April 10, 2020

Civil society plays a crucial role in bridging gaps between systems of finance and social impacts. Traditionally, civil society is seen as separate from the market but, in reality, civil society actors are already impacting market systems. Civil society actors engage in grassroots community endeavors which have the potential to translate into valuable market analyses. They address power structures in ways that have been proven to positively impact successful deal construction. They approach impact investing with an “impact” and “gender first” framework. While civil society is broader than non-governmental organizations, NGOs have a unique role to play in bridging government agencies and markets. Concurrently, NGOs are newly engaging in impact investing, providing new opportunities to incorporate different kinds of expertise into the standard investment process. This brief, prepared for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), reviews the importance of engaging with civil society, and specifically with NGOs, in developing innovative approaches to impact investing broadly, and investing with a gender and social equity lens in particular. We discuss the importance of developing NGO capacities to serve as impact investment vehicles, review concerns raised by some NGOs about entering into this space and share potential opportunities for DFAT to play in facilitating and catalyzing NGO engagement in this process.

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