SPRING Accelerator: Can Impact Investing Change Girls’ Lives for Good?

$12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality, according to a McKinsey report from 2015. Given the stagnant growth across many economies, surely that’s a statistic that should grab investors’ attention. Gender lens investing – the use of financial capital to achieve gender equality – is expanding quickly and seeks to capitalise on the Gender Quotient.

Within gender lens investing, there is a subsect focused on adolescent girls. An estimated 250 million adolescent girls worldwide live in poverty, unable to pursue learning, build assets or safely raise the income needed for a more prosperous life. To some, these girls living in poverty worldwide don’t make an obvious consumer base for profitable companies. But girls who have an opportunity to reach their full potential make vibrant local economies possible. SPRING accelerator, a pioneering, human-centred-design-focused accelerator, is built exactly on this proposition, founded by DFID, Nike Foundation, USAID, and DFAT.

Its mission is audacious – it identifies and supports businesses in East Africa and South Asia that can bring life-enhancing products and services to girls, aiming to reach 200,000 girls by 2019. It focuses on businesses because of their agility, scalability and intrinsic links with female employment. On a broader level, it seeks to influence the flow of capital towards investing in girls. To truly mobilise capital flow, they are working on an Investors Toolkit this year, and to make it as influential as possible, they will be involving investors from the outset, applying human centred principles. On 13th April, it is hosting a session at Marmalade to design such a toolkit: http://www.marmalade.io/events/investing-in-girls-the-why-and-how/

A Human Design Thinking workshop at a recent SPRING workshop. Photo credit: SPRING Accelerator

I started my social entrepreneurship journey at 16 years old, having founded a company through the Junior Achievement Company programme. Before given this opportunity to create a business, I never saw myself as an entrepreneur – largely because of social norms. I have since since founded an award-winning social enterprise that aims to empower women and girls through photography and storytelling called Lensational, and actively involved in the gender lens and impact investing movements. But none of it would have happened if I didn’t gather the confidence and skills from starting a business at such a young age.

Investing in girls may be one of the keys to unlocking the sustainable growth that the world economy seeks to achieve. It is the new frontier in investing that will yield positive financial and social returns. We need more investors and corporates to join us in this journey – and we hope to see you in Oxford on April 13th or to start these conversations at another time.

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