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Frequently Asked Questions

Our Evolution

The idea for S3IDF emerged from a shared frustration that conventional approaches to solvingdevelopment challenges were not addressing problems holistically and that even well-intentioned programs often bypassed the poor. As a result, in 2001 we began ourProjects &Programs and Advisory Services to prove that market-based approaches could improve livesand livelihoods for underserved communities. On the forefront of the market-systems approachmovement, we’ve demonstrated that programs can be inclusive, equitable and effective at anysize, especially the micro-and small-scale.

 

Recognizing similar challenges in the impact investing space, we’ve expanded our focus toinclude designing smaller-scale, high-risk, impact oriented investments that will balancetheinvestment continuum and propel the sector forward

General FAQ

Why am I seeing Projects and Programs, Impact Investing and Advisory Services here together?

S3IDF has worked for almost two decades to address the systemic economic and social challenges we see persisting globally. To address the root causes of these challenges we have employed a self-reinforcing “bottom up-top down” approach. We gain our “bottom-up” experience in our Projects and Programs by directly working in underserved communities to improve lives and livelihoods, ensuring that our efforts provide immediate and meaningful change, while also learning valuable lessons to share and use in our ‘topdown’ Advisory Services work. We use our in-community experience to advise bilateral agencies (e.g. USAID) and multilateral institutions (e.g. ADB, World Bank) and leverage their resources to design more effective programs and implement inclusive business and development strategies.

 

More recently, S3IDF has recognized that impact investing can play an important function and adds value to both our traditional Projects and Programs and Advisory Service work. This third approach makes it possible to multiply the impacts of traditional philanthropic and development capital to achieve additional impact beyond what is possible in our Projects and Programs and Advisory Services work alone.

What does S3IDF stand for?

Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund.

Do your US and India offices do different work?

Yes and no. We operate under one unified mission and there is substantial cross-office collaboration between S3IDF-India and S3IDF-US. In general, our India office takes the lead on our Projects and Programs implementation work, while the US office typically leads our Advisory Services as well as Impact Investing work.

In what Indian states does S3IDF have on-the-ground experience?

We have worked in 12 states, including Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal.

Projects and Programs

Can you explain a market - systems approach to me?

People cannot escape poverty by living and working outside of the mainstream society and economy. We remove barriers to their inclusion by leveraging private sector resources and mitigating the risk in business transactions between local players. More simply, it is incredibly hard for poor and marginalized individuals to open bank accounts, buy large machines or vehicles they need for work, or get training on how to run a business. All of these are market transactions that should be transpiring, but aren’t. S3IDF removes the barriers to these and other similar transactions to create a more equitable and inclusive market system through innovative partnerships and financing structures that create new private sector business opportunities and improvements in income, employment, and access to basic services for poor and disadvantaged communities.

How will my donation be multiplied?

For each donated dollar (or rupee equivalent) that S3IDF receives, we mobilize at least two dollars (or rupee equivalent) in business financing from local banks and other sources.This model allows us to support more entrepreneurs than would otherwise be possible, by enabling our entrepreneurs to receive the capital they need to build and grow their businesses.

How can I be involved in S3IDF?

  • You can donate to our mission and help support our entrepreneurs
  • If you have interests, skillsets or expertise that align with S3IDF’s mission, checkout our Career Page for open job or internship opportunities
  • If you work for an organization interested in learning more about our model, or collaborating, please reach out to us to have a discussion

Does S3IDF provide funding opportunities for nonprofits?

No. Regrettably, we are not structured to provide funding to other nonprofits.

Impact Investing

How is S3IDF’s strategy different from other impact investors?

S3IDF is focused on a segment of high-impact, early-stage enterprises where most impact investors are unable or unwilling to concentrate their capital. Our knowledge of blended and other innovative finance mechanisms enables us to more effectively and efficiently evaluate, advise and support these entrepreneurs towards their growth objectives.

What types of enterprises does S3IDF lend to?

Primarily (although not exclusively) enterprises working in India. These businesses can be registered in India or the US, but must prioritize social and environmental impact and be in their early stages of growth with financing needs ranging from $25,000 – $100,000. Please see our “What We Look For” page for additional details.

Can I invest with you?

Yes – we are always open to speaking with potential co-investors or donors. If you would like to have a discussion regarding either investing or a major gift please contact S3IDF-US@S3IDF.org.

Why do you prioritize impact over return?

Our global impact objectives, enumerated by the Sustainable Development Goals, will not be achieved with the limited philanthropic capital available in the world today. Through prioritizing our support for enterprises that recognize the need and hold the capacity to balance impact with financial sustainability we are doing our utmost to expand the pool of available social financing, and ultimately achieve the SDGs. Further, we hope these investments will demonstrate the viability and value of prioritizing impact over return for our fellow impact investors, to empower them to make a similar shift and grow the pool of available capital for impact-first enterprises.

Advisory Services

What does “Advisory Services” mean?

A broader term for consulting. We partner with and advise public and private players to promote equitable economic and social development. We create innovative business models and financing structures, conduct capacity building trainings and knowledge transfer activities, and foster effective collaborations.

Tell me more about our work with USAID, ADB and other groups?

Our team of development practitioners and senior consultants bring decades of experience and insights to our work. We work globally across our practice areas to deliver high quality impact for our clients and collaborators. Highlights of our work can be found here.

How does your work with Indian government agencies and affiliated groups fit within Advisory Services?

We help government agencies and related organization achieve their programmatic and policy priorities using our multi-sector expertise across 12 Indian states. Examples of this work include our engagement with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to create more efficient waste collection processes, loan channelizing with the National Safai Karamcharis Finance andDevelopment Corporation (NSKFDC) and Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) schemes, and various thought exchanges with the Smart Andhra Pradesh Foundation.