The Innovation Investment Alliance (IIA) is a funding and learning partnership between the Skoll Foundation and USAID’s Global Development Lab, with support from Mercy Corps, that has invested almost $50 million in eight proven, transformative social enterprises to scale their impact. Together, we aim to create systems-level change across sectors and geographies and draw out lessons on scaling that are applicable to the social enterprise community and inform the ongoing conversation on how to create sustainable impact at scale.To inform the actions of social entrepreneurs and the strategies of funders who support them, the Innovation Investment Alliance and CASE at Duke University created Scaling Pathways. The Scaling Pathways series explores the strategies that our portfolio enterprises have taken to scale their social impact. The series includes:
- Pivoting to Impact, which distills critical lessons learned that cut across geographies and sectors and provides information vital to enterprises and funders trying to unlock impact at scale.
- In-depth Case Studies that tell the stories of the first three IIA-funded organizations (Imazon, VisionSpring and Evidence Action): their scaling strategies, pivots, successes and failures on the road to scale.
Over time, more tools and insights will be added to the Scaling Pathways series to provide the fuel for the scaling journey.
Imazon: A non-profit whose mission is to promote sustainable development in the Amazon through research, support for public policy, dissemination of information and capacity building. Under this award, Imazon used satellite technology to monitor and track deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, and strengthen the abilities of municipalities in the State of Pará to identify areas of illegal logging and enforce environmental regulations to stop deforestation in its tracks. The IIA also helped Imazon grow and institutionalize its cartographic monitoring system. More information on this program and how Imazon changed course to stay true to its "special sauce" in the Scaling Pathways case study.
VisionSpring: A social enterprise that creates affordable access to eyewear, everywhere. VisionSpring is filling a market gap by providing those earning less than $4 a day with vision screenings and radically affordable, durable, culturally appropriate, and stylish eyeglasses. To date VisionSpring has sold 3.5 million pairs of eyeglasses in 43 markets, and it aims to have sold 10 million pairs of glasses by 2020. With its current IIA funding VisionSpring will expand its Global Partnerships Wholesale distribution channel to eight new markets using its Minimal Replicable Business Unit (MRBU) approach that yielded quick traction in Nigeria and Kenya in 2016.
The IIA initially supported VisionSpring’s expansion of a hub and spoke model of optical shops and trained staff that travelled into rural villages to conduct vision screenings and sell affordable glasses in Central America. However, as the model scaled in this geography the average cost per pair of glasses increased substantially –taking VisionSpring up market and off mission. VisionSpring then made the difficult decision to shut down operations. More information on this program and how VisionSpring pivoted in the Scaling Pathways case study.
Evidence Action: A non-profit organization which installs low-cost chlorine dispensers at water points in rural communities in Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. Chlorine disinfects drinking water while protecting it from recontamination. Chlorination also replaces the need to boil water in order to disinfect it, saving time and natural resources. The IIA funded the expansion of this program into Uganda. The dispensers are being maintained using funds generated from the sale of carbon credits. More information on this program and how Evidence Action increased adoption rates to 65% from a low of 12% in the Scaling Pathways case study.
WSUP Advisory CIC: A social enterprise that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP). WSUP Advisory provides technical assistance to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for low-income urban consumers across the world. The IIA is supporting WSUP Advisory’s assistance to the Government of India’s program to provide sanitation and toilet facilities for all cities in India under the Swachh Bharat Mission. WSUP Advisory is applying its approach of demonstrating sustainable WASH models for serving all urban residents, as well as building capacity, mobilizing financing, and documenting and disseminating learnings.
Proximity Designs: A social enterprise with a mission of improving the incomes and well-being of rural families in Burma by offering affordable products and services designed specifically to increase smallholders' productivity and boost yields. Through its Farm Advisory Services (FAS) business unit, Proximity has been serving low-income farmers in the Ayeyarwady Delta with best-fit, climate-smart farming techniques. The IIA is supporting the expansion of Proximity’s farm advisory services work throughout the Ayeyarwady Delta and the Dry Zone of Burma.
One Acre Fund: A non-profit social enterprise that supports smallholder farmers in East Africa to increase their farm incomes by delivering a bundle of services that includes financing, improved inputs, training on simple agricultural techniques, and connections to markets. One Acre Fund has launched a “systems change” platform through which it partners with African governments to improve agricultural systems across entire countries. With IIA support, One Acre Fund is expanding its partnership with the government of Rwanda, through which it is training government agronomists at multiple levels on simple and effective agricultural techniques that it has proven through its direct work with farmers.
Fundación Capital: A non-profit social enterprise that creates innovative and scalable solutions that advance economic citizenship and financial inclusion for those living in poverty - helping them build assets and improve their lives and livelihoods. By aligning public policy, market mechanisms, and advances in digital technology, Fundación Capital helps low-income families decide for themselves how to manage, grow, and invest their resources. With IIA support and in partnership with national governments and the private sector, Fundación Capital will scale its digital financial capability tool, LISTA, in Colombia and expand it to Mexico, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. LISTA has been proven to enable and empower low-income citizens to manage their scarce resources, increase their savings, and ultimately build assets that smooth consumption, decrease vulnerability and improve well being.
Living Goods: A non-profit social enterprise that helps entrepreneurial women improve the health of their own communities. Living Goods supports networks of Community Health Promoters who go door to door supporting pregnant moms and kids, educating families about healthy behaviors, diagnosing and treating life-threatening childhood illnesses, and selling health-focused products. In addition to pioneering last-mile distribution of socially beneficial services and products to low-income consumers and in rural areas, Living Goods has built a scalable performance culture for its staff that is supported by data dashboards and mobile technology, which has enabled Living Goods to track and study its outcomes and refine its model for change. Living Goods’ model is proven to reduce child mortality by 27 percent and costs less than $2 per person per year. With IIA support, Living Goods will add 400 new CHPs to its network in Uganda and conduct experiments to make its model more scalable, replicable and impactful and accelerate progress towards its long-term goal of reaching national scale.
USAID’s U.S. Global Development LabUSAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab works to leverage new partnerships, innovations and platforms in order to accelerate and amplify sustainable development outcomes. The Alliance is just one of more than 1,600 partnerships that USAID has formed over the last decade to improve lives and create the conditions where assistance is no longer necessary.
The Skoll FoundationThe Skoll Foundation has been investing in social entrepreneurs across five continents for over 13 years. In addition to grant-making, Skoll supports investees through academic partnerships with the Oxford Said Business School, media partnerships with organizations like Sundance, PBS, and NPR, and private sector partnerships with businesses like Cisco.