The world faces tremendous social and environmental problems. Despite global economic growth, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty. More than 1.5 million children under five die from diseases that could be prevented by existing vaccines. One-fifth of the world’s population faces water scarcity. More money will be needed to address these issues than philanthropic organizations and governments have at their disposal. Recognizing this challenge, they are seeking innovative ideas that leverage their resources. At the same time, private sector actors are bringing market-based solutions to the space, as they look to generate profits alongside social impact. Working together, these different actors can successfully deliver innovative, market-based solutions that address the problems facing poor and vulnerable people globally.
An impact enterprise is one such promising solution. Impact enterprises are organizations that intentionally seek to grow and sustain financial viability, realize increasing social impact, and influence the broader system in which they operate. Collectively, they have the flexibility needed to adapt to the changing dynamics of problems and can deliver inventive and timely solutions.
The challenge is that many impact enterprises are successful at a small scale, within a local context, but cannot increase the size of their operations to expand their impact. As they attempt to scale, they often struggle to reach more customers, attract talented human capital, obtain the right types of funding, and access the technical expertise that can help them adapt their business models at each stage of development. Impact investors are interested in supporting these enterprises, but often have trouble finding investment-ready impact enterprises that do not need significant business support.
The Rockefeller Foundation has been one of the foremost champions of impact investing since its inception. In 2013, it began focusing more on the “demand side” of the impact investing field and examined the challenges for impact enterprises more closely. The Rockefeller Foundation recognized the struggle enterprises face when trying to scale and chose to support intermediaries that could help enterprises expand their impact and increase the positive benefits for poor and vulnerable populations. These intermediaries are often called impact enterprise accelerators.