Unlocking Blended Finance for social entrepreneurs


UBF Geneva 6
Visual Facilitation Credit: Anne-Raphäelle De Barmon - ardebarmon@gmail.com


How to bridge the gap between philanthropy and social impact investors and investees.

What do more than 80% of social enterprises serving the Bottom of the Pyramid have in common? They are not operating at or near scale and are not ready to take on investment.

What do more than 80% of institutional impact investors have in common? They seek competitive, market-rate returns or returns close to market rate.

That is why there is a huge need to unlock private capital and find a new role for public funders and philanthropists to maximize the impact of capital deployed, and further scale innovations & market-based solutions.

Today, it has become increasingly more apparent that there is a massive financing gap between strategic philanthropy and investment to scale innovative social ventures.

The current financial gap is at the stage when money required is too big for foundations & philanthropists, and too small and too risky for institutional social investors.

And it’s at a stage particularly important for social entrepreneurs in order for them scale up and become financially sustainable (for those among them who have that potential).

UBF Geneva 1


That is why Ashoka is increasingly supporting its fellows to develop blended or hybrid financing models, enabling them to combine grants and investments, and decided this year to launch the Unlocking Hybrid Finance initiative in Switzerland, to raise awareness on the topic, discuss about existing solutions, brainstorm about other future ones, and offer investment opportunities.


21 Sept. in Bern: A full day conference – The Savings & Credit Forum

A full day conference was held in Bern during the SDC Savings & Credit Forum, organized in partnership with Obviam, manager of the SIFEM, the Swiss development Finance Institution.

The conference gathered several speakers among which Markus Freiburg (Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship - FASE), Björn Strüwer (Roots of Impact), Klaus Maurer (Finance in Motion) and Antoine Cocle (Kaya Impacto) who presented the ecosystem of blended finance and the different solutions already existing enabling investors to invest in social entrepreneurs and business. The solutions presented included structured funds, pay-for-success instruments, guarantees, intermediation & ecosystem building, etc. Andrea Coleman, Founder of Riders for Health & successful Ashoka Fellow, presented how she had developed a blended business model and how it helped the scaling of its impact. In the afternoon, we broke down in groups to go a step further, and collectively identify how we can each contribute to filling the gap of blended financing.


  • Presentation on blended finance in the social enterprise "Riders for Health", presented by Andrea Coleman > here
  • Introduction to blended finance for social entrepreneurs > here
  • More information including the programme and references >  here



22 Sept. in Geneva: Panel & Pitching sessions

The next day, an evening event was held in central Geneva, organized in partnership with Sustainable Finance Geneva, Artha Networks, Go Beyond Investing, EFG Bank and BNP Paribas.

The event started with a panel moderated by Audrey Sélian (Rianta Capital) with Maria-Caroline Romero (GoBeyond), Josephine Korijn (Ashoka Hybrid Finance initiative) and Bertran Gacon (Lombard Odier). They had an open discussion about blended finance, its barriers and opportunities.

The panel was followed by the pitching sessions of 2 Ashoka fellows currently raising funds with blended finance models that could enable huge impact, to inspire and offer new investment opportunities. Dr. Frank Hoffmann first presented Discovering Hands, his venture empowering blind women to detect breast cancer, and Joost van Engen then presented how Healthy Entrepreneurs is improving the access and delivery of reliable and affordable health products and services in remote and untapped areas in developing countries via a network of qualified micro-entrepreneurs. Both ended their pitches with a financial ask.


  • Introduction to the initiative and the evening > here
  • Short video presenting Discovering Hands > here
  • Short video presenting Healthy Entrepreneurs > here 
  • All the photos of the night  > here


Interested in learning more, check our additional related resources and below articles:

This article was originally published on September 28, 2016
Related TopicsBusiness & Social Enterprise, Financial services / markets


Caroline is interested in inclusive finance, impact evaluation and innovative market-based interventions aimed at reducing poverty and inequality. Caroline started her career in finance at General Electric where she worked for four years. More recently, she worked in the Strategic Initiatives team at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and held short-term positions at UNDP in Vietnam and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Caroline has also been involved in her free time in entrepreneurial activities to promote economic development. In 2004, she implemented a scholarship program for Dalits in India and since 2012, she co-founded Maloulie, a baby clothing company made in Peru. Caroline holds a double Master in Management from ESCP Europe and a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University.

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