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GroFin launches COVID-19 SME Support Fund in Northern Iraq

Posted By Shailen Neewoor, GroFin, Thursday, July 2, 2020

GroFin, with the support of USAID through a gift from the American people, is extending $1.5 million in financing to help small businesses in northern Iraq overcome the crippling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashraf Esmael, GroFin Chief Investment Officer: Middle East, says the pandemic has placed economies under immense pressure and has hit SMEs especially hard.

“The sudden halt in trading caused by strict lockdown measures has left many small businesses in Iraq’s Nineveh governorate struggling to cover their expenses. We are providing them with the working capital they need to survive and to preserve jobs and livelihoods.”

The Fund offers loans of between $10,000 and $100,000 to existing businesses. The loan tenor is between 12 and 48 months, where the first 12 months is interest-free and a concessionary interest rate of 5% is levied for the remaining term.

Esmael says GroFin has moved quickly to adapt its existing programme in Northern Iraq to respond to the urgent financing need created by the COVID-19 crisis. In 2019, GroFin launched Northern Iraq Investments (NII) to help rebuild the local SME sector after the severe damage inflicted on the region’s infrastructure and economy when it was invaded by ISIS.

“Our work in Northern Iraq has shown us that access to financing is a major obstacle for local entrepreneurs who are trying to rebuild their businesses in a very difficult environment. We knew that we had to adapt our approach in the wake of COVID-19 for NII to fulfill its goal to help grow sustainable small businesses that create jobs,” Esmael explains.

USAID has committed a total of $7.5 million to NII to support business activities and SMEs in Northern Iraq as part of its Middle East and North Africa Investment Initiative. This amount includes the $1.5 million set aside for the COVID-19 SME Support Fund.

“USAID is happy to support Northern Iraq businesses recover from the economic shock caused by this pandemic,” says USAID Mission Director Dana Mansuri.

“This flexible small business loan program is another example of the longstanding U.S. commitment to the people of Iraq. Small businesses are an important driver of growth and recovery, and thus, our ongoing support to private enterprise and entrepreneurship in Iraq is important in helping Iraqis grow, prosper, and build their futures,” Mansuri concludes. GroFin has been operating in Iraq since 2013 and its funds have already invested $7.5 million in SMEs in the country, helping these businesses to sustain 658 jobs. Its staff in Iraq have also provided technical assistance to over 100 Iraqi entrepreneurs, assisting them in setting up and formalising their businesses to contribute to economic growth and stability. GroFin Iraq currently has offices in both Basra and Erbil, with plans to open a third in Baghdad.

About GroFin

GroFin is a specialist, impact-driven SME financier. We help entrepreneurs succeed by providing them expert advice, continuous guidance, and financing to grow their businesses. We believe that growing small businesses to create sustainable jobs is the most powerful driver of social and economic development that truly improves people’s lives.

Since its inception in 2004, GroFin has invested in over 700 SMEs and sustained nearly 90 000 jobs. Headquartered in Mauritius, we offer financing and support to SMEs in 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East. GroFin is supported by 34 international finance institutions, development organisations, and private funders who have committed nearly $535 million in capital & grants to our funds.

Tags:  Access to Finance  finance  impact investing  impact investment  Investors  missing middle  Scale  SGBs  smes  social impact  USAID 

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Acceso Introduces Pivotal Survey on Food Security in Haiti

Posted By Lauren Olsen, Acceso, Monday, June 29, 2020
Updated: Monday, June 29, 2020

Acceso is proud to introduce, a pivotal survey on food security in Haiti. This was developed by Acceso in collaboration with Smallholder Farmers Alliance and with the support of various organizations—including Heifer International, ACTED, Food For the Poor, Clinton Foundation & more—and under the leadership of Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture. We are setting a new standard for data collection to boost Haiti’s farming sector by connecting smallholder food production with the potential for greater local procurement for food distribution. If your organization is involved in food distribution, seed banks, or growing food with smallholder farmers, please complete this survey by July 31. Thank you for your participation!

The goals of the Haiti Food Survey are as follows:

1) to get precise data regarding current smallholder food production;
2) to learn exactly what it would take to significantly increase smallholder food production, and to quantify that potential increase on a crop-by-crop basis;
3) to obtain details about the operation of community seed banks connected to food production, and how they might be expanded;
4) to get detailed information about existing food distribution programs, including how much is currently purchased locally; and
5) to learn exactly what it would take to increase local procurement for food distribution programs, and to quantify that potential increase on a crop-by-crop basis.

Tags:  food security  Haiti  smallholder farmers  Social business  survey 

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Acumen Exits Kopagas following Circle Gas Acquisition

Posted By Kevin Waichanguru, Acumen, Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

By the Acumen Energy Portfolio Team


It’s hard to believe that despite all the technological innovation of the twenty-first century, 2.6 billion people around the world still have to use open fires to cook their meals.

This is not just a problem of the inconvenience of outdated technology, but of health: more than 4 million people—the majority of whom are women and girls—die each year from exposure to the air pollution produced by cooking with open fires in their homes. That’s more than the number of deaths each year from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined.

And these deaths are preventable. Off-grid clean cooking solutions can significantly reduce the carbon dioxide emissions contributing to these deaths. Yet they are grossly underfunded. To reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030, investors need to infuse $4.39 billion into clean cooking companies over the next 10 years. Due to challenges from product affordability to customer behavior change, these early-stage cookstove companies are often too high-risk for the typical traditional investor: only $21.2 million was invested in clean cookstove companies in 2017 compared to $284 million in off-grid lighting companies.

Clean cooking companies need early-stage investors to help them grow to the stage where they are ready for traditional capital and serve low-income households at scale. Acumen has been backing cookstove innovations with pioneer patient capital since 2015. In the last five years, we have invested a total of $6.2 million in five clean cooking companies like BURN Manufacturing and BioLite across Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and India, helping to unlock $14.4 million in follow-on capital for these companies.

As we have accompanied these enterprises, we have learned more about the intricacies of the sector and low-income cookstove customers’ needs and preferences. We are excited to see two particularly promising innovations beginning to emerge in response: e-cooking devices (such as pressure cookers and hot plates) powered by off-grid energy systems and Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), a cleaner-burning mixture of propane and butane. While e-cooking is still in the product development phase, LPG is beginning to take off as a clean cooking solution for low-income customers—as signaled by the success of Tanzania-based LPG company KopaGas.

KopaGas was founded in 2014 to bring clean cooking solutions to Tanzania, where, at the time, 96 percent of citizens—or 45 million people—were using dirty fuel like charcoal and wood for cooking. While most Tanzanians wanted cleaner fuel like LPG, the high upfront cost of buying an upgraded, compatible stove and an entire gas cylinder kept the product out of reach. 


With its trademarked pay-as-you-go LPG technology, KopaGas made LPG affordable to low-income Tanzanian households for the first time. With funding from grantors like GSMA, the Department for International Development (DfID) and MIT D-Lab, the company developed a smart meter technology that enables customers to buy as much or as little LPG as fit their needs and budgets with mobile money. 

Acumen recognized KopaGas’s potential for impact and invested early-stage equity in the company in 2018. At the time, KopaGas had just finished piloting its product with100 households—48 percent of whom earned less than $3.10 per day—but needed capital to set up commercial manufacturing and bring that product to market.

Since investing, Acumen has  supported KopaGas through a seat on the company’s Board, providing a technical assistance grant, and informing its product design  with a Lean DataSM customer survey. With our pioneer capital, KopaGas brought its proof-of-concept to market and has now connected 1,300 low-income households to LPG-fueled clean cooking, impacting 6,500 lives.

In January, Circle Gas Limited acquired KopaGas’s technology in a $25-million transaction—the largest-ever pure private equity investment in the clean cooking sector. This is exciting not only because it enabled Acumen to exit our shares, but also because of the potential to extend the reach of KopaGas’s technology to millions of low-income customers across East Africa through Circle Gas subsidiary M-Gas.

As KopaGas Co-Founder and CEO Sebastian Rodriguez said, “The investment in clean cooking solutions required to match the scale of the problem are several orders of magnitude of what we have today. We are grateful to find in the Circle Gas team the vision and expertise required to crystallize the KopaGas vision and improve access to clean cooking for millions.”

“Despite the potential for outsized impact, many impact investors have shied away from cooking solutions. We’re proud to back innovators like KopaGas that are proving the viability of scalable, profitable business models and can fundamentally improve health outcomes and financial savings for the poor.” says Acumen East Africa Director Shiru Mwangi.

As we now turn to recycling the capital from this exit and investing in the next early-stage, high-potential innovation, Acumen is forming a new partnership with the DfID-funded Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) Program to accelerate the transition from biomass-based cooking to modern, low-carbon energy-efficient alternatives. Acumen will support investments in the electric cooking, LPG, Ethanol or Biogas sectors designed to catalyze the growth of this nascent sector. For example, with few off-grid-enabled e-cooking appliances yet on the market, Acumen will provide Technical Assistance grants to energy investees in East and West Africa to develop and pilot distribution of e-cooking appliances for off-grid, low-income households.

In doing so, Acumen and MECS will help off-grid households improve their quality of life not just with light, but also cleaner air.

Acumen is excited to take its lessons from the last five years of investing in the cooking sector into this next frontier of developing e-cooking solutions. We are committed to sharing what we learn along the way to both inform our own investing strategy and to support others in the sector in addressing this pressing health issue impacting millions around the globe.

Tags:  clean cookingsocial enterprise  clean energy  energy  impact investing  social impact 

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How can impact linked debt help your social enterprise raise funds?

Posted By Aparna Dua, Asha Impact, Thursday, June 11, 2020
Updated: Thursday, June 11, 2020

By Aparna Dua and Sanchi Khurana (Asha Impact), with legal inputs from Amrut Joshi and Atulaa Krishnamurthy (GameChanger Law Advisors)

Social enterprises have a dual mission to achieve impact and financial returns and often find it hard to raise patient capital for growth as they don’t offer the hockey stick projections that investors are looking for. Confronted with this challenge, they may be forced to drift away or abandon their social mission all together, to chase after more lucrative customer segments or product pricing. Impact-linked debt instruments such as Social Success Notes provide an elegant solution.

"In situations like the current pandemic, when funding dries up for social enterprises, such innovative blended finance structures become ever more relevant and important."

1. What are Social Success Notes?

Social Success Note is a loan provided to a social enterprise with a proven impact and business model that can service debt. The financing helps the enterprise to scale up and hence achieve growth and amplify its impact. The loan is offered at a discounted rate linked to the achievement of social outcomes.

2. How do they work?

  • An Outcome Funder (philanthropic organisation/ government), Risk Investor (Impact Investor/lender) and Social Enterprise enter into a contract wherein the enterprise receives working capital finance in the form of a loan from a risk investor to scale its operations. The outcome funder promises to incentivise the risk investor and the social enterprise on achievement of stipulated social outcomes.
  • The investor offers a loan (may be concessionary) to a social enterprise
  • The enterprise works closely with the target beneficiary group to provide affordable access to goods or services which were hitherto unavailable to this group
  • An independent evaluator verifies the impact created on the ground
  • Payment flows originate from the Outcome Funder and the Social Enterprise:
  • Outcome Funders → Risk Investor and Social Enterprise (Incentive payment if predetermined social outcomes are met)
  • Social Enterprise → Risk Investor (Principal and its share of the interest payment on the loan)

"This helps the Risk Investor achieve an agreeable risk-adjusted return and helps lessen the interest burden on the social enterprise."

3. What are the incentives for different stakeholders to come together

  • For social enterprises: Provides access to working capital at a discounted interest rate, linked to the achievement of outcomes
  • For Risk Investors: The investment opportunity is made more attractive by the incentive payments offered by the outcome funder. In the case of an impact investor, provides an opportunity to support projects with high impact and agreeable risk-adjusted returns
  • For Outcome Funders: Effective utilisation of philanthropic funds
  • For Beneficiaries: Access to affordable goods and services and a focus on outcomes and quality rather than inputs/ activities.

4. Given the multiple parties involved, what are the different contractual agreements to consider?

a. In case all parties are residents of India

  • Loan agreement: Between the social enterprise and the Risk Investor; the agreement includes size of loan, interest rate, repayment schedule, event of default, force majeure clauses etc (see this report on what happens in pay-for-success instruments in the event of a pandemic).
  • Tripartite agreement: Between the three parties; determines who the beneficiaries are, what the outcomes are and when they’ll be measured, price per outcome and whether the outcome payment is fixed or payable on a sliding scale, termination triggers, consequences of failure to meet outcomes etc.
  • M&E agreement: Between the Outcome Funder and the independent evaluator; this document highlights at what stage the independent evaluator would get involved and the periodicity of evaluation (ongoing or at the end of a time period), the baseline and the target outcomes

b. In case the Risk Investor and/or Outcome Funder are offshore (non-residents), a few additional documents are required

  • Loan agreement subject to the RBI’s External Commercial Borrowing guidelines: Loan Agreement is executed between the social enterprise and the Risk Investor. Prior approval is required from the authorised dealer bank (includes most commercial banks) which manages the filing process (Form ECB that must be filled as part of the compliance process).
  • Additional Reporting requirements under the ECB Guidelines: The fundraising entity to

1. Procure a loan registration number from the authorised dealer

2. Report any change in repayment terms

3. File monthly returns

  • Tripartite agreement and M&E Agreement serves the same purpose as described above in 4(a)

5. What are some of the key terms that need to be negotiated between parties?

  • For social enterprises: Loan repayment schedule, outcomes and timeframe for achieving them, events of default and consequences, reporting obligations
  • For Risk Investors: Payment schedule for social enterprise (Principal) and outcome funder (incentive payment)
  • For Outcome Funders: Outcomes, payment triggers and associated timelines
  • For Monitoring and Evaluation partner: Frequency and mode of evaluation and reporting, payment mechanics and consequences of termination of any document such as tripartite agreement, loan agreement etc.
  • In the wake of COVID-19, the force majeure clause is an important one to factor in to all agreements, to ensure adequate risk sharing by all parties in such an event
  • Dispute resolution clauses must be standard across documents to avoid parallel proceedings

6. What are the time and costs associated with contracting?

Time and costs would be closely associated with the financial, legal and business diligence as well as the contracting process involved.

  • Business Diligence involves a through review of the business model to gauge the financial sustainability of the model and its ability to service debt
  • Legal Diligence involves understanding the corporate governance framework, the company’s compliance with and liabilities under existing laws and contracts, shareholder agreements, other outstanding loan agreements etc.
  • Cost associated with diligence depends upon the depth and duration of the process. With more SSNs in the market we expect that the timelines and costs will reduce as regulations may become more streamlined and documentation would be more templatised.

7. Where can I find more information on Social Success Notes?

  • Asha Impact and Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), with the support of SAP and UNDP SDG Finance Facility, are shortly releasing a playbook on Social Success Notes that will serve as a guide for entrepreneurs, investors and outcome funders interested in exploring this funding structure. It includes inputs from UBS, YSB and MSDF based on two pilots conducted by these organisations in Uganda and India.
  • Here is a recording of the recent webinar on the same topic, organised as part of the ANDE India SGB Finance Learning Lab. The slides presented and a compilation of the questions & answers which have been attached to this post for further reference. 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  funding  impact investing  investor  social enterprise 

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TechnoServe Publishes Guide to Supporting Micro and Small Businesses during COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery

Posted By Juan Carlos Thomas, TechnoServe Inc., Monday, June 8, 2020

This is a critical moment for organizations that support small and growing businesses. The coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing, lockdowns, changing consumer patterns, and cascading economic impacts that accompany it are threatening the survival of businesses across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. According to research from the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative, nearly half of surveyed firms had suspended business operations and more than one-third had laid off staff, with a similar share anticipating doing so in the near future.

But as difficult as the situation appears, there is strong evidence that support focused on building skills and mindsets helps entrepreneurs navigate the crisis. In Mozambique, for example, TechnoServe business counselors working with women micro-entrepreneurs helped  reduce the share of program participants who had closed their businesses or planned to do so from 46% in early April to 13% in early May. 

What kind of support do entrepreneurs need in order to keep their businesses alive during this crisis and lead the economic recovery? Like other organizations, TechnoServe is learning how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. However, we wanted to share our ideas, drawing lessons from the 25 TechnoServe programs working with thousands of entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of surveys conducted by our projects, and our experience supporting entrepreneurs in past crises. 

“COVID-19 and Entrepreneurs in the Developing World: Supporting Business Survival and Recovery” focuses on strategies to help businesses continue operating during the immediate crisis, as well as adapt to a changing situation during the recovery phase. It also provides insights on cross-cutting themes important during both the survival and recovery phases:

  • Ensuring that our responses support women’s economic empowerment

  • Providing effective remote support

  • Supporting the role of small businesses in preventing food crises

The full document can be accessed here.

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What should we take into account when promoting the digital transformation of small businesses in Latin America?

Posted By Juan Navarrete, Fundacion Capital, Thursday, June 4, 2020

Written by Mauricio Romero, Research and Investigation Coordinator, Fundación Capital

Some of these solutions are presented below:


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Responding to the disproportionate impact of lockdowns on women

Posted By Juan Navarrete, Fundacion Capital, Thursday, June 4, 2020
Updated: Thursday, June 4, 2020

Written by Rodrigo de Reyes, ECaaS Partnerships Coordinator of Fundación Capital.

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Five Market Systems Strategies to Revive Food & Agricultural Systems During COVID-19

Posted By Mark Sevier, ACDI/VOCA, Monday, June 1, 2020

Five Market Systems Strategies to Revive Food & Agricultural Systems During COVID-19

COVID-19 is challenging the world to adapt, and, in doing so, creating two distinct problems in our food and agricultural systems.

The first is that productivity and food demands are shifting quickly and simultaneously. Demand is shifting, as many people spend less due to lost jobs and incomes as well as social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Supply is also being disrupted by bottlenecks in supply chains and distribution channels and limited access to physical trading spaces and critical services, such as mechanization and transport. Many businesses are now too cash-strapped to invest in adapting their businesses. The result is unstable food prices, less access to nutritious food, lower incomes, and less long-term profitability.

The second problem is poor access to health information and products, which is affecting how consumers and businesses engage in food and agricultural systems. Amid this breakdown in connectivity to trainings, products, and messages, consumers face exploitation, a loss of trust, and potential health risks.

How can global development organizations mitigate two seemingly disastrous problems? ACDI/VOCA, like many organizations, is adapting. Our inclusive market systems approach has always aimed to take on large, systemic problems and find ways to make markets work better for poor and marginalized people. Now, programs we implement around the world are applying aspects of this approach to develop the resiliency of markets and market actors severely impacted by COVID-19.

1. Assessing the Impact of COVID-19

The first step many of our programs took was assessing the potential damage. The USAID/Honduras Transforming Market Systems Activity surveyed 1,178 enterprises from 16 of Honduras’s 18 departments and found that most businesses in Honduras will close within three months unless they receive emergency financial assistance. This data informed proposals collectively drafted by the Honduran government, National Tourism Reactivation Board, Chamber of Tourism, and National Institute of Tourism.

Other programs, like the USAID-funded Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity, are supporting local partners, such as the Turkana Chamber of Commerce, to survey businesses and collect data of their own. The program is also partnering with the International Livestock Research Institute to survey the livestock sector of Northern Kenya.

2. Collaborating with Governments on Policy Interventions

These rapid assessments can inform governments as they consider policies supporting COVID-19 recovery, like in Honduras, where the USAID/Honduras Transforming Market Systems (TMS) Activity assessment informed the government’s decision to pay employees suspended from their tourism-related jobs a monthly salary for six months.

In Bangladesh, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Bangladesh Rice and Diversified Crops (RDC) Activity team is working with the private sector to report bottlenecks in supply chains to policymakers. The team is also coaching businesses to lobby for the lifting of import restrictions on certain agricultural inputs and permits to allow them to transport inputs and commodities into areas under lockdown — both of which will help stabilize prices and markets.

3. Providing Financial and Technical Assistance

Many local enterprises will require grants to get back on their feet. In the Kyrgyz Republic, local entrepreneurs are finding ways to ease the shortages of medical face masks. To support these entrepreneurs, the USAID Enterprise Competitiveness Project in the Kyrgyz Republic provided a US$17,744 grant to the Art Pro Public Foundation to begin manufacturing single-use medical face masks in May. The grant funded the assembly of the production line and created several new jobs. Art Pro plans to donate the first 30,000 masks to government institutions working on the frontlines of preventing the SARS-CoV-2 spread, and the next batch of 70,000 masks will be sold to the public at pharmacies.

Many businesses not only need emergency grants, but also technical assistance to become resistant to ongoing shocks. The Feed the Future Ghana Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement II Project, funded by USAID, is strengthening networks of outgrower businesses to organize the supply of inputs, such as fertilizers, and procurement of commodities. The team is also facilitating the distribution of personal protective equipment and information through these networks to ensure the safety and continuity of food production.

4. Adapting Business Models

As markets remain closed and people adapt to a socially distanced world, many businesses will rely on new distribution channels. In Bangladesh, the RDC Activity is working with the second largest mobile network operator in the country, Robi Axia Ltd., to provide smallholder farmers and rural businesses with access to low-cost smartphones. These smartphones can come with micro SD cards preloaded with extensive training materials. Farmers can then use mobile technology to seek advice on their crops as well as receive important market and public health messaging. Similarly, the Feed the Future Bangladesh Livestock Production for Improved Nutrition Activity expanded the app Shurokkha, developed by its partner mPower Social Enterprises, to provide remote veterinary services and advice to local livestock service providers.

In Honduras, the TMS Activity is helping enterprises diversify their distribution channels and move toward e-commerce. Read more about how one enterprise, JJ-Agro, adapted its business model and withstood the early shocks of COVID-19.

5. Using Existing Networks to Ensure the Flow of Information

Businesses have a moral and financial incentive to protect the health of their consumers. To ensure consumers have access to products and information, development organizations’ existing partnerships, supply chain infrastructures, and other pathways should be leveraged.

In Burkina Faso, a worsening security situation meant that the Victory against Malnutrition Plus (ViMPlus) Activity, funded by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, already had a system for disseminating audio recordings in local languages to communes via telephone or mobile devices. In Bangladesh, the RDC Activity, is working with companies and service providers to embed public health messaging in marketing campaigns and provide disinfectant spraying in public places, such as wet markets. 

In Colombia, USAID and ACDI/VOCA’s Emergency Response in Arauca II Program is providing advice over the phone about family protection and access to care, such as emergency aid programs implemented by the government and other agencies. The program, which aims to improve the availability of sustainable food production, is also advising participants remotely on how to maintain their home gardens.

In Tanzania, the Feed the Future Tanzania NAFAKA II Activity team is providing tablets preloaded with training materials on good agricultural practices to more than 50 of its most active and engaged participants.

The Future of Food and Agricultural Systems

COVID-19 has created a resilience stress test for food and market systems around the world. Market systems approaches that identify opportunities and then leverage businesses’ resources and incentives to seize those opportunities will help economies cope with the current crises.

While the immediate focus remains on the outbreak itself, ACDI/VOCA is keeping sight of the long-term economic recovery phase, in which the world will have to design new ways of engaging the private sector to foster resilience and mitigate future disruptions.

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#HeiferTogether Live Chats

Posted By Scott Lin, Heifer International, Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Good afternoon,

While we are unable to meet in person or come together at conferences and events, Heifer International President and CEO, Pierre Ferrari, along with other Heifer International leaders and experts, hosts live virtual chats with leaders in development, agriculture, philanthropy, impact investing, government, and more to discuss how the international community should respond to COVID-19 during and following the pandemic. With the current crisis revealing gaps in the global supply chain, it is critical to invest in small-scale farmers around the world to build more resilient, sustainable food systems that can ensure global food security. View the list of all upcoming chats and past recordings here:

Today, May 26th at 1pm EDT Pierre Ferrari will speak with founder of impact investment fund Acumen, Jacqueline Novogratz, on how long-term investment in small-scale farmers can transform the food system. The will discuss how patient capital can deliver dignified livelihoods for farmers. Investing in new technologies and innovations can provide farmers with the tools they need to increase productivity and profits and reach consumers more directly with their products. Jacqueline Novogratz is the author of Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World, published in May 2020.

More upcoming chats are below:

Pierre Ferrari and Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen,  May 26th @ 1pm EDT

Pierre Ferrari and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Aspen Institute, May 29th @ noon EDT

Pierre Ferrari and Raj Kumar, Devex, June 5th @ noon EDT

Pierre Ferrari and former Obama USAID appointee Brady Deaton, Chancellor Emeritus University of Missouri,  June 12th @ noon EDT

 Attached Thumbnails:

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Re-purposing travel and event funding toward COVID-19 relief

Posted By Anzisha Prize, Tuesday, May 26, 2020

By: Josh Adler

I want to be clear — this is not a debate on whether conferencing, travel and events are the best ways for non-profits to spend money for impact. Let’s just acknowledge upfront that the true impact gains from travel and convening within the non-profit sector are both difficult to measure and deeply variable. The fact remains that many non-profits spend meaningfully on travel and convening. If a program is global or regional, these budgets can be quite significant.

I’ve been managing programs like this for almost a decade — and so much can change when it comes to travel as a program or event evolves. In general, a well-designed program is best served through travel that was budgeted, and changes in environment (e.g. visas) or tactics (securing co-sponsors) mainly result in timing variances. Under-spend is mostly deferred to the future.

This year is different.

It was clear from early March as we began re-forecasting our program spend that timing variances were an optimistic lens. Permanence was staring at us from red lines and scratch notes from our budget meetings.

So, what to do?

The first decision we made was a principle of response, rather than one of deferment. As we heard more and more from our  (active, very young entrepreneurs in Africa) and the growing impacts on their livelihoods, talk of deferred travel opportunities for them to a time in the future just rang hollow. Our entrepreneur acceleration team, led by , quickly reached out to as many of our beneficiaries as possible to assemble a suite of options. The speed at which her team collected both anecdotes and supporting evidence across almost 100 entrepreneurs was remarkable, and we found a few key takeaways:

  • Our very young entrepreneurs faced the same challenges around employee retention that all SME’s were facing, but most would not qualify for government-backed schemes that were being rolled out.
  • Our entrepreneurs with larger businesses were already modelling their working capital needs and had begun raising debt to support cash flow while they adjusted to the new reality.
  • Our entrepreneurs at all levels had already started or were planning on pivoting aspects of their business or skills to respond to new market demands and opportunities.

At the same time,  — the Deputy Director of the Anzisha Prize — and I were looking at our future travel and event budget lines for the coming months to see how much we could viably re-purpose into a new COVID-19 Relief Fund. A short but robust process to get feedback and sign-off from our partners and executives from a governance perspective was then followed. This was of course critically important as we were making material changes to a well-designed program.

We are proud to say that right now we’re busy disbursing the first tranche of $50,000 USD after a strong application process to fairly allocate the funds. We will be able to release another $50,000 USD tranche in June and will keep evaluating our options.

Here are the specifics of what the Anzisha COVID19 Relief Fund offers to our fellows:

  • EMPLOYEE RETENTION GRANTS: To help businesses deal with the impact of COVID-19, the Employee Retention Grant Program will assist Anzisha Fellows to retain the most vulnerable employees as businesses face decreased revenue. The criteria will be clear, and follow the guidelines of similar programs from governments around the world.
  • VOUCHERS/RELIEF PURCHASES: Some Fellows’ businesses are able to operate, and are already providing or could provide important services in response to COVID-19. We will purchase these services (food, deliveries, medical supplies) on behalf of local communities that need them.
  • INTEREST FREE LOANS: For larger businesses in our network, we will provide interest-free loans with a repayment holiday pending a short due diligence process.

It’s wonderful to work with a team and partners that put the needs of our fellows first. If anyone would like to talk through how we did this in more detail so that you too can explore how to re-allocate your own travel and event budgets into direct relief, please .

A few links for those that aren’t familiar with our work:

  • We’re focused on figuring out how to support successful transitions of very young people directly from school to entrepreneurship. Read our 
  • We select fellows before they turn 22, from across Africa. We have been doing it for almost 10 years, and you can meet over 122 of them 
  • We’re building communities of African  and  around this idea of entrepreneurship as a career. Why not join?

** Note. Our relief funding is sadly only available to Anzisha Fellows already within program. We are unfortunately unable to consider applications for funding from others.

Tags:  Africa  COVID-19  Entrepreneurship  Nonprofit 

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