Tackling complexity with programmatic approach

In order to pursue our mission of scalable solutions to the world’s big challenges, we have come to believe that we will need to be more focused and systematic in our activities. This may sound like a trivial, simple conclusion to reach, but for organizations like ours with significant flexibility, drawing boundaries can often feel unnecessarily limiting.

Our self-imposed focus is rooted in the recognition that sectors such as Energy, Agriculture, and Healthcare require genuine system-level approaches to solutions. Operating opportunistically without deep knowledge of ecosystem dynamics can lead to counter-intuitive or disruptive outcomes. This is especially true in markets where commercial, concessionary, and philanthropic capital is converging.

By developing specific program areas and internal expertise, we hope that we will able to more responsibly intervene on complex challenges. We will hire program managers tasked with developing comprehensive knowledge of opportunities and obstacles in a given sector and challenged to propose a variety of interventions using both investment capital and philanthropic capital (grants and PRIs).

Our program areas will touch on issues that impact both developed and frontier markets, but all will be focused on generating direct impact on livelihoods in underserved and low-income communities. We are particularly interested in a variety of cross-sector themes as well. These include the use of new financial models to accelerate adoption of services and the empowerment of women in societies.

The first program area that we will be formalizing in 2015 is Energy Access. This program area will focus on the delivery of energy to off-grid or grid deficit customers in frontier markets. We have already made one investment, Bboxx Solar, within this program area and will be expanding our scope of activities. We have begun a hiring search for a full-time Energy Access Program Manager.

In parallel, we will be doing research and engaging in small, opportunistic transactions that will help us develop the scope of future program areas. Areas that are currently under consideration include Energy Affordability (i.e. lowering the cost of energy for low-income communities in developed economies), Smallholder Agriculture (i.e. improving the market conditions and sustainable livelihoods for small farmers in frontier markets), Urban Agriculture (i.e. urban farming as a means for revitalizing communities and reducing the cost of fresh food), and Women’s Health Services (i.e. healthcare interventions in frontier markets that directly impact women’s health issues). We will continue to refine these program areas over the course of the coming years and will hire Program Managers as we systematically formalize each area.

We look forward to engaging other organizations working in similar programmatic ways!