for people living in poverty. We work as an impact-led investor in some of the most challenging developing countries in the world to support sustainable solutions to poverty.
In coming weeks, Congress will begin debate on the recently released Trump Administration “budget blueprint.” This blueprint includes a dizzying array of choices that lay waste to efforts aimed at fighting poverty, improving education and health for vulnerable populations, and engaging in smart global development.
One of the most inexplicable proposals included in the “budget blueprint” is to eliminate OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. OPIC is the United States’ Development Financial Institution. OPIC makes investments through US companies that create jobs, increase exports, deliver positive economic and environmental impact in the developing world, and advance global peace and security.
A remarkable fact is that OPIC has operated for the last 39 consecutive years at a profit to the US Treasury. For every dollar it spends, OPIC returns about $8. In the last decade alone, OPIC has reduced the US budget deficit by almost $4 billion.
We at Global Partnerships know OPIC well. Since 2006, OPIC has invested more than $50 million in five of GP’s impact-led investment funds. OPIC’s participation has been instrumental in catalyzing more than $80 million in capital from other Fund investors. These GP funds have successfully expanded opportunity for more than 5 million people living in poverty in countries throughout Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. That means impoverished women gain access to credit and business education that empower them to build small businesses, earn a living, and provide for their families. It means subsistence farmers gain access to the farm inputs and technical assistance that they need to grow more food and increase their income. It means poor families living without electricity are able to stop burning dirty kerosene and gain access to clean, solar light. It’s smart, sustainable global development. And the world needs more of it.
What sense does it make to eliminate, rather than expand, OPIC’s successful efforts to expand market based solutions to poverty in many of the worlds’ poorest countries?
What sense does it make to eliminate an agency that makes money for US taxpayers, reduces the US deficit, creates US jobs, and effectively promotes economic development on a global scale?
What sense does it make to shut down one of the US government’s most effective agencies and cede leadership in the developing world to other countries?
It makes no sense.
If you would like to take action, share this article on social media and please contact your representatives in Congress and ask them to support OPIC.
To learn more about OPIC:
Celebrating International Women’s Day
By Tara Murphy Forde, GP’s Vice President of Impact and Strategic Initiatives. Tara recently returned from Kenya, visiting GP's partner, Kenya Women’s Finance Bank (KWFT). Founded in 1981, KWFT has grown to serve over 800,000 clients and is the only Women’s Bank in Africa.
Teresia Wacuka’s family farm sits on the plains, before the ascent into the central highlands of Kenya. Modest in size but well managed, her farm supports eight cows, a chicken coop, and a field of subsistence crops. While Teresia speaks proudly of her contributions to the increased productivity on the farm, her focus is on what that productivity has meant for her family.
Teresia’s story begins much like other women born into rural poverty. She attended school until her parents could no longer afford the fees. With a primary education and a strong work ethic, she married, started a family and worked the farm with her husband. Despite all of her efforts, providing for her family was difficult and the prospect for a brighter future felt dim. That is until 2007 when Teresia and a group of women came together to form a village bank they called “Tia Wira,” meaning “respect for our work”.
They spent eight weeks in training with a loan officer from Kenya Women Microfinance Bank (KWFT). This group of women began to save money while developing basic financial literacy and credit management skills. At the culmination of the eight weeks, each woman took out a $100 loan.
Backed with a solidarity guarantee from the other women in the group, Teresia invested her first loan in the farm. After successfully paying back that loan, she took out a second loan to build a pit latrine, then a third to finance a water tank. Over the years Teresia has financed the family poultry business and their eight cows.
While Teresia refers to her husband as a partner in these endeavors, she is at the center of the decision making. This is especially evident when she speaks about the school fee loans she has borrowed to send her children to school. Teresia has opened a savings account in her daughter’s name and tells her to study hard so that she can one day become a loan officer at KWFT.
Teresia’s story, and so many others like hers, remind us of the power of investing in women. Not only are women disproportionately affected by poverty, they carry the multifaceted burdens associated with poverty in ways that are distinct from men. Across the globe women are more likely to be uneducated and operating in the informal economy; without access to a bank account or basic ownership rights. Amidst this adversity, they carry the burdens of tending to disease and time poverty – often spending hours a day collecting water or fuel for cooking, both of which are harmful to their health and that of their children.
But the evidence is clear: investing in women is an opportunity, not a constraint. Like Teresia, when given access to resources and information, women across the globe:
Transform educational opportunities into impact;
Use resources and assets to increase productivity; and
Invest more in the health and well-being of their families.
At Global Partnerships we believe that investing in women and the organizations that support them has the capacity to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. We believe that empowering women can improve their lives as well as those around them. In turn we proudly partner with organizations like KWFT and their clients, who like Teresia are boldly and decisively breaking the cycle of poverty.
By Rick Beckett, President & CEO, Global Partnerships
As the year draws to a close, I reflect, as many do, on the state of our world, and especially on the reality experienced by the poorest and most vulnerable among us.
I’m encouraged by progress that’s been made. Extreme poverty rates are on the decline. People are living longer, healthier lives. More developing countries are growing in ways that share some of the fruit of economic progress with those living “at the base of the pyramid.” Markets are increasingly engaged, alongside the public and philanthropic sectors, in addressing global poverty.
At the same time, literally billions of people who have been born into poverty are suffering. Too many struggle to meet even their most basic needs, and they do not have access to pathways out of poverty. If you’re one of those people, global statistics are of little consolation. We still have a lot of work to do.
When the sheer magnitude of the challenge feels overwhelming, I try to remember a simple truth – these women and men want nothing more than the opportunity to earn a living, to provide their families with a safe home, nutritious food, good education and healthcare. They want to create a better life.
What I’ve learned over the last decade at Global Partnerships is that it’s possible to create that kind of shared opportunity. When we keep our eyes and hearts open – when we focus on what actually serves people, when we work to ensure that the power of markets is used for good, when we thoughtfully and relentlessly invest our effort and resources in expanding opportunity, when we take risk for the right reasons – progress is possible. Our efforts create the very hope that we seek.
Rosa. Josefina and her son Juan. Lucila. Gloria. Theresa and Peter. These are but a few of the people who are now living better lives, because of their hard work and your commitment to expanding opportunity. In the last year alone, Global Partnerships, through its impact investing in social enterprises, positively impacted the lives of more than 1 million people in 14 countries on three continents. Together, we are making a difference.
In the latest edition of our IMPACT newsletter, you’ll read about Rosa Cruz Payehuanca. Hers is a remarkable story of resilience and courage. It is also a story about the power of opportunity. It’s the kind of story that reminds me of what’s possible. It is one of more than a million stories. Each one matters.
So as this year comes to a close, let us celebrate all that has been done. And let us recommit ourselves to the work ahead – to creating a world where everyone has the opportunity to create a brighter future for themselves and their families.
This letter is featured in GP's final newsletter of the year. Click here to view the full newsletter.
To support GP's work to expand opportunity for people living in poverty, please donate today:
Why GP Expanded to East Africa
By Aaron Nasurutia: Vice President, Lending & Portfolio Management – Africa, Global Partnerships
According to the GIIN 2015 report, The Landscape for Impact Investing in East Africa, East Africa is one of the centers of global impact investing. Activity has grown strongly throughout the region over the past five years during which $9.3 billion was disbursed by more than one thousand direct investments by development finance institutions (DFIs) and other impact investors active in the region. The report also stated that within East Africa, Kenya and its capital city Nairobi are the regional hub of impact investing in East Africa where at least 48 impact fund managers have staff placed.
Just over one year ago, Global Partnerships expanded into Africa with the opening of our office in Nairobi to initially invest in four East African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. GP’s entry into Africa is at an opportune time with a rise of innovative solutions in the region – especially in clean energy, agriculture, and financial inclusion – which are aligned with GP’s mission.
GP expanded to Africa not only because investment and innovation in the region are growing, but most importantly because poverty has persisted for generations here, and markets must be pushed to empower people in a sustainable way. GP chose to focus its entry in sub-Saharan Africa for a variety of reasons.
For example, according to the Africa Energy Outlook Report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2014, sub-Saharan Africa had more people living without access to electricity than any other region in the world – more than 620 million people – which is more than the global total. In East Africa alone, more than 200 million people live without electricity – around 80% of its population.
Also, financial exclusion for the poor continues to be a major hindrance to poverty alleviation, as well as limited access to healthcare, clean water, proper sanitation, education and decent housing among others. Agriculture continues to be the main source of livelihood for the majority of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa where smallholder farmers depend on crop farming and animal husbandry. GP’s mission to improve the lives of people living in poverty through our Investment Initiatives is well placed to impact millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, beginning with the four East African countries.
In the past year GP has made solid progress both in making our first investments as well as research aimed at expanding GP’s Investment Initiatives. We have made three investments, one to a women-centered MFI, the second to a distributor of solar lights and the third to a rural-centered MFI that focuses on financing smallholder farmers. Our primary research done during this first year also yielded three investment initiatives: Smallholder Finance Services (SHFS), Rural-Centered Finance with Education (RCFE), and Women-Centered Finance with Education (WCFE).
As the person leading GP’s social investment lending in Africa, I am greatly inspired by the opportunity we have to impact millions of people living in poverty. In my former career as a commercial banker, the objective was maximization of shareholder value. Now, as an impact-led investor, GP is 100% focused on the household impact and on empowering people in a sustainable way. For me, the satisfaction of participating in such transformation is incredibly rewarding.
On a personal note, as someone who grew up in a family of farmers in rural Kitale in the North Rift region of Kenya, I am proud to be a part of a team enabling innovative change by providing much needed capital to social entrepreneurs in my home country and neighboring regions. This kind of impact changes lives and future generations. As an example, parents living in poverty can increase their income, giving them the opportunity to pay for their children’s education.
We look forward to sharing with you the impact our partners are having in Africa in the years to come.
To learn more about our entry into Africa read our Fall 2016 Impact Newsletter.
Growth Opportunities in Kenya
Scott Knackstedt, Research Associate, Global Partnerships
I arrived in Kenya in late May, just as the rains were subsiding and the bright green stalks of young maize could just reach a zebra’s shoulder. As a summer associate for Global Partnerships, my project was to research, assess and provide recommendations on a prospective new investment initiative in agriculture inputs. Based out of Nairobi at GP’s Africa headquarters, I stayed in the Kilimani district, just north of the slums of Kibera, and a five-minute walk to the office each morning that involved passing informal fruit-sellers and thunderous diesel trucks as children in matching uniforms made their way to school. On the weekends I traveled, with the goal to see as much of the country as I could. I hiked in four national parks, ran with professional runners in Iten, went fishing off of Lamu Island, and ogled my fill of wild critters of all sizes while on safari.
‘Agriculture inputs’ is a broad category – fertilizer, improved seeds, irrigation, pest controls, and veterinary services, among others – and is demonstrably integral in boosting farm productivity for the smallholder farmer, leading to higher incomes and food security. Despite this, and quite surprisingly, very few smallholder farmers in East Africa use these inputs. Irrigation rates are less than a tenth of the global average, less than 5 percent apply fertilizer, and only 11 percent of farmers use improved seeds. Animal husbandry is no better, where a fifth of livestock are lost to diseases with known vaccines and treatments and the average cow produces only 35 percent of what the same breed produces in Europe. There is a dearth of access to technical assistance – including information on the most effective way to grow maize – further deepening the challenges faced by the vast majority of farmers living in poverty.
I connected with those farmers to understand their needs and challenges, and met with social enterprises that are creating market sustainable solutions for the rural poor of East Africa, witnessing first-hand the pigeon-peas growing on a single hectare with five other crops, learning about ‘dipping’ livestock to prevent parasites, and speaking with dairy farmers about the diet of cattle. I had the pleasure of eating French beans in the company of the farmer who grew them, handled worms crawling through coffee husks used for vermiculture, and came to know the ins-and-outs of cultivating Kenya’s primary staple: maize. Throughout it all, the experiences I witnessed, the details I learned, and the people I befriended engendered an awareness and familiarity with the agriculture industry that I never could have anticipated.
Speaking of maize, when cultivating it there is a dependable process to best ensure a bountiful harvest:
First, one should prepare the land, plowing early – perhaps two or three times – and remove grasses and weeds that have taken advantage of your soil.
Next, time the sowing properly, where it is essential that you plant early and in advance of the rains as yields are significantly reduced with late planting.
Choose the right seeds for your local conditions: length of the rainy season, altitude, and amount of nitrogen in the soil. Take time to space the seeds properly (30 cm apart, ideally) and occasionally deposit two seeds in the same hole to buffer against anticipated losses from pests.
If you have access to fertilizer, apply it accordingly at planting and again when your stalks are knee-height.
Tend to your maize as it grows, weeding and watering, and come harvest, you and your family will be rewarded with a strong yield.
Just as I have seen how growing maize can be a deliberate and thoughtful process, so too is GP’s approach to ensure that the impact they deliver to the rural poor is sustainable, meaningful, and robust. My initiative research was the first step of GP’s investment process, plowing this arable landscape for new opportunities and determining which kernels are right for sprouting under the local conditions. Now, having presented my work and delivered my findings, it is time for it to grow. GP will till and tend this project, applying capital to fertilize those social enterprises that, like properly cultivated maize, are most likely to provide income and security to the lives of those that need it most. In helping to grow better livelihoods, I have seen how Global Partnerships itself becomes a productive input in this patient yet promising cycle in agriculture in East Africa – the soil for hope, the sunshine for a brighter future.
Scott is a native of the northwest, growing up in Olympia and studying the physical sciences and languages at the University of Portland. Having spent over four years abroad throughout Asia, Europe, and now Africa (for this project), Scott was drawn to Global Partnerships as he has seen that supporting market-sustainable solutions is an effective tool to alleviate poverty and GP’s mission-driven approach was compelling, thoughtful, and time-tested. Scott has graduate degrees from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna and the University of Cambridge, where his research focused on the scientific narrative in development of central Africa. Most recently, Scott graduated from the University of Washington’s MBA program with an emphasis on finance and entrepreneurship.
Celebrating the Impact of Cooperatives
By Kusi Hornberger, VP of Investment Research
& Sixta García, Portfolio Director for Nicaragua
July 2, the 2016 International Day of Cooperatives, is a day to celebrate the thousands of member-owned and member-run cooperative enterprises which collectively help realize the economic aspirations of more than 250 million people worldwide. At Global Partnerships we are firm believers in the cooperative movement, particularly how they are able to help the lives of smallholder farmers like Orlando Quiros in Nicaragua. Many smallholder farmers are isolated by geography and disadvantaged by the small scale of their yields. By uniting hundreds or thousands of fellow farmers, cooperatives not only provide farmers with economies of scale to get better pricing for their crops such as coffee, cocoa or sesame but also help strength the social and human capital of their member communities.
Over the last three years through our Smallholder Farmer Services investment initiative we have invested in ten trade cooperatives in Central and South America. These cooperatives have provided roughly 70,000 farmers and their family members with increased economic opportunities due to access to markets and higher prices via purchase contracts with price premiums as well as crop-focused technical assistance to boost yields. These investments have also led to 33,000 hectares of sustainably managed land. Meaning our investments have both led to social and environmental impacts on the communities we are investing.
While most of our cooperative partners have focused on the coffee trade, some have not. One such cooperative is the Cooperative of Organic and Traditional Farmers and Exporters of Nicaragua (COPROEXNIC) where Orlando is a member. COPROEXNIC is the largest exporter of processed sesame in Nicaragua – both organic and conventional. It is also a large producer of organic peanuts for export. COPROEXNIC serves more than 3,000 growers in 13 different communities throughout western Nicaragua. (COPROEXNIC was created by the Center for Development in Central America.)
COPROEXNIC provide Orlando and other members with access to better prices for their crops via contracts with organizations like Once Again Nut Butter, a premium organic manufacturer of peanut and other butters based in the United States. They also provide their farmers with a guaranteed ~30% of final sales contract price which means more of that premium is going to the farmers and their family’s pocket. In addition, they provide their farmers with access to needed mechanization inputs for peanut farming (tractors, etc.) and provide agronomic technical assistance.
We are proud to be supporting cooperatives like COPROEXNIC which are helping to improve the lives of Orlando and his family. We look forward to continued growth and impact through our work with cooperatives moving forward.
Five Lessons on Investing for Impact
Tara Murphy Forde, Vice President of Impact and Strategic Initiatives at Global Partnerships, shares her view on the importance of industry engagement and highlights some of her high level takeaways from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) Metrics from the Ground Up conference.
By Tara Murphy Forde, Vice President for Impact and Strategic Initiatives
“As we approach nearly a decade of using the term ‘impact investing,’ what can the industry learn from microfinance, particularly when it comes to impact measurement, evidence, and expectations?” For those of you who are familiar with Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), it won’t surprise you to know that this was one of the questions posed during last week’s Metrics from the Ground Up Conference in Washington, D.C. It is this type of honest, critical, and forward-looking dialogue that motivates Global Partnerships’ (GP) participation in the network.
As a nonprofit impact investor, GP has been providing working capital loans to social enterprises for over 20 years. We got our start in microfinance, which taught us a thing or two about what it means to pivot and refine an investment strategy based on emerging results, evidence, and insights. We have called on that experience, and the experience of others, as we’ve refined our impact methodology and expanded into new sectors and geographies. In turn, it was a pleasure to sit on a panel at last week’s event with Kelly McCarthy from the Global Impact Investing Network and Laura Foose from the Social Performance Task Force to share learnings and discuss implications.
Two issues we discussed on the panel were alignment and transparency. Given the varied and complex nature of the problems we look to address, and the often nascent stage of the solutions we support, it is understandable that impact investors and practitioners alike will rely on “theories of change” versus clear and decisive evidence. That being said, we need to be honest about what we know and don’t know, and find strategic partners who share our desire to learn and improve over time. We also shared some concrete lessons about what impact investors can do better moving forward. We can:
Get clearer on what we can measure (often outputs), but not stop there. We need to define the outcomes and impacts we look to deliver and strive to measure them, even if only via directional data at first.
Be careful not to get too narrow, too fast. While definition is important, we need to remain open to, and employ methods for, capturing unintended and longer term outcomes.
Develop a deeper understanding of context, so when we analyze data, and evidence begins to emerge, we can interpret relevance and better understand outcomes.
Invest in the talent, systems, and practices that will increase our capacity to deliver the desired impact.
Remember to always keep the client at the center. If we use data to better understand client needs, behaviors, and motivations, we can protect against certain risks while gaining valuable insight into key impact and business drivers.