How Social Enterprises and Impact Investors Can Move the Needle to Achieve the SDGs

Last month the UNDP and Impact Hub organized the first Social Good Summit in Geneva, bringing together impact investors, international organizations and entrepreneurs to discuss how to scale up and finance impact-driven ventures to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There was a great appetite at the summit to exchange ideas. Investors were looking to meet with innovative ventures and discuss how to create a reliable pipeline of investable entrepreneurs. Bilateral and international agencies were eager to learn how to increase funding sources and leverage their resources to implement the SDGs. Not to mention the presence of five entrepreneurs, selected through the rigorous #Accelerate2030 programme, who hoped to identify partners and supporters to scale up their respective ventures.


Betting on social entrepreneurship to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs makes sense from an impact and a financial return perspective, but the sector requires both financial and non-financial support. To put it simply, entrepreneurs need to unlock three doors: finance, market and talent.
When asked about key impediments to growth, Verena Liedgens, CFO of Agruppa, sees the key challenge as professionalization. “Everything related to back office – accounting, HR and IT – is a barrier to scale,” she said. “Social entrepreneurs in Europe and the U.S. can at times access pro bono services. This is not the case in emerging markets where companies often don’t have the resources to buy them but need them to grow.”
2014 report from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs shows the value of incubators and accelerators providing early- and growth-stage companies with leadership skills, operational support and access to technology, and facilitating peer mentoring. The need to strengthen that part of the picture was certainly one of the main conclusions of the summit discussion on scale, as the demand for support exceeds largely what is freely available.