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Def.: risk-capital investments made in organizations to generate measurable social and environmental impact as well as a financial return in exchange for an equity stake in the business.

Impact investing is venture capital adapted to the needs and realities of the social enterprise.

Impact investment funds provide the capital that is an essential component of the innovation ecosystem. They also boost technology development from applied R&D through to demonstration.

Angel networks represent another class of impact investor., These groups of high-net-worth individuals collectively review deals and perform due diligence but retain the right to make individual decisions on how and when their capital will be spent.


Investing in technological innovation led by entrepreneurs offers opportunities to sustainably solve global problems as the digital age has made it possible for start-ups to scale-up quickly.

can serve what Acumen Fund has qualified as “patient capital” in the initial stages of a technology’s development—providing a business with the critical time it needs to be able to demonstrate traction in the marketplace and therefore be of greater interest to VC funds looking for a more immediate return on their investment.

Impact investors typically make smaller investments than do VC funders and are therefore appropriate for very early-stage technological innovation.


GSNs interested in pursuing this route will want to ensure that their growth plans are aligned with the investment thesis and expectations of their investors.

It is important to complete due diligence on the investor and treat the relationship like a partnership., In addition to capital, investors can become important allies by offering their expertise and by making introductions to other portfolio companies, potential clients and prospective hires.


Investors, Omidyar Network, Acumen Fund

Angel networks, Investors' Circle, Toniic, Global Impact Investment Network



consortiums of at least two organizations agreeing to license patents related to a particular technology to one another or to a third party.

the spirit of a patent pool is to provide enhanced access to the building-blocks of knowledge that are essential to drive innovation forward.


IP protection tools and mechanisms pose challenges:, Patent holders are incentivized to set high prices for the use of their inventions., This can make the application of new technology cost-prohibitive for organizations that serve the public good., Furthermore, patents lead to the fragmentation of knowledge where the IP required to deliver a solution is protected under multiple patents, often belonging to multiple organizations.

Patent pools permit access to technologies that would otherwise be available only in instances of economic value-creation for the owner. By extending the availability of proprietary patents, patent pools accelerate technology development and adoption.

Patent pools create powerful opportunities for GSNs to forge new partnerships with the private sector and to leverage leading edge technologies in their solutions with less capital investment than would be required to develop these technologies internally.

Patent pools can help free technology for alternative uses as in the case of the GreenXchange,, GreenXchange, which was founded by Nike and includes the participation of a range of corporate partners including BestBuy and Mountain Equipment Co-op. This pool recognizes that companies in vastly different fields may benefit from the very same research.



Examples of, Medicines Patents Pool, Golden Rice Pool, GreenXchange



multi-disciplinary events in which a large number of technologically capable people meet to engage in collaborative problem-solving and technology development over a short, intensive period of time.

In a typical hackathon, a host organization might convene a large number of participants over 48 hours to “hack” a software solution to a predefined problem., A growing number of such events are dedicated to building physical prototypes thanks to the rise of low-cost 3D printing and open source electronic prototyping platforms like Arduino.


a diverse network of stakeholders can come together to catalyze new ideas in situations where incumbent organizations are unable to muster sufficient innovation capacity internally.


The success of a hackathon depends greatly on the quality of the participants., Organizers should consider the ways in which to engage with and attract developers and designers by interfacing early with the local start-up community., Often, friendly competition amongst participants is encouraged, offering teams the opportunity to demo their product in front of a panel of judges.

GSNs are best advised to articulate a theme or problem that is not organization specific and will have broader impact., It is important to keep in mind that the objective of a hackathon is as much about building community as it is about generating new solutions.


organizers, Random Hacks of Kindness, Open Source Ecology

data and open source software provider(s), Ushahidi

reverse hackathon-ers, DataKind, matches leading data scientists with high impact social organizations to help leverage data for public good, Code for America’s Fellows initiative,, deploys technologists within government to develop applications and release data sets in order to tackle specific challenges.



provide legally binding incentives for technology development by guaranteeing a viable market for a technology if it is successfully developed., funds are used to overcome barriers to the formation of a lucrative end-market large enough to attract R&D investments., Sponsors commit to paying a pre-determined price to the supplier for a specified volume with the goal of providing market returns to the developer. In the case of pharmaceuticals, once the total volume has been reached, the supplier is obligated to sell at an affordable price or to license the technology to a generic manufacturer.

AMCs are designed to encourage investment in R&D by the private sector as well as ensure self-sustaining deployment.


can provide innovators with assurances that they can recoup their investments in risky projects and technologies., Once a new medicine is available, governments then want to purchase the vaccine at the lowest possible price and are motivated to remove any limitations on access to the product guaranteed by IP regimes. This puts the innovator at risk of being pressured to release its IP into the public domain prematurely before it is able to recover the costs of the related R&D.

AMCs are highly sophisticated tools that seek to address several market weaknesses at once, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of a given technology in a competitive private market., The objective is to place the business decision to invest in a product that has a low-margin market on equal footing with a product with an established lucrative market.


Given the complexity of the model, AMCs are not suited to driving innovation in all sectors, even where GSNs are willing and able to mobilize the significant resources and partnerships necessary to successfully implement an AMC.

AMCs need to accurately tailor the size of the AMC to the market need., This is important in order to achieve the best balance between offering a reasonable incentive that mirrors that of a lucrative market and achieving cost effectiveness.

AMCs require that legitimate and stable organizations enter into contractually binding agreements to ensure they fulfill their obligations over the life span of the AMC, which can be upwards of 10 years.


Initiatives, AgResults, an initiative launched in 2012 which will focus on maize production and enhancement in Sub-Saharan Africa, $1.5 billion AMC to speed the development and market diffusion of a vaccine for pneumococcal disease



Crowdfunding platforms connect projects with a large audience of individuals from around the world that can invest small amounts of money in the project in return for a product or service., This differentiates it substantially from other types of fundraising, including sites that facilitate crowdsourcing donations., Successful projects offer a range of novel goods or experiences ranging from exclusive access to the technology before it is commercial to dinner with the project leaders—in exchange for a financial contribution., to use these platforms, project heads have to agree to a fee that amounts to a set percentage of the total dollar value raised.


Overall, crowdfunding has become an appealing alternative to loans and risk capital because of its flexibility, its relatively low cost and its potential to reach a wide audience outside an organization’s network.

It allows innovators to demonstrate that there is robust consumer demand for their products.

campaigns have also proven helpful in connecting teams with early-adopters and stakeholders that can provide feedback and help refine a product or technology before it launches.

A number of crowdfunding sites play an active role in helping educate project heads about how to successfully pitch their products and generate interest from the audience.

A combination of crowdfunding and business accelerators can provide entrepreneurs with access to sufficient capital and mentorship to run a series of low-cost tests in which they engage in an iterative process of design and development, deployment, feedback and improvement as a way of refining solutions through real-time learning.


GSNs that pursue crowdfunding should select a platform on which to promote a new venture based on alignment with the interests of the community that the platform has created., Kickstarter, for example, is known for its selective curating process that favors creative projects related to the arts as well as technology., Indiegogo, on the other hand, has earned the title of largest crowdfunding site worldwide— it has enabled the largest number of campaigns, and also allows anyone to post a project in any area., The growing number of crowdfunding platforms that cater to non-profit initiatives and development projects should make it easier to find one that provides a good fit and targets niche interests where this can be helpful.

Pulling off a successful crowfunding campaign requires a strong marketing effort., Once a platform is selected, low-cost marketing campaigns can be run on social media channels but most successful organizations produce a professional video that tells a compelling story. The video can become an asset that is reused on multiple channels., Only genuinely popular initiatives will secure funding, however, so GSNs should be willing to experiment.

Finally, it is important to note that existing crowdfunding platforms may specify certain restrictions and be limited to projects originating in certain countries., For example, Kickstarter is currently only available in the US, UK , Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but the platform is expanding rapidly to other countries.


Platforms, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Catalyst

Donation facilitators, CrowdRise, Fundly



open competitions, contests or challenges that invite participants to contribute the best idea or technology to solve a specific problem by offering a reward, either financial or in-kind.

can be used to stimulate basic and applied R&D as well as demonstration and niche market commercialization.

Because they can be fully coordinated online, incentive challenges are particularly effective at tapping into the creative potential and expertise of individuals around the globe.


a diverse network of stakeholders can come together to catalyze new ideas in situations where incumbent organizations are unable to muster sufficient innovation capacity internally.

In a departure from grant-making, incentive challenges allow sponsors to define the problem to be addressed without prescribing a solution and then pay only for the results.

Their value is in building a community of innovators that are actively engaged in searching for and responding to challenges.

Incentive challenges also tend to attract more diverse groups of innovators that may not otherwise participate in more traditional grantmaking or procurement processes, allowing the sponsor to benefit from a larger pool of potential solutions that taps into a broader range of skills, experience and knowledge.


As solution providers, GSNs should view incentive challenges as a vehicle for obtaining the funds required to scale their ideas or to receive public recognition for their work.

All GSNs should strive to become familiar with the organizations and platforms that publicize incentive challenges relevant to their area of focus and they should regularly evaluate opportunities to participate against desired outcomes, whether it be to get feedback from a like-minded community, to gain recognition and exposure or to win the prize itself.


Platforms, X Prize Foundation, ChallengePost, Ashoka Changemakers

Example, Haiti Mobile Money Initiative



Def.: programs designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies —or innovations within companies— through an array of business support resources and services, including mentoring and access to capital, Participants in an incubator or accelerator typically take up residence in a co-working environment provided by the program.

Incubators are “network integrators” that immerse a select group of entrepreneurs in a highly concentrated ecosystem that provides support and expertise in achieving these goals., Incubators bring together various business enablers to offer a network of support that includes investors, experts, mentors and peers.

In some cases, programs (typically called “accelerators”) offer financing as well as access to intensive coaching and mentoring in exchange for equity. In other words, they create a community, show people the realm of the possible and allow fast-paced sharing of ideas and best practices.


A combination of crowdfunding and business accelerators can provide entrepreneurs with access to sufficient capital and mentorship to run a series of low-cost tests in which they engage in an iterative process of design and development, deployment, feedback and improvement as a way of refining solutions through real-time learning.

The process of creating a viable, self-sustaining business that achieves scale while at the same time addressing its social mission is far from straightforward however, and entrepreneurs typically achieve results much more quickly when they are immersed in an environment where they can benefit from the resources, expertise and lessons-learned of a supportive ecosystem.


In choosing a program, it is important to consider not only the goods and services being offered but also the attention the incubator has dedicated to facilitating mentorship and networking opportunities with a high-caliber community of experts and peers., the value of peer networks and mentorship suggest that it should be attractive for GSNs to embed small teams into incubators on an ongoing basis to continue to participate in and contribute to the innovation ecosystem.

A decision to compete for a spot in an accelerator requires additional planning., Because programs take equity as a means of securing payment, a GSN must consider whether its business model is built for the high-growth expected by these programs and whether the cost of giving up equity is offset by access to the mentor network (and the investment capital that comes with it)., In this case, it is even more important to complete due diligence on the mentor network., Beyond confirming that the mentors’ areas of expertise are relevant to the technology development challenge, GSNs will want to favor programs that have mentor networks that are actively engaged and dedicate significant time to the entrepreneur and to the problem space they are tackling. One way of doing this will be to interview current and past program participants.


Examples, EdTech Accelerator, Endeavor

Finance providers, Omidyar Network, Google, Techstars