Creating and Measuring Impact: Weekly Review 3/16 – 3/20

As impact investors, we are interested in better measuring the impact of initiatives in underserved markets. Below are articles highlighting how people are creating social impact globally and how to measure and scale impact efficiently.

Strong Communities Build Global Impact by Nekesa Were on iHub

Global Voices and iHub have been bringing people together to form communities dedicated to social impact. Today, 1200 contributors from 167 countries write for Global Voices, coming together to write the world’s most important stories that mainstream media does not always cover. iHub boasts 16,000 members spread all over the word, working to catalyze the growth of the tech community. Each organization is proving that collaboration empowers communities to innovate and solve major problems on a global scale.

Impact Investing Can Help Foundations Avoid Obsolescence by Steven Godeke and William Burckart on the Chronicle of Philanthropy

Traditional philanthropies are becoming frustrated by the apparent disconnect between their endowments and their social goals. While many foundations are looking to put more of their endowments into socially- or environmentally-driven businesses, certain restrictions have made it difficult to do so. Godeke and Burckart have identified steps that foundations can take in impact investing to successfully fulfill their social goals:

  1. Make efforts to change the culture of the foundation to ensure it has the right people with necessary skills working together
  2. Devise an investment policy and strategy that sets criteria for what risks are wanted and what return is required
  3. Assess sources of money for investments and what resources will be committed to impact investments versus more conventional investments
  4. Identify investments and learning to do due diligence on different investments than may have been done in the past
  5. Monitor investments and decide how to deal with those that may falter

When Less Impact per Client = Greater Social Good by Matthew Forti on SSIR

Over the past decade, the social sector evaluators have created a simple formula for measuring effectiveness of interventions: select an indicator that captures the benefits of an intervention and measure it for clients and control groups to determine impact. When there are many evaluations of interventions using a single indicator, we are able to understand which solutions create the greatest “bang for the buck”. Once this is identified, organizations can scale and increase their impact accordingly. However, this has not been the experience of all organizations during scale-ups, and many have seen impact per client fluctuate. Forti, managing director of One Acre Fund, shares four strategies for scaling that decrease the pressure on impact per client and simultaneously increase potential social good:

  1. Reach a more underserved population
  2. Enhance measurement rigor
  3. Widen the lens
  4. Create your own competition

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Mobile Technology Updates: Weekly Review 3/9 – 3/13

Following last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we’re exploring updates in the mobile technology space and the potential impact on emerging markets.

Availability of mobile money: What does the global industry landscape look like in 2014? by Jennifer Frydrych on GSMA

At last week’s Mobile World Congress, GSMA’s Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) released its 2014 State of the Industry Report on Mobile Financial Services. Frydrych, researcher and author of the report, discusses some key findings focusing specifically on answering the question: What did the global mobile money industry landscape look like in 2014?

As of December 2014, mobile money is now available in 61% of developing markets worldwide. Aas the industry matures, the number of new launches is steadily decreasing, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa which still accounts for the majority of the 255 live services. In 2014, 53% of launches occurred outside of the region, and the Dominican Republic, Myanmar, Panama, Romania, Sudan and Timor-Leste saw mobile money launches for the first time. As mobile money markets become increasingly competitive, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are showing growing interest in the development of interoperable solutions.

There are still 54 developing countries without live mobile money services. 70% of these countries have a total population of less than 10 million, indicating that a small addressable market size makes it significantly more difficult to build a business case for investment in mobile money. In larger, more populous countries, non-enabling regulations are slowing down the launch of these services.

10 Barriers to Using Mobile Technology to Fight Inequality by Tamsin Rutter on The Guardian

Mobile technology can drive inclusive growth: it opens up access to opportunities and services for the poor in even the most rural communities. However, using mobile technology to lift people out of poverty has its challenges. This article highlights 10 barriers and offers advice on how to overcome each:

  1. Lack of electricity for phone charging
  2. Lack of personal identification
  3. Literacy and language barriers
  4. Lack of partnerships between mobile money programs
  5. Focus on technology not people
  6. Gender inequality
  7. Misunderstanding local need
  8. Lack of digital skills
  9. Complex regulatory frameworks
  10. Poorer communities have been ignored

Make the Solution Fit the Challenge: Tapping into mobile telephony’s potential to address long-standing problems in Africa by Brenda Katwesigye on Next Billion

Mobile telephony continues to grow exponentially and offers the potential to become a precursor for innovative solutions to long-standing challenges in Africa. To do so, it is imperative to focus on creating mobile products to address specific social challenges. According to Katswesigye, tech entrepreneur and co-founder of InstaHealth, “the solution should be appropriate to the challenge”. Challenges such as health care access and financial inclusion remain critical in Africa, but the increasing level of innovation in mobile technology is an encouraging step towards solving them.

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Off-grid Solutions to Energy Poverty: Weekly Review 3/2 – 3/6

Energy poverty is a major global problem, hindering the development of bottom-billion countries. Solar has been identified as a sustainable solution to provide reliable electricity to the globe. In order for the solar industry to scale and offer affordable solutions to the billions in need of power, infrastructure changes and major investments must be made. Below are recent articles, reports, and interviews discussing the potential for solar and the changes that must be made to achieve global scale.

Could a Multi-Billion Dollar Solar Industry Boom in Emerging Markets? By Jigar Shah on Unreasonable

Blackouts affect more than 700 million people in India alone, exposing the weakness of the grid and the need for sustainable off-grid energy solutions. The potential for solar is vast but a lack of financing has stifled entrepreneurs’ efforts to provide solar power to their communities. International lenders have the means to jumpstart the solar market, but they are stuck in the pattern of funding centralized power plants. Decentralized solar power is already cheaper than buying energy from the grid in many parts of the world, and many investors have recognized the industry’s potential, investing almost $140 billion in solar in 2014. Half of this investment went to small-scale distributed solar projects. In order to scale and catalyze the solar industry, international lenders must develop new frameworks that allow big grants to reach small solar projects.

New Report Says Off-Grid Systems Can Solve Energy Poverty in Rural Areas by Pariphan Uawithya on Sun-Connect-News

A recent report published by Accenture Development Partnerships, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, assessed the suitability of off-grid energy systems in seven Asian and African countries and confirmed that decentralized power can play a role in helping communities overcome energy poverty.

A quarter of the world’s population – 1.3 billion people – lack access to electricity and 85% of those people live in rural areas. This issue of access is not unknown, and many programs are in place to extend grids to rural areas. However, this focus on nationally-led grid extension is not necessarily the right solution. We need economical, commercially viable and scalable decentralized energy solutions to connect the billions living in remote areas. This report explores the impact of expanding off-grid solutions.

Solar Power Empower the Poor (Video) by Zachary Shahan on Cleantechnica

In a recent interview, Richenda van Leeuwen, Executive Director of Energy and Climate and the Energy Access Initiative team for the UN Foundation, discussed bringing sustainable, clean energy to the developing world. Leeuwen praises innovative companies for bringing solar and other cleantech options to the developing world and addresses the affordability of renewables saying, “Renewable energy services have been counted as too expensive for the rich in the US and other developed countries in the OECD, but in fact they’ve been the most affordable type of energy services for the poor.”

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