Primary SDG Focus
Secondary SDG Focus
Please summarize your company’s SDG focus, how was that SDG was implemented and how did achieved and measured the impact.
Through our research, evaluation and advisory services in the emerging field of impact investing and innovative finance, we generated widely disseminated knowledge products on how the private, public and non-profit sectors can mobilize and deploy increased blended capital to achieve the SDGs. Our focus, therefore, was on expanding our consulting practice in this area to contribute evidence, models, tools and other guidance for the formation of creative new partnerships in financing to implement SDG 8 for inclusive, sustainable economic development, small business growth, and decent work, particularly in Africa and Asia, and especially for women and youth. In so doing, our knowledge products (reports, briefs, presentations) also informed the actions of development agencies, foundations and non-profits to advance the implementation of other SDGs, including no poverty, no hunger, quality education, gender equality, innovation, reduced inequalities, and new partnerships in the regions where the majority of the world’s poor live. In advancing SDG 8, our main contributions have been to promote the achievement of targets 8.3, 8.5 and 8.6.
How was your primary SDG focus identified and prioritized in the company’s value chain?
We are a small consulting firm with a long history of providing professional implementation and evaluation services to the Canadian aid program, particularly in local governance, local development, gender equality, education and other basic needs. Our first assignment in the impact investing space was to evaluate the global Impact Investing Initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation in 2011-2013. This assessment enabled us to interview 100 industry leaders in 11 countries and to participate actively in industry conferences and networks. At the same time, we built up our own network of consultants in Africa and Asia specializing in development finance and social impact assessment. The Rockefeller Foundation then asked us to work with Ghanaian and South African partner institutions to develop a 24-module executive course on evaluating impact investing in Africa, released in 2016. In turn, these projects led to additional research, monitoring and evaluation assignments in a cluster of issues, including impact investment and innovative finance, small business, innovation and entrepreneurship and gender lens investing, with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2015-2016), the World Bank (2016-2017), World University Service of Canada (2016-2018), Digital Opportunity Trust (2016-2017), Humanity United (an arm of the Omidyar Network, 2017), the CDC (the UK’s development finance institution, via Itad) (2017-2018), the Mastercard Foundation (2018) and the Investing in Women Initiative of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2018). In Canada, we also advised the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (2018), the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (2017-2018), and the McConnell Foundation (2017-2018). Most of these assignments resulted in knowledge products for the public domain as well as capacity building workshops and other learning activities for the boards, executive team and staff of these client organizations.
How was your primary SDG integrated and anchored throughout your business?
We chose to build out the impact investment dimension of our consulting practice in Africa and Asia through a proactive involvement in industry conferences, especially the annual Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco, and to diversity our client base. All of our clients in this effort are fully committed to excellence and innovation in achieving SDG 8 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, SME growth and decent work.
Did you employ any innovative approaches in your efforts to implement the goal?
We would point to three innovations in our work presented here:
Innovation 1: Understanding and assessing the stakeholder network in impact investing: Early on in this effort, our identification, with Rockefeller Foundation colleagues, of the key stakeholders in the impact investing ecosystem was innovative in its own right, and has been an asset of the 2012 landscape study. We extended that to incorporating a stakeholder network approach in analyzing the results of impact investments at the level of communities and households that lie at the “end-point” of the network, particularly with reference to households in West Africa. The aim of this approach was to optimize the business and job benefits for local stakeholders.
Innovation 2: Theory of change analysis: Our work on theory of change (TOC) in impact investing, which also grew directly out of the Rockefeller Foundation study, was published in a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Finance and Investment, which has been viewed 13,000 times, has sparked further analysis and adaptation of TOC in the field by scholars, practitioners and policymakers in Canada, the Institute of Development Studies, the American Evaluation Association, the African Evaluation Association, the OECD as well as in major funds, such as the Green Climate Fund.
Innovation 3: Assessing models for incentivizing gender lens investing: Although its influence is only now spreading, our review of the impact investment component of the Investing in Women Initiative in Southeast Asia, funded by Australia’s DFAT, identified and systematized the grant-based model used by the component to incentivize impact funds to increase investment in women-owned SMEs in that region. We have encouraged a number of agencies and funds to examine and possibly adapt this model, including Global Affairs Canada, the Mastercard Foundation, the development NGO WUSC, and others.
Were any partnerships leveraged or created?
From 2013 to 2016, in our Rockefeller-supported project to design and pilot a course on evaluating impact investing in Africa, our company animated a series of partnerships in Ghana and South Africa. In Ghana, the main partners were the Venture Capital Trust Fund, a public-private fund, the Business School of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, and the Institute for Policy Alternatives. In South Africa, the partnership around the course involved the CLEAR Centre for Evaluation in Anglophone Africa in the School of Governance at Witwatersrand University and Greater Capital, an advisory group.
Since then, we have formed creative and promising partnerships to carry out research, monitoring and evaluation of impact investment funds and programs and business development and acceleration initiatives with a range of like-minded consulting firms, including: Evalysis (Canada), Itad (UK), Jane Reisman and Associates (US), Deloitte (Canada, US), Social Impact Markets (Germany), Creative Evaluation (UK, NZ), and PCV Insight (US). These partnerships have bolstered the skill sets of our combined teams and opened the door to engaging with new clients, notably the Caribbean Development Bank, Danida, DFID/CDC, the World Bank, Humanity United and, currently in the proposal stage, the MacArthur Foundation.
What communications strategy did you employ to share the initiative with your stakeholders?
In several of the assignments referred to here, we worked closely with the client to prepare, design and disseminate our reports and briefs, including:
- For the Rockefeller Foundation, an evaluation report, an industry landscape study, a series of learning briefs and a peer-reviewed article.
- For the Rockefeller Foundation, the posting for public use of 24 modules of our executive course on evaluating impact investing in Africa.
- For Danida, our report on strategies for donors and DFIs to engage in impact investing and innovative finance, including profiles of 21 leading funds, vehicles and other mechanisms.
- For the McConnell Foundation in Canada, a detailed case study report on the real-estate and social-enterprise strategies of the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation.
- For Australia’s DFAT, our external review report on the impact investment component of the Investing in Women initiative in Southeast Asia.
- Academic articles derived from consulting assignments on household impacts in West Africa and the social impact of venture investments in Ghana.
How were KPIs and the levels of success outlined and defined?
Our major KPIs were:
For the major reports, we tracked numbers of downloads and reposting by key sites in impact investing, development finance, evaluation and philanthropy in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Our 2012 landscape study, Accelerating Impact, has been downloaded most often among our major outputs.
For the journal articles, we tracked numbers of views. Again, our JSFI article on TOC recorded nearly 13,000 views.
For both categories of knowledge products, we also tracked Google-Scholar citations and Google links.
Diversification of Clients
From one major client in the impact investing space in 2013 (Rockefeller), we grew our portfolio to ten diverse client organizations through 2018 (Danida, Digital Opportunity Trust, DFAT, DFID/CDC, Humanity United, Mastercard, McConnell, World Bank, WUSC), with good prospects of adding more clients in this space in the years ahead.
What were some key lessons learned?
Our professional track record and practices in development consulting, honed over 25 years with CIDA/GAC, proved transferrable and adaptable to the emerging industry of impact investing.
We continued to learn about the culture and structure of the industry, including as participants at its meetings and in its networks, to refine our practices and tools for theory of change analysis, stakeholder analysis and gender-equality analysis in the contexts of impact investing and gender lens investing.
The innovative work of donor agencies, DFIs and foundations in blending private, public and philanthropic capital is, in fact, an important way to mobilize new resources for the implementation of the SDGs. In this sense, impact investing matters—a lot.
It is possible to become a thought leader in an emerging field, it takes focus, energy and persistence.
We also lost our share of bids for other contracts. For a small firm, these can be sometimes costly in terms of person-hours, but it is part of the normal process of consulting. You win some, and you lose some.
What were the key impacts and results?
Here are links to our main knowledge products in the public domain, in reverse chronological order:
Catalytic Capital for Women’s Economic Empowerment: Impact Investment Component Review (Investing in Women/DFAT, 2018) https://investinginwomen.asia/knowledge/catalytic-capital-womens-economic-empowerment/
Catalyst for Sustainability (Case Study of UWCRC, McConnell Foundation, 2018).
Impact Investing: New Partnerships for Sustainable Development (WUSC, 2017)
Private Capital for Sustainable Development (Danida, 2016)
Interrogating the Theory of Change (JSFI Article, 2013)
Learning Briefs on Evaluation and Field Building (Rockefeller Foundation, 2013)
Accelerating Impact (Landscape Study, 2012; Rockefeller Foundation)
Unlocking Capital, Activating a Movement (Evaluation Report, 2012; Rockefeller Foundation)