Last Monday, in the midst of National Entrepreneurship Month and as countries around the world celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Sweden rolled out a new $15 million competition to support entrepreneurs who are strengthening global food security and alleviating poverty through market-based solutions that reduce water scarcity in the food supply chain.
The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development offers catalytic financial support and acceleration services – such as business development services, investment facilitation, and market linkages – for entrepreneurs at either of two stages of project development. Stage 1 is for entrepreneurs with a successful prototype and pilot under their belt now looking to demonstrate the viability of their innovation and business model in an emerging market. Stage 2 is for entrepreneurs who have already demonstrated technical feasibility, market acceptance, and revenue generation in developing country markets and who need help overcoming barriers for further commercial growth.
The Securing Water for Food call for proposals is the latest milestone in the Administration’s National Impact Initiative that was launched around the 2013 G8 meeting to grow the community of investors, companies, and social entrepreneurs tackling significant national and global challenges through commercially viable, market-based solutions that intentionally generate both economic return and social impact. The President believes that social enterprise has a critical role to play as part of a holistic approach to accelerate economic recovery and boost job creation in the United States. In addition, social enterprise can leverage new capital, skills, and pathways to scale in support of the Administration’s global development commitments, including Power Africa, Feed the Future, and the Global Health Initiative. The Administration has already taken a number of steps to realize the full potential of impact investing and social enterprise, including creating the Small Business Investment Company Impact Investment Fund, clarifying the rules that allow foundations to invest in social enterprises, and increasing impact investments made by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which committed $333 million to impact investing in 2012 in sectors including healthcare, education, renewable resources, and water.
During this National Entrepreneurship Month, the Administration has continued to advance the global impact economy in a number of ways, including:
These are just a few of the most recent examples. Looking ahead, the Administration will continue to expand the National Impact Initiative by advocating policies that support the continued growth of impact investment and social enterprise. It is a strategy that can drive sound economic growth and strengthen communities at home and around the world.
Jonathan Greenblatt is Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council
Robynn Sturm Steffen is Assistant Director for Global Development at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy