Grant Investing to Build Sustainable Communities that Centralize Women as Actors

Grant Investing to Build Sustainable Communities that Centralize Women as Actors 150 150 Megan

Grant Investing to Build Sustainable Communities that Centralize Women as Actors

WoWE strategically invests its grants to build up ecosystems that accelerate women changemakers in capital markets and to catalyze solutions that go upstream and address systemic barriers holding back women and girls from creating solutions that improve their lives and their communities.

Investing in scalable, sustainable solutions for systems change

WoWE is uniquely positioned to catalyze a path towards a world in which sustainable solutions, communities and capital markets evolve to equally include women.  We use all the tools at our disposal to accomplish our ambitious mission of shifting capital markets to centralize women changemakers. Our grant investing completes a virtuous cycle of impact; our grants are fueled by the financial returns from investing in women. They also create the conditions for women changemakers to thrive and the gender intersectional investing thesis to grow. WoWE strategically invests its grants to build up ecosystems that accelerate women changemakers in capital markets and to catalyze solutions that go upstream and address systemic barriers holding back women and girls from creating solutions that improve their lives and their communities.

100% of our funds are channeled into our theory of change. When we evaluate investment opportunities, whether grant investing or for-profit investing, we seek opportunities with maximum, scalable impact that: (i) centralize women as changemakers, (ii) catalyze system-level change through addressing upstream opportunities and tackling  root causes and (iii) create connections to capital markets, harnessing the power of markets to drive transformational, resilient, and scaled impact.

We are incredibly excited about our recent grant investment into buildOn that pulls on all the levers of our theory of change by placing women changemakers and capital markets at the center. 

buildOn is a global nonprofit that (i) builds schools for early age and adult education; (ii) conducts adult literacy programs; and (iii) provides seed funding into savings and loan schemes that support entrepreneurial endeavors arising from the adult literacy programs.

Community members, both male and female, work alongside each other at a school construction site in Haiti

Given the recent devastation faced by Haiti after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southern regions of the country in August 2021, we grant invested into buildOn’s Adult Literacy Program in Haiti. buildOn has partnered with rural communities in Haiti to increase access to inclusive, equitable, and quality education since 2001. Since Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, buildOn has worked with Architects without Borders to build earthquake-resistant school structures, which were still standing strong after the most recent earthquake and provided vital shelters for the local communities

The Adult Literacy Program is now all the more important to help rebuild resilience in these communities. Over the past 11 years, 4,431 adults have enrolled in buildOn’s Adult Literacy Program, 78% of whom are women. The program is designed to develop the agency of participants to affect change while acquiring literacy, numeracy, and income-generating skills. Participants are encouraged to utilize these skills to start businesses. In many cases, participants collectively establish a savings and loans system (seeded by buildOn) before, during, and after the program to lend money to entrepreneurs and make investments into their communities. 

We are excited to launch this partnership with buildOn not only because of its track record of success in Haiti (and globally) but also because of its strong alignment with WoWE’s values and approach to driving change:

  • Centering women by cultivating their potential: buildOn’s Adult Literacy Program sees women as capable changemakers and recognizes that access to education and capital can unlock their potential. Women don’t need problems fixed for them, they need access to the tools that will allow them to create their own solutions. 
  • Changing systems by integrating women at every level: Improving access to education and capital are upstream interventions that create lasting change where women are equal participants in their communities and economies. buildOn expedites this shift towards gender equality by incorporating this practice into every part of its organization; Women and men equally participate in laying bricks for school construction, attending literacy classes, and holding decision-making positions. 
  • Connecting to capital markets through sustainable evergreen funds: Both buildOn and WoWE share a belief that capital can be a catalyst for change, and if managed well, it can be self-sustaining. This grant seeds a savings and loans program that invests in local entrepreneurs who are serving the community and addressing local issues. As their businesses grow, funds are repaid and also grow, going on to support the launch of more small businesses. 
Bringing strategic value with our network

The partnership with buildOn extends beyond just an investment of financial capital because we know it takes more than just dollars to produce social good. We are introducing buildOn to strategic partners to help refine buildOn’s learning, measurement, and evaluation practices and strengthen their savings and loan programs so that the organization can continuously improve and adapt to best serve their communities. 

Maximizing impact through syndication with other investors

While this grant expands access to buildOn’s transformational programming, there is still a long way to go until women have the opportunities and resources they need to turn their potential into action when it comes to solving society’s most pressing problems. At WoWE, we believe that working together will allow us to go further, faster. One way we work with others is through syndication, bringing in other investors that can contribute funding to maximize impact. CLinked, a global women’s organization that educates and empowers women and men to become leaders in their local communities, joined in this investment, so that buildOn could serve more students through this program. As we continue to grow our assets and invest through more grants, we hope to work with more like-minded programs and investing partners, like we have with buildOn and CLinked. If you are interested in becoming a co-grant investment partner, please contact  pooja@wowendowment.org.

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