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2018 was another whirlwind year for us at the Branson Centre

Posted By Gizelle Riley, Branson Centre Of Entrepreneurship - Caribbean, Friday, February 1, 2019

We made great memories, forged strong partnerships, and solidified our position as the region's leading accelerator for scaling businesses. We've wrapped all of our big stories, accomplishments and milestones achieved last year in our Annual Report

Click HERE to download. 

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Join the BiD Network Impact Investment Trip Rwanda & Uganda

Posted By Gert van Veldhuisen, BiD Network, Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Are you interested in investing in increasingly attractive destinations for foreign investments? For the fourth time, BiD Network organises an Impact Investment Trip to Rwanda & Uganda. From 10 - 16 March, BiD Network offers potential angel investors the opportunity to visit a number of well-prepared businesses from their portfolio.

The trip offers angel investors:

  • Unique opportunity to personally meet Rwandan & Ugandan entrepreneurs
  • Get insights in impact investing in Rwanda & Uganda
  • Potentially co-invest with a group of like-minded investors
  • Opportunity to create a positive impact together with financial return

Interested in joining this year’s trip? The cost of the trip is 2,500 EUR, including accommodation, flight Kigali - Entebbe, all other logistics and all meals, but excluding VAT and intercontinental flights. Space is limited, so secure your spot now by contacting BiD Network’s CEO Gert van Veldhuisen ( More information:

Tags:  East Africa  event  impact investment  investors 


Codifying "What Works" in Social Venture Business Planning

Posted By Jim Koch, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, Sunday, January 13, 2019
Updated: Sunday, January 13, 2019
Revolution is not a single event.  
Revolution is finding True North and walking toward it. 
Knowing that you will be walking for a very long while, 
Or always . . .   ”
— From Revolution the Day After, by Carrie Newcomer

On November 2 I was invited to give the opening keynote for the 15th Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by USC’s Marshall School of Business.  My remarks described the evolution of Santa Clara University’s efforts to advance the potential for solving the urgent unmet needs of humanity through innovation at the crossroads of technology and business model innovation.  Because this was primarily an academic research conference, I focused on the evolution of Miller Center’s business planning paradigm and its emergence as a practice-based theory for building successful social ventures.  I began my talk by specifying that the business planning process must empower social venture start-up teams:

    1. To raise money
    2. To maximize the social impact of the enterprise
    3. To operate the enterprise with a surplus (positive cash flow)
    4. To grow (scale) the social impact (and income) of the enterprise at a rate faster than the growth of expenses
    5. And, to ensure their enterprise provides a needed solution to a real problem in an effective and efficient manner

The first four of these criteria speak to the ability to achieve both social benefit and financial viability.  The fifth factor speaks to the importance of organizational learning and entrepreneurial adaptation.

In addition to specifying these criteria I cited compelling evidence of Miller Center’s efficacy in supporting the scaling up of social ventures and advancing the social entrepreneurship movement:

    • $940 million dollars has been raised by ventures accelerated through Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®)
    • Since their graduation, 320 million lives have been positively impacted by GSBI alumni
    • From 7 ventures served in its 2003 pilot, by 2018 the GSBI has grown to serve more than 900 ventures across 60+ countries


Most importantly, from its pilot in 2003 to today, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship has been a learning organization.  To scale its delivery capacity, it has segmented its market and developed alternative delivery modalities—including a mentor-supported distance learning process and other adapted forms for serving the needs of ventures in a wide range of geographies, with varying local resources, and at the different stages of development and investment readiness illustrated below:


    • Early Stage
    • - Viable product or service

    • - Potential market quantified

    • - Evidence of market acceptance                                       

    • Early growth
    • - Successful market trial

    • - Product or service can be replicated                                                       

    • Rapid growth
    • - Ventures processes can be scaled to volume

    • - Evidence of significant market

    • - Product or service can be delivered with positive cash flow

From the beginning of our work, Eric Carlson and I realized we had more to learn from social ventures embedded in diverse cultures with severe resource constraints than we had to teach.  To illustrate the importance of humility and learning, I asked an award-winning documentary producer and colleague, Mike Whalen, to capture the experience of social entrepreneurs and their mentors in the 2006 GSBI cohort. His short video, A Pedagogy of Accompaniment vividly illustrates how the lives of both social entrepreneurs and their mentors are transformed by the experience of collaborating to create a better world through the development of sustainable and scalable solutions for serving urgent unmet human needs.  I shared this video with my academic colleagues at the USC conference and have been amazed by the many comments I’ve received from them about how this historic video evoked imagination about the “possibilities” for systems change and the potential for value-added scholarly work across the diverse cultures and many countries represented by conference attendees.

For a look back in time here’s a link to A Pedagogy of Accompaniment:


In writing Building a Successful Social Venture—A Social Entrepreneur’s Guide, Eric and I sought to capture the informal knowledge of the more than 200 mentors who have worked with social entrepreneurs at Miller Center, with a particular focus on the roughly first 50+ individuals we vetted during the first decade of the GSBI program.  These individuals were selected based on a variety of factors with a particular emphasis on C-level or senior management experience in Silicon Valley start-ups, general management or P and L experience, and/or acumen in marketing, finance, or operations and supply chain management. An additional “intangible” factor proved to be critical to the success or failure of GSBI mentorsthe ability to listen with humility in order to understand how their knowledge could be bridged to efforts to serve unmet needs at the base of the economic pyramid.

Mentor 2.png

There is an important distinction between explicit (formal) knowledge—the kind possessed by scholars attending the 15th Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference—and the implicit (informal) knowledge of successful entrepreneurs.  Mentors in the GSBI rely primarily on implicit knowledge.  The learning organization emphasis in Miller Center required that this knowledge—honed in the munificent environment of Silicon Valley—be adapted to the specific characteristics of markets in poor communities, including local culture and environmental constraints.  Similarly, it required mentors to bridge technology knowledge rooted in the Silicon Valley to the available appropriate technologies and management capabilities within cultural parameters. In Building a Successful Social Venture (BSSV) we codify the accumulated implicit knowledge of GSBI mentors over more than a decade in the form of explicit or basic knowledge needed to complete each element in the 9-factor social venture business planning process summarized in the figure below.

Building a Successful Social Venture
A Social Entrepreneur's Guide

Eric Carlson
James Koch

Berrett-Koehler Publishers
September 2018 


For each of the elements, BSSV also taps the collective intelligence of mentors in the form of a “Minimum Critical Specifications Checklist” for what needs to be included in that element of the business plan.  In systems thinking, a minimum critical specification is a condition that is critical to the overall viability of system design.  For social ventures this translates to the ability to achieve both social impact and financial goals. For example, in element 1—Mission, Opportunity, and Strategy—the collective intelligence of Silicon Valley mentors from their work with hundreds of ventures posits that a focused (10-word) mission statement with a specific outcome measure will increase capital efficiency and the likelihood of venture success. 

This and similar takeaway examples from BSSV are summarized below:

The “minimum critical specifications” concept was originally articulated by Albert Cherns in 1976 as a pivotal construct in socio-technical systems design thinking.  It has since been used by numerous scholars and practitioners, including this author, in the design of high performing work systems.  According to Cherns, the principle of minimum critical specifications has two aspects—one negative and one positive: 

    1. The negative aspect states that no more should be specified (in structure, formal systems, and bureaucratic rules) than is absolutely necessary.
    2. The positive aspect states that we need to identify what is essential.

In writing Building a Successful Social Venture—A Guide for Social Entrepreneurs, Eric Carlson and I have sought to do just this—to clarify what is essential¸ while respecting and continuing to learn from the work of social entrepreneurs  who seek to rewire our systems, our practices, and our mindsets.  Our framework intends to contribute to the gradual elaboration of a new model of socio-economic development—one that is better fit for two thirds of humankind at the base of the pyramid than current approaches to economic development. We hope that Building a Successful Social Venture, based on Miller Center’s framework, will help thousands of social entrepreneurs.

Here’s to a future filled with hope!



James Koch.jpg

James Koch is Professor of Organizational Analysis and Management Emeritus and former dean of the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, where he also served as acting dean of the School of Engineering. He is the founder of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship (previously the Center for Science, Technology, and Society), co-founder of the Tech AwardsTechnology Benefiting Humanity, and of the Global Social Benefit Incubator. In addition to entrepreneurship and social innovation, his research and consulting focus on organizational change and the design of high-performance work systems. Prior to coming to Santa Clara University, he was director of Organization Planning and Development at PG&E, a recipient of the American Society for Training and Development Award for Excellence in the Organization Development Professional Practice Area. He began his academic career at the University of Oregon where he was associate dean of the MBA and PhD programs before leaving to join PG&E. Jim has served on a number of for-profit and nonprofit boards, including Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley and the Board of Trustees of Bay Area Council Economic Institute. He received his MBA and PhD in Industrial Relations from UCLA.


Tags:  Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship  Social entrepreneurship  Social Entreprenuership 

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Pact Ventures Launches Revamped Impact Investment Group

Posted By Katie Hallaran, Pact, Monday, December 10, 2018

Pact is excited to announce the launch of its revamped social investment team – Pact Ventures. Pact Ventures believes that markets and private capital can be incentivized to accelerate Pact’s development programs. We structure innovative financing and market-based mechanisms to magnify Pact’s social impact.

Through technical experience in investment banking, private equity, strategy, and social entrepreneurship, we’re integrating private sector perspectives to create tri-sector solutions for complex development challenges by leveraging public, private, and social capital.

Leading with a clean sheet approach, Pact Ventures accesses a wide spectrum of innovative financial and investment vehicles to finance our projects, deliberately matching outcomes risk with financial return. We leverage our impact investments to shift our relationship from donor-beneficiary to provider-customer. In so doing, we tap into economic forces to create market mechanisms that listen and adapt to the voices of our beneficiaries (now customers) in new, empowering ways through:

Outcomes-based and shared value partnerships:

  • Market-based incentives for responsible and traceable sourcing of minerals and gems
  • Access to bottom of the pyramid (BoP) financial products for community-based savings and loans groups

Direct investments in promising social enterprises:

  • Investment in solar home system manufacturer targeting BoP consumers
  • Joint venture with alternative BoP credit scoring and digital distribution services

Innovative business and delivery models for impact:

  • Distribution of solar home system partners to bring renewable energy to Pact’s beneficiaries
  • Workforce development platform for skills-based training and job placement 

We’d love to explore opportunities to collaborate and invite anyone interested in learning more to reach out to Brian Vo at

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Tags:  Access to Finance  energy  health  impact investing  innovative finance  social enterprise  social impact 

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Entrepreneurs Call for Urgent Need to Rethink Asia's Agribusiness

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 28, 2018

BANGKOK, November 22, 2018 – What is the business case – the ideal eco-system – for sustainable agriculture and forestry?  Is certification worth the cost? How to feed a growing world as youths leave farming? From Thai social enterprises working with organic rice farmers to one of the world’s largest coffee producers, speakers at Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs’ (ANDE) inaugural lab on sustainable agriculture, held in Bangkok on November 22, brainstormed a new agricultural eco-system to feed a growing world with shrinking natural resources.

“There’s no getting around it: we need more active participants in this evolving ecosystem,” said Angela Hogg, the Environment Office Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Asia. “Asia’s food security and environmental protection goals cannot be met without more smallholder producers and businesses adopting more sustainable practices.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates smallholder producers supply some 80 percent of the world’s food.

The challenge to transform agriculture is ambitious and the time short, added Hogg, referring to a recent UN report that called for “unprecedented” action to cut carbon emissions.

USAID Green Invest Asia, a facility brokering private sector investments in Asia’s mid-sized sustainable businesses launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development, led the event.  “Current investment is insufficient based on Asia’s projected food needs, alone,” said Christy Owen, the facility’s director. “We need to find a new way to do agribusiness. Urgently.”

DBS, a financial services firm, and the UN Environment Programme have estimated an additional $400 billion is needed between now and 2030 to adequately protect the people, environment and economies of ASEAN countries from the worst effects of climate change and land degradation.

Citibank Foundation, UN Capital Development Fund, the online lending platform Kiva and Asia Development Bank were among the more than 40 attendees.  Kiva’s largest lending sector is agriculture, said Mark McDonagh, its investment manager in the Asia-Pacific region.

While most of Kiva’s loans are micro-loans of $5,000 or less, there is a growing number of larger loans going to social enterprises, mostly in the field of agriculture, said McDonagh. “A flexible agriculture loan isn’t rocket science. The issue is whether an investor has the risk appetite.”


Relatively few businesses participate in the sustainable marketplace, with most actors coming from multinational corporations.  In breakout sessions to suggest ways to build a new agricultural economy, access to flexible agriculture loans and breaking into the global green marketplace surfaced as common themes.

The U.S. Government identified this gap when founding the USAID Green Invest Asia facility, which helps sustainable businesses become investment ready and links them to investors interested in the triple bottom line, an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental and financial.

McDonagh, who helps direct lenders to investments that match their interests, said lenders have always valued innovation in choosing projects to fund.


“Farmers are, by nature, hackers,” said Bryan Hugill, co-owner of the Thailand-based social enterprise, Raitong Organics. His 11-year-old farm has 43 ongoing innovation experiments, some in coordination with research labs worldwide, including: biodynamic rice farming where chemical fertilizers are replaced with natural bacteria; microbial fuel cells, or the use of bacteria to drive electric currents; deep-litter pig farming; stingless beekeeping, and cataloguing effective microorganisms.

Additional labs on innovation in agriculture to be organized by ANDE include: lessons learned in agricultural technology with USAID Feed the Future Asia; the role of women as sustainable consumers and investors with ANDE, and agricultural service delivery to smallholder farmers with Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.

Read the original press release here. 

Tags:  Agribusiness  Agriculture  Asia  Learning Lab  USAID 

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The “Missing Middle” is More Complicated

Posted By Heather Soehn, Upaya Social Ventures, Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2018


In our industry of impact investing, there has long been a lament that small and growing businesses (SGBs) are the “missing middle” of the space—these are the companies that are too large for microfinance funding and too small for traditional investors or even most impact investors. The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs defines this space as companies seeking to raise between $20,000 and $2M US with between five and 250 employees.

The conversation has been going on for years, first defined with great clarity in the Monitor and Acumen Fund study, “From Blueprint to Scale” in 2012.  Upaya’s Sachi Shenoy picked up the issue of a “pioneering capital gap with Brian Arbogast in 2013 and then revisited it with our board member, Nathan Byrd, earlier this year. A common theme of all this investigation is that while the potential for impact can be huge in this space, investing here requires patience, capacity building and a lot of risk.

Upaya invests exactly in the “missing middle” and for years we have felt—If not completely alone—pretty lonely.  We invest to create jobs for the extreme poor, which gives us a very particular approach to enterprise selection. While there has been much discussion, there have not been dramatic shifts to address the gaps. Players are entering the space but there is still a $930 billion financing gap. What is going on?

“This Missing Middles,” a report commissioned by the newly-created Collaborative for Frontier Finance dissects this segment with much greater granularity than ever before. It has not been helpful to talk about a financing gap for these kinds of companies because “these” kinds of companies are quite diverse.  The report helpfully breaks them down into four groupings:

  • High Growth – Disruptive business models that could be tech-led, asset-light, growing at 66% in the CFF study.
  • Niche – Innovative products or services targeting niche markets
  • Dynamic Enterprises – “Bread and butter” businesses (trading, manufacturing, etc.) that have moderate growth and scale potential but significant livelihood impact
  • Livelihood Sustaining – Sustainable businesses that may have outgrown microenterprise and are supporting families with incremental growth

This report resonates with us so well because conversations with other seed stage or early stage impact investors sometimes remind us that “one of these things is not like the other.”

Upaya looks for companies that can be sustainable job-producers that return our investment, preferably with some upside. It’s not that we lack the ambition or focus of other early investors who are looking for “rocket ships” or “massive scale.” It’s that we know our market. The “Dynamic Enterprise” group is a very good description of many of the companies that we see and want to help reach 1,000+ sustainable jobs.

In what might be a surprise, the high growth ventures are generally on a trajectory to create fewer jobs due to their business model. So we wish them well, along with our colleagues who invest in them, but they’re less interesting to us unless there’s strong job creation. (As an aside, these are also the kinds of businesses that directly refute Mulago Foundation’s Kevin Starr’s post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review from August. The only key to poverty alleviation is not making sure that the companies that provide goods and services to the poor can scale; starting with a reliable job and income is a more direct assault on poverty, even if it comes in 1000-person increments.)

What this study does so well is explain why the “missing middle” has felt stuck for so long. It’s not that there’s not enough interest in funding these companies. It’s that we need to be more creative in our approach. There is no one financing solution for these different kinds of enterprises. So many impact-driven organizations, including Upaya, are making fairly straight-forward equity investments. In fact, the typical venture style equity investment doesn’t fit well with any of these groups. Even the high growth ventures, which account for only 1% of the segment, are likely to need longer time horizons than closed-ended funds provide.

Upaya had already started exploring what investment alternatives are available to us as a foreign investor in India, but this report gives us renewed energy. It also underscores that what we do really matters. There are not enough impact investors focusing on the “bread and butter” businesses that are the “backbone of local economies and are important sources of jobs for low- and moderate-skilled workers.”  Hopefully, with a better understanding of the environment we’re working in, investors can all be more successful in achieving our impact goals by better serving the entrepreneurs in our portfolios.



This piece was written by Kate Cochran, CEO of Upaya Social Ventures and was originally posted on the Upaya Social Ventures blog.

Tags:  impact investing  Job Creation  missing middle  Pioneering Capital  Social entrepreneurship  social impact 

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The Future of Fresh: Rethinking Our Food Systems at The First Mile of Distribution

Posted By Paula Rodriguez, InspiraFarms, Monday, November 12, 2018
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2018

To all ANDE members, this is a formal invitation to join InspiraFarms side event, The Future of Fresh: Rethinking Our Food Systems at The First Mile of Distribution, the 20th of November, 2018, 6pm. 

We will follow the Financial Times Global Food Systems event with food, drinks and a vivid discussion around challenges and solutions for first-mile distribution, emerging market agribusiness competitiveness and sustainability, and their access to export markets in the UK and beyond.

InspiraFarms CEO, Tim Chambers, will open the event, and welcome our key note speaker Dan Haglund, Senior Private Sector Development Adviser, at the Department for International Development (DFID) who will talk about ‘The role of the private sector in transforming the global food industry into a more sustainable and inclusive system.’

We will present the international joint research project, in partnership with the private sector, DFID and the Shell Foundation, analysing solutions to post-harvest food losses and sharing insights from ongoing field trials.

Julie Hanson, European Director of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, ‘The cold chain industry’s response to the first mile distribution challenge.’

The event will conclude with the debut of a new mini-documentary, ‘The Future of Fresh - rethinking our food systems at the first mile of distribution’.

Join us!!

To register send us an email to

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Tags:  agribusiness  Agriculture  impact investing 

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CIPE and New Markets Lab Event on Digital Economy

Posted By Marc Schleifer, Center for International Private Enterprise, Monday, November 5, 2018
The Center for International Private Enterprise and New Markets Lab invite ANDE members to join on Wednesday, November 7, 9:30-11:30, for a discussion on improving the enabling environment for the digital economy - vital to putting the "growth" in small and growing businesses. Link to register to the event is here: The discussion will feature Katrin Kuhlmann of NML and Louisa Tomar of CIPE, among others. The event will be held at CIPE's office, 1211 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 700, Washington DC. The discussion will focus on the new CIPE and NML publication, Digital Economy Enabling Environment Guide: Key Areas of Dialogue for Business and Policymakers, 

Tags:  advocacy  digital economy  enabling environment  policy  technology 


Chipping Away at the MSME Financing Gap

Posted By Emma Marks, Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund, Monday, November 5, 2018

MSMEs are widely regarded to be among the primary drivers of economic development, employment, and innovation in emerging economies. However, a disproportionate number of MSMEs face challenges accessing the financial services they require to cover their day-to-day operations and scale into robust, sustainable businesses. Often, they have needs that exceed microfinance ceilings, and they cannot access financial services through banks or similar providers without established credit histories, well-documented business records, or sufficient collateral. Likewise, traditional banks tend to overlook potential MSME clients due to actual and perceived risks, transaction costs, and a general lack of familiarity with pro-poor business models.

The latest article from S3IDF advocates for tools like loan guarantees as a means to addressing the root causes of financial exclusion. By having “skin in the game,” banks and other financing institutions are more likely to engage seriously with the assessment process in a manner that will leave them better positioned to finance similar deals in the future and to extend other financial products and services to other MSME clients.

Tags:  access to finance  emerging markets  inclusive innovation  missing middle  social impact 

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Need Help Identifying Your Organization’s Legal Needs? Find Out About TrustLaw’s Legal Health Check for Social Enterprises.

Posted By Flavie Fuentes, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Friday, October 19, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2018

Who we are? TrustLaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal program, connecting the best law firms and corporate legal teams around the world with high-impact NGOs and social enterprises working to create social and environmental change. We help produce groundbreaking legal research and offer innovative training courses worldwide. We also provide a legal training for social enterprises and impact investing that focuses on legal issues and trends in the burgeoning social innovation sector, and provides lawyers with the skills and knowledge they need to advise clients. We have supported grassroots organizations to employ their first staff members, helped vulnerable women access loans to start their first businesses and brought renewable energy lighting to slums. We are the largest global pro bono network with almost 5,000 members across more than 175 countries. We work with hundreds of legal teams representing over 120,000 lawyers who generously provide free legal support to thousands of NGOs and social enterprises.

What is the Legal Health Check and How Does it Work? Every year, TrustLaw receives and reviews hundreds of legal questions from our NGO and social enterprise members around the world and connects these organizations to pro bono lawyers who provide free expert advice and assistance. Drawing on our experience, TrustLaw has developed a Legal Health Check to assist NGOS and social enterprises identify some of their operational legal needs. While it includes the questions most frequently asked by our members, it is not a complete list of legal issues. The Legal Health Check will help you identify legal matters that are relevant to your organization and issues that you might need help with. Take a look at the Legal Health Check for more information here.

Interested in Becoming a Member of TrustLaw? If you would like to apply to become a member of TrustLaw, you can complete our application form on our website at and make sure to tell us that you are also an ANDE member!

 Attached Files:

Tags:  Access to Finance  ANDE Members  ANDE publication  Impact investing  Legal Working Group  Pro Bono  social enterprise  Social entrepreneurship  social impact 

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