News & Insights
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.