WHAT WE DO (AND WHY)
HRSV capitalizes small to medium commercial enterprises in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda) that improve the quality of life of poor and low-income people through the creation of jobs and opportunities for income generation and the provision of new, affordable products and services.
Theory of Change
Investing to Empower Underserved People
Billions of poor and low-income people are underserved and deprived of choices. They lack security and access to basic services, and do not have sufficient opportunities to be productive. Not one single solution or approach will change their circumstances.
The governments of the poorest countries always play a critical role, and in certain situations, philanthropic interventions are the most appropriate starting point. However, HRSV believes that financially viable businesses, led by socially-minded entrepreneurs, are well positioned to achieve self-sustained, large scale and long term social impact.
If successful, these businesses offer underserved people opportunities for jobs and income, and a choice of services and products that improve the quality of their lives.
If capital is the hurdle for these entrepreneurs to fulfill the potential of their businesses, it is an opportunity for HRSV to invest and make an impactful contribution.
HRSV is an impact first investor and we value additionality. We pursue both social and environmental impact through our investments, but not necessarily simultaneously; many socially impactful companies are not environmentally impactful. Below is our working definition of impact, per the above, an investment does not need to fulfill each objective or every aspect of impact to qualify for funding from HRSV.
Social Impact = A better quality of life for the poorest-of-the-poor. Through, for example:
- Increased access to essential, affordable and desirable products and services
- Strengthened earning capacity through inclusive economic development
- Increased number of new (and maintained) and better jobs
- Improved infrastructure.
Environmental Impact = A rehabilitated and better protected environment. Through, for example:
- Improved management of critical ecosystems, including flora and fauna
- Improved management and upgrading of agricultural land
- Improved environmental hygiene in places where people live and work.
In their 2001 book Impact Investing: Transforming how we make money while making a difference, Jed Emerson and Antony Bugg-Levine describe the concept of additionality:
“Simply put, the principle of additionality calls on impact investors to target businesses that would not otherwise be capitalized by private investors.”
At HRSV we think of additionality in two distinct ways, the additionality of the investment and the additionality of the business. We ask ourselves will our investment be of critical importance to the investee and does the investee make a difference in the lives of the poor. The first question aligns well with the point made by Emerson and Bugg-Levine, the second question is presumably a guiding principle for most impact investors.
We integrate both notions of additionality into our investment strategy, in particular when it comes to justifying the risk that is associated with investing in early-stage start-ups in East Africa. We are committed to invest, each year, in a number of early-stage businesses with the potential for significant impact, even if the risk of failure is real or the required time-lines long.