Government Funders

The Inter-American Development Bank began supporting social enterprises (cooperatives and NGOs) through the Small Projects Fund in 1978 long before there was a field associated with these organizations. In 1998, the Social Entrepreneurship Program (SEP), which replaced the Small Projects Fund, was created to promote social equity and the economic development of poor and marginal groups. In its 29-year history, the Bank has supported numerous projects that fall under the rubric of social enterprise through this program. Today, social enterprise is a key IADB instrument used to drive local economic development within the context of a strategic regional vision.

World Bank's Development Marketplace (DM), founded by Dennis Whittle and Mari Kurashi (currently CEO and President of Global Giving), stemmed from the need for better implementation results on the ground, and an understanding that good ideas can come through multiple channels. DM began as an internally-focused exercise to identify cutting-edge solutions to the most pressing social and economic concerns and change World Bank staff decision-making culture, encourage risk-taking, and shorten project development and delivery.1 With an allocation of US$5 million, the World Bank held its first internal "Innovation Marketplace" in 1998. Over 150 World Bank staff teams put forward ideas, of which 11 won awards.2

Based on the success of this event a decision was made to open the marketplace up to anyone interested in development issues from inside or outside the World Bank. In 2000, the World Bank hosted the first Global Development Marketplace (DM2000), or Global Competition. It was an open competition with over 1,000 proposals originating from both inside and outside the World Bank to address a range of issues from sustainable development to combating HIV/AIDS, winning projects shared the award pool of US$5 million in start-up funds.3 The success of DM2000 created demand for "in-country development marketplaces." The idea was to localize DM competitions to a single country, addressing the local development issues. To date, the Global DM competition has disbursed over US$23 million in awards to 171 winning proposals. The CDM competitions have awarded over US$11 million to more than 650 winners in 42 countries.4

After co-funding several private sector development winners of DM, International Finance Corporation's launched the Grassroots Business Initiative (GBI) in 2004 to strengthen and scale up innovative social enterprises- referred to as grassroots business organizations - that create sustainable economic opportunities for the poor, empowering and engaging them as entrepreneurs, consumers, employees and suppliers. Many of GBIs investments are DM winners that have finished their start up funding awarded though the competition. In addition to BoP strategies and social enterprises, GBI supports intermediaries that support them, with appropriate financing (grants and "patient capital" loans) and capacity building. GBI supports some 30 projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia aiming to bring income generating opportunities and needed products and services to the poor. GBI is currently discussing with the IFC the prospect of spinning off into a separate independent entity with significant seed capital from the IFC.

Government of the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom Blair administration determined that social enterprises could play an important role in helping deliver on much of government's agenda by: helping to increase productivity and competitiveness; contributing to socially inclusive wealth creation; enabling individuals and communities to work towards regenerating their local neighborhoods; showing new ways to deliver and reform public services; and helping to develop an inclusive society and active citizenship.5

In response to these findings, the British government created the Social Enterprise Unit within the Department of Trade and Industry in 2002 to put social enterprise at the center its social reform policy. Social enterprise is now the fastest growing sector in the United Kingdom; data from a 2004 survey conducted as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) suggests that new 'social startups' at a faster rate than conventional startups in the UK.6 Research also shows that employment created by social enterprises has outstripped employment created by conventional business .7 The UK government has done more than other governments toward establishing an enabling environment for social enterprise. In 2004 a new legal form was introduced, the Community Interest Company, which addresses from a legal perspective the particular needs of the social enterprise hybrid.

  • 1. Development Marketplace website: www. worldbank.org/developmentmarketplace
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Synopsis from Social Enterprise Unit, British Department of Industry and Trade website
  • 6. Nicholls, Alex, Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Innovation, Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • 7. Salamon, Lester, The Resilient Sector, Brookings Institution Press, 2003.