Economic progress has brought much growth and prosperity to Asia in the past decade, but with that progress, comes a growing disparity between the rich and the poor.  Population growth, lack of proper education and stable livelihoods, growing health concerns and environmental challenges are serious issues in Asia that must be addressed at an ecosystem level. By this, we mean - no one group can tackle this challenge alone. We need collaborative solutions that cross sectors and borders, inspire innovative ideas and combine resources to empower stakeholders and create lasting impact.

How Are Funders Investing in Asia?

This ecosystem approach requires working with social investors that span from philanthropic foundations to impact investors, corporate CSR initiatives and governments’ development schemes. We refer to this whole group of diverse funders as social investors because regardless of their return assumptions – social returns only or blended financial and social returns – all of these stakeholders are investing in a brighter future for Asia.

At AVPN we have begun to see funders functioning less in easily delineated buckets – grantmaker versus impact investor – but rather leveraging a range of investment practices to better support the needs of social enterprises and NGOs. For instance, foundations are beginning to explore market-based tools such as debt and equity to support social enterprises looking to scale.

On the other end of the spectrum, impact funds are increasingly using grants or softer repayment terms to help build the pipeline for more scalable projects with meaningful impact and competitive returns. Said differently, there is a blurring of the lines between different types of investors and a movement towards using broader set of tools to fund social impact. We call this the “Continuum of Capital” and are devoting a good deal of work to further exploring this phenomenon and helping to facilitate the movement of capital along this continuum so it can more easily and more effectively reach the organizations that need it.

With this shift, it is becoming more important than ever before for social investors to be connected to and learn from one another. Models that have worked in Malaysia may have practical implications in Thailand. Or Chinese foundations can extract learnings from their Indian counterparts’ experiences and vice versa. A grantmaker may be looking to help their grantee obtain a loan or equity investment to help them reach the next stage or a government may need financial backing for development programs. AVPN is working to facilitate the connection and knowledge sharing of these many stakeholders through a number of initiatives.

In the meantime, social investors in Asia can take action in the following ways:

Original contribution by Allison Hollowell, Director of Marketing & Communications for AVPN.