Pacific RISE was established by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2016 to promote the development of an impact investing market across the Pacific. The program has a focus on social enterprise and women’s economic empowerment through gender lens investing. Through its work with Pacific businesses, financial intermediaries, investors and other stakeholders, the Pacific RISE team has developed a new understanding of the region’s possibilities.Past impact investment interventions in the region have largely failed to consider the environmental, social and financial ecosystems of the Pacific – trying to force Pacific companies to ‘fit’ into traditional investment vehicles that ultimately failed to provide social or financial returns. However, Pacific RISE has confirmed that investments in the Pacific have the potential to deliver both financial returns for investors and positive social impact. Pacific RISE supported the design of a set of financial vehicles in the Pacific using a gender lens – such as a menstrual health trade finance vehicle – that show greater promise than previous direct-to-enterprise efforts. These vehicles have the potential to mobilise substantial amounts of investment in the region, and many further opportunities remain to be explored.
To create impactful social investments in the Pacific, we need to understand the economic trends and opportunities in the region, and then design investment vehicles that can support social and market needs. To strengthen impact, particularly for women and girls and vulnerable groups, vehicle design needs to take into account power dynamics in prevailing finance models. Building on the insights presented in Pacific RISE briefs and case studies, this paper highlights a range of financial vehicles that could capture future growth in Pacific markets, and provides examples of vehicle designs that ‘fix the capital’ rather than focus on ‘fixing’ Pacific enterprises through technical assistance.