Calls for global approaches grow louder, but how can we unlock them?


Zibran Choudhury


During EVPA Impact Month, the impact community came together to learn, share and connect with other players across the globe to maximise their social impact. Alliance magazine attended a discussion examining how four philanthropy networks in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America have come together to provide the opportunity for investors to drive change across borders. Carolina Suarez of Latimpacto, Naina Batra of AVPN, Frank Aswani of AVPA and Roberta Bosurgi of EVPA shared practical examples of collaboration and explored solutions to the current barriers.

The session started with exploring why a global association between Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America is important in the current climate. Roberta Borusurgi of EVPA sated ‘In the world of impact, geographical borders don’t really matter and there is a strong need to increase efficiency and effectiveness of investment that is addressing the still largely unfunded areas of the economic and societal challenges.’

A collective need

Naina Batra of AVPN described how this sector is still lagging, ‘Leveraging a global viewpoint for knowledge sharing and collaboration are key to advance this mission historically the social sector has been notoriously uncollaborative despite some growth in multi-sector partnerships.’

Frank Aswani of Aswani, added how recent global events have proved to be a reminder for global cooperation. The last couple of years have taught us how the world is a lot smaller than we think, none of us could avoid coronavirus whether in China Asia, Africa, or Latin America. There was a realisation that we are more interconnected than we ever imagined.

‘We are building a community of investors who put impact front and centre and looking at problems on a global scale. That to me, is priceless.’

From a Latin American perspective, Carolina Suarez of Latimpactico described how poverty levels in the region were the highest they’ve seen in the last 20 years. ‘2020 closed with 200 million people living in poverty which is equivalent to the Brazilian population. That represents an increase of 22 million people compared to 2019.’

Value of networks

So how are these networks adding value to investors? In December 2020 AVPA and AVPN launched its first impact investing fellowship in December 2020 and this was a cohort of asset managers and wealth owners who were looking to grow in their impact investing practice – 30 individuals from Asia and 30 individuals from Africa, working collaboratively with the desire to exchange knowledge and build connections across continents. Naina Batra stated, ‘We are able to collaborate quickly we are able to pivot quickly and we are able to create communities that will outlast whatever programme that they are on. I think that’s the real impact that we are building a community of investors who put impact front and centre and look at problems on a global scale. That to me is priceless.’

Borsugi added, ‘we know that talent and capabilities are one of the key bottlenecks that all regions worldwide face in considering the scale-up of impact and enterprises so we need to consider cross-region secondment and rotations which I think we have started but I think we could do more.’

Carolina Suarez championed the importance of local knowledge, ‘We understand the context and what we do is how we can connect in a more impactful way our impact investors. We have seen how different corporates that are interested to be more connected, to understand how they can create a more a more strategic impact. So we are connected, to improve these connections.’

‘Yesterday’s solutions cannot solve today’s problems and if I take Africa as a case in point, we’ve tried to solve our problems for the last so many years with aid, which is now declining and we are struggling to see how we’re gonna finance our SDGs.’

The sheer scale of need is evident, but it was also interesting to hear about the easily forgotten barrier of language, but more importantly how Latimpacto are tackling this with their translation partnerships. ‘Right now we have a library of publications in our own language and what is not only about translations, it’s how we can adapt to the context in Latin America how we can understand this context. We started with academia with our knowledge centre, bringing the courses bringing the best for our sister networks to understand the reality of our region. It’s not just replicating and saying OK, this is the translation. It’s how we can understand the needs and the interest from our members, and from the community of investors here in Latin America.’

Quality, not just quantity

Throughout the discussion, it was made clear that every approach should be geared towards making the movement of global capital an effective process, so it can reach the greatest unmet need. However, Frank Aswani reminded attendees that the quality of collaboration is just as important as establishing these networks. ‘Yesterday’s solutions cannot solve today’s problems and if I take Africa as a case in point, we’ve tried to solve our problems for the last so many years with aid, which is now declining and we are struggling to see how we’re gonna finance our SDGs between now and 2030. This is where also we learn from other regions we are able to challenge previous mindsets the very nature of our networks that brings together investors across the continuum from deploying grants, data,  and equity. It is about developing a new approach towards solving this financing challenges that the world is facing.’

In addition to the need for collaboration, the appetite to strengthen networks is just as strong, so how can we unlock them? Roberta Borsugi’s starting point would be to nurture a pipeline of brave and bold entrepreneurs, ‘Put the societal challenges at the centre that’s probably the starting point in some environment to counteract the mindset of reliance on foreign aid or public funding.’ Frank Aswani, called on investors to use new geographies as centre of innovation, and ‘deploy high-risk capital, and more specifically, philanthropy, into these more risky initiatives where private capital will not on its, own go.’

Capital needs to be in the hands of the organisations that need it most at this critical time, this has been confounded by news of different strains of Coronavirus threatening around the world, and as immediate lockdowns cause unrest right here in Europe. Contexts change quickly, and as Roberta states, it’s time to ‘Quickly try, quickly fail, or scale up’ to accelerate global coordination.

Zibran Choudhury is Communications, Partnerships & Membership Manager at Alliance magazine

For more, read Roberta Borusugi’s article on the past, present and future of impact as part of Alliance magazine’s 25th Anniversary.

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