The Skoll Foundation partnered with USAID in 2012 to form the Innovation Alliance. Later that year, Mercy Corps joined the alliance. At its launch, the overall goal of the alliance was to influence system-wide change and help organizations increase their scale and impact.
Recently, the alliance invested $2 million in Evidence Action’s Dispenser for Safe Water program.
Dispensers for Safe Water is led and managed by Evidence Action on behalf of Innovations for Poverty Action. Evidence Action focuses on developing sustainable, scalable business models that help to reduce poverty and forward growth in developing countries. Scalability makes Evidence Action’s work a good fit for the Innovation Investment Alliance.
The alliance’s $2 million investment will go toward the cost of installing over 10,000 chlorine dispensers in Uganda, which will provide over 3 million Ugandans with access to a clean and sustainable water source. Thes funds will also finance the ongoing carbon credits program in Uganda. In this program, carbon credits are generated by people who don’t have to use fossil fuels to boil their water to make it safe for consumption. Dispensers for Safe Water currently operates in Kenya and Malawi.
When the Skoll Foundation and USAID partnered up back in 2012 to form the Innovation Investment Alliance, neither organization said that they were going to focus on a specific issue like, say, climate change or HIV/AIDs. Instead, they decided to cast a wider funding net by focusing on the world’s most pressing problems. With assets totaling around $570 million, and with more money where that came from (Jeff Skoll is worth nearly $4 billion), the Skoll Foundation has some pretty deep pockets, which is good. However, the Innovation Investment Alliance isn’t looking to wholly support any organization or program. This particular funding model is more money-to-scale, rather than traditional grantmaking support.
The alliance is also pretty selective in its funding, investing in up to 10 organizations annually, providing grants and other forms of funding, namely, impact investments. To qualify for funding, organizations must be scalable, sustainable, have a proven track record, be cost effective, be led by a ‘social entrepreneur’ and address the big-picture problems rather than focus on the immediate issues. Organizations must also operate in USAID and Skoll eligible locations.