Your quick guide to the most interesting news snippets about social enterprise, impact investment and mission-driven business around the world from the Pioneers Post team. This week: blended finance deals rebound after 10-year low, why philanthropy must adopt futures thinking, and a frothy campaign from social enterprise Hubbub.

Global: Blended finance deals reached a five-year high in 2023, growing to $15bn, according to the ‘State of Blended Finance 2024’ report published on 30 April by Convergence, the global network for blended finance. According to the report, an increase in investments made by multilateral development banks and development finance institutions to tackle climate change was central to the market rebound, with commercial financing from these groups growing by 140% from $2bn in 2022 to $4.9bn in 2023. This shift comes after a 10-year low in blended finance investment in 2022, partly brought on by a 45% drop in Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding from 2021 to 2023, due to government aid being redirected to supporting Ukraine, the primary recipient of ODA.


UK: A record-breaking year for Unity Trust Bank was followed by recognition from King Charles last week, as the bank was presented with a King’s Awards for Enterprise in sustainable development. Judged by both the King and the prime minister, the King’s Awards for Enterprise celebrate organisations which excel at international trade, innovation, sustainable development or promoting opportunity. In 2023 Unity Trust Bank exceeded £1bn lending for the first time, with 45.3% of financing going into areas of high deprivation.


Global: Philanthropy can deliver transformative change if organisations adopt systemic approaches, foster collaboration and take a long-term view, says a new Philea report. The Futures Philanthropy: Anticipation for the Common Good report, launched this week by the membership body for philanthropic organisations in Europe, offers the philanthropy sector a guide on how to apply foresight and futures thinking into its work. Philea says the sector is “uniquely positioned to harness the strengths of foresight, unrestricted by the limitations imposed in corporate or policy contexts, with a broad reach that can help it to bridge public, private, civic and academic spheres.”


Global: Singapore-based impact investment firm Impact Investment Exchange today launched IIX Intelligence, a platform that aggregates impact data from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from more than 60 countries, aiming to drive more investment towards smaller impact businesses. MSMEs, in particular in the Global South, currently struggle to raise investment due to a “data gap”, according to IIX, where a lack of verified information on smaller businesses puts off investors when they decide where to allocate capital. The platform uses the 160m data points that IIX has collected over its 15 years of existence, which will be updated regularly. IIX reaches out to stakeholders and beneficiaries directly to ensure the information disclosed by businesses is correct.


UK: Cancer charity MacMillan Cancer Support has made a £505,000 equity investment in Leo Cancer Care, a startup developing new technology in the field of radiotherapy. This is the biggest investment so far by the Innovation Impact Investment Portfolio, the charity’s own impact fund launched last year. Leo Cancer Care’s “exciting innovation” enables patients to receive radiotherapy standing up rather than lying down, which could help treatment to be more precise.


Europe: Women make up nearly half of the investors in Impact Shakers’ new €20m venture fund, alongside a number of individual investors and a family office. The impact ecosystem-building organisation founded by Yonca Braeckman last month announced the launch of its first venture fund which will invest in diverse entrepreneurs in Europe that aim to create a positive impact, in particular in the sectors of inclusion, climate and technology. Its first investee, Berlin-based Faircado, is developing an AI tool to make second-hand shopping more mainstream among consumers.

  • Listen: Impact Shakers founder and CEO Yonca Braeckman speaks to Tim West on the Good Leaders Podcast

Global: Gender-lens investing in private markets stood at US$7.9bn in June 2023, a 32% increase from US$6bn in 2021, according to the new Project Catalyst report. The report, which measures the current size and scope of gender lens investing in private markets, was published on 30 April by investors’ membership organisation 2X Global and climate and gender lens advisory firm Sagana, funded by Visa Foundation. Titled Project Catalyst: Tracking Gender Lens Investing Activity in Private Markets, the research aims to identify trends and opportunities in the gender finance field. It is a successor to Project SAGE, a series of reports authored by the late gender-lens investing expert Suzanne Biegel, together with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.


Figure of the week: £1.6m is the size of a loan to Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) made by UK social investor Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC). Alongside a £400m grant from Access Foundation, the funding will enable the north of England charity to buy 16 homes for single people and families escaping domestic abuse.


A campaign that caught our eye: Hubbub, which aims to inspire people to take action that benefits the environment, is taking a steamy approach to encouraging people to try plant milk instead of cows’ milk.

The social enterprise was the SE100 Growth Champion in 2020 after turning its finances around from making a loss to a 96 per cent year-on-year revenue growth.

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