March 26, 2009

Social-Enterprise Network Raises $750-Million

A group of foundations, social-venture funds, and international-development organizations has formed a new network to try to increase investment in and business assistance available to small and medium-sized businesses in developing countries.

The new Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, or ANDE, which will be housed at the Aspen Institute, in Washington, has 35 member organizations and will collectively manage $750-million during the next five years, according to network organizers.

Among the founding organizations: Acumen Fund, E+Co, and Root Capital, nonprofit organizations that invest in for-profit businesses in developing countries that also provide social or environmental benefits.

In most developing countries, large companies are able to gain access to the capital they need to grow, and the microfinance movement has made loans available for very small businesses that usually only support one family.

ANDE’s members seek to increase the availability of capital in the so-called missing middle.

The formation of the new network was announced today at the 2009 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England.

Randall T. Kempner, executive director of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, also announced the creation of a fund that will award $1-million in grants annually to increase innovation and collaboration within the network.

The money to start the fund was donated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation, and the Shell Foundation.