Social Enterprise Investment with a Gender Lens

Project Duration

2014 - 2015

Project Funder

Acumen Fund

ICRW Project Director

Allison Glinski


ICRW is working with Acumen, a non-profit investing in companies that serve the poor with basic goods and services, to understand how the impact investment sector can engage with and empower women. The project, titled “Social Enterprise Investment with a Gender Lens,” examines how social enterprises currently interact with women through the production and provision of critical goods and services. Acumen is eager to learn how social enterprises can better engage women and girls, whether in their value chains or their sales and marketing efforts, and how they can better reach women and girls, whether through existing products and services or those designed to specifically benefit these populations.

ICRW will provide technical services to Acumen by researching the gender implications resulting from financial investment in social enterprises. The team will use a multi-phased approach to achieve the objectives of this research effort. First, ICRW will scan the social enterprise landscape to form a general understanding of how women are currently being engaged and impacted in different sectors, particularly agriculture, education, energy, health, housing, and water and sanitation (WASH). Next, ICRW will review a subset of Acumen’s portfolio of approximately 40 active social enterprise investments. ICRW will not only seek to understand the basic content and scope of each enterprise’s work, but will also apply our gender lens to understand how, if at all, each enterprise is interacting with women. Finally, we will conduct case studies of select social enterprises to explore current approaches used for targeting women and identify opportunities to enhance both business and social outcomes by involving women more deliberately and/or in new ways. The project will conclude with a synthesis report highlighting approaches that are working well to engage women as both consumers and active members in a company’s value chain as well as recommendations for how social enterprises can more effectively target and interact with women.