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Designing More Sustainable Financing Approaches

Strategic Dialogue

Programming Partner: The Rockefeller Foundation



  • Porter Delaney set the stage for the conversation by providing a few statistics around what we are facing globally in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on financing and creating a need for new partnerships and tools that can marshal resources. 
  • María Santos-Velentin spoke of the recently-launched Catalytic Capital Initiative by the Rockefeller Foundation, which will allow for the Rockefeller Foundation to act as an investment manager for like-minded investors. This initiative began with the Zero Gap Fund, in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, working to fill the gap of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The initiative allows for the Rockefeller Foundation to bring capital to projects that need it, for example helping states with testing. 

“It’s about bringing innovation and partnerships to aggregate capital, which we know we can’t do on our own […] This allows us to attract grant or investment capital, technical assistance, or resources that aren’t even monetary to these projects,” María Santos-Valentin

  • Santos-Velentin also shared the impact of COVID-19 on the Rockefeller Foundation’s approach, explaining that the Foundation had convened academics, scientists, practitioners, and pharmaceutical companies to establish a national strategy around testing and contract tracing, with a strong focus on low-income communities. The Foundation has committed over $100 million to pandemic response, which will focus on both immediate and long-term needs, including establishing a pandemic institute as a central repository for detecting and responding to similar situations in the future.
  • When asked about how COVID-19 has impacted the Global Innovation Fund (GIF), Alix Zwane shared the organization’s efforts to respond to the pandemic by making new investments that support response and recovery. She commented on the importance of providing bridge financing, and of distinguishing between solvency and liquidity challenges. 
  • Kwase Donkor shared the CARES program, implemented by the U.S. African Development Foundation (ADF), which provided $304 million in immediate relief and response capital to help address COVID-related business concerns. 
  • As highlighted by Sean Gilbert, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) found ways to bring people together and support connectivity among investors against an uncertain financial backdrop. Its Response, Recovery, Resilience (R3) Coalition focuses on pulling together a number of partner networks to be able to share information about opportunities and needs. Gilbert also cited a series of research briefs that highlighted the issue of limited cash reserves for social enterprises.
  • As shared by Naina Subberwal, AVPN has witnessed increased collaboration across different groups of the organization’s membership base to meet both immediate humanitarian needs and long-term recovery from COVID-19. Today’s pandemic has highlighted the importance of social investors and philanthropic funders not taking their eye off today’s ongoing climate crisis.
  • Zach Knight emphasized the need to bring in other investors and stakeholders to match the funding from governments through his elaboration on the Forest Resilience Bond, addressing drought and wildfire threats in California.

“How can we bring in other stakeholders that bolster the dollars the federal government is allocating to the issue? […] Nonprofits, insurance companies, local towns want to pool funds to combat the threat of wildfires and the disruption they cause,” Zach Knight

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • COVID-19 presents opportunities for us to build back better, to do things in a more equitable way, and to focus capital: it allows us to reflect and refocus our organizations so that we can have a greater impact as well as the opportunity to build fairer markets.
  • Investors need to practice both flexibility and agility in deploying their resources if we are to build back better and more inclusively.


Session Speakers