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New pools of capital to bridge the ‘pioneer gap’ – a path towards achieving the SDGs without further delay

Madeleine Eastwood May 29, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the gap between rich and poor countries that risks delaying delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) beyond the 2030 deadline. To close this gap and accelerate delivery of the SDGs, new investment vehicles are needed to increase capacity and drive innovation at scale for underserved populations.

Countries in the Global North have traditionally had two tools at their disposal for development assistance: aid agencies and development finance institutions. These institutions are critical and necessary players in the development landscape, however, neither has the type of capital to support early stage, innovative ventures through their life-cycle and to scale, creating what is referred to as the ‘pioneer gap’.

Many investment opportunities can often be found during the novel, early stages of an innovation, and there will always be strong preference for investing in the later stage, after conditions are prepared for scaling. However there remains a funding gap for validation and preparing to scale, to pave the way for growth.

Many social entrepreneurs are able to raise sufficient resources to identify the market need, develop a value proposition, and demonstrate early proof of concept, but a funding gap too often exists when they come to raise additional funding to further prove and scale their business and impact models. This gap is particularly acute in fragile markets, where financing and scaling innovations, including those with the potential for the greatest social impact, is scarce or only available on terms that don’t reflect the needs of entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs need capital and investors that are patient and flexible.

Join us for a discussion that will showcase the lessons learned by the Global Innovation Fund in building our portfolio by investing in the pioneer gap; and outline the opportunity for a new catalytic investment vehicle that can scale up proven, innovative solutions to the most complex development challenges.



Meta Themes

  • Social Entrepreneurship


Catalytic capital • SDGs • Gender-lens investing • Funding and facilitating innovation • Private sector • COVID-19 • Pioneer gap • Social entrepreneurs

Purpose and Desired Outcome

• Purpose: To demonstrate that there is sufficient deal flow for the deployment of greater flows of risk-adjusted, concessionary capital to innovations with the potential for outsized social impact, and that there is a sound business and impact case for this type of investment. • Desired outcome: To share lessons from GIF’s investment portfolio and work on building an investment vehicle that is risk-tolerant and flexible to support enterprises that are delivering impact as they navigate the pioneer financing gap. To build consensus across the impact investing community by advancing the dialogue on the need for greater capital flows at a time when capital is taking too long to reach sectors and geographies that need it the most, or not reaching them at all.


  • Allocators (Family Offices, HNW Individuals, Foundations)

  • Government

  • Corporate & SME

  • Entrepreneurs

  • Accelerators & Incubators


  • NameAlix Peterson Zwane
  • TitleCEO
  • OrganizationGlobal Innovation Fund
  • StatusConfirmed
  • NameKanini Mutooni
  • TitleManaging Director
  • OrganizationDraper Richards Kaplan Foundation
  • StatusInvited
  • NameAlgene Sajery
  • TitleVice President of External Affairs
  • OrganizationUS International Development Finance Corporation
  • StatusInvited
  • NameKola Masha
  • TitleFounder and Managing Director
  • OrganizationBabban Gona (agricultural social enterprise that provides key services to smallholder farmers and GIF investee)
  • StatusInvited
  • NameJames Habyarimana
  • TitleProvost Distinguished Associate Professor
  • OrganizationMcCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
  • StatusInvited
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