Earlier this year we celebrated our fifth birthday. In those five years we have grown in ways we could never have predicted.
Not only are we proud to have grown our team significantly across the world, with about a third of Brinksters now in East Africa, we are also evolving the ways we are able to do work with our partners. Each time we’ve grown and changed shape it’s been in response to a need or an opportunity to do more and have greater impact in the world. And now, with Brink Foundation, we will be able to both receive and disburse grants to others - and we couldn’t be more ready.
Ambitions to be part of a movement towards new kinds of grantmaking
Brink Foundation is a natural extension of our existing mission. Venturing and the practice of designing and implementing grant fund programmes has always been a key part of what we do at Brink. When we launched in 2018 we were already working in partnership with FCDO and our friends at DT Global to deliver the Frontier Technologies Hub. The Hub is, in part, a grantmaking programme, investing in (as the name suggests) frontier technologies like drones, electric vehicles, blockchain and more. Since then we have been lucky to work on funds setting out to solve big global challenges like the Global EdTech Hub tackling education poverty with education technology, or the Oxygen CoLab, working to solve the global oxygen shortage amongst many others.
Now, with a Foundation, we have a vehicle for establishing and running grant funding programmes in ways that we hope address unmet needs that we see in the world and our work. Here are three examples of what we’d like to do:
1. Shifting power
We believe that decisions about what gets funded, are best made by those who are closest to the challenge. Not only do we believe this is the right thing to do, we know more participation in funding decisions leads to excellent work and improved outcomes.
“Strategy is often developed by donors and not with the community and there’s a lack of trust in that perceived hierarchy. So when we think about new, more patient, more adaptive models of capital it is really important to work from a mechanism of trust.”
Teresa Mbagaya, Founding Principal at Imaginable Futures and Brink Foundation Director.
We also plan to do our bit and simplify procedures to increase access to funding, making grant applications easier and more accessible so they are genuinely in the service of grantees, deeply listening to the grantees, exploring new modes of participation and being open to unsolicited proposals and ideas.
2. Tapping untapped talent
Around the world we see funding allocations that are not only unjust, they are a waste of opportunity and talent. In Kenya, one of Africa’s leading tech hubs, only 6% of startups that secured more than $1 million in 2016 were led by local founders. And 70% percent of startups in Kenya that raised at least $1 million of venture capital investment in 2018 were led by white founders when less than 0.1% of the population is white. In the USA women receive less than 2% of venture capital and in Europe it’s less than 1% and falling and yet these are the teams that consistently outperform the market. The pattern of bias and privilege is clear.
Given the significant challenges we’re facing globally, we believe letting this talent go wasted and under-resourced is an own goal. We see grant capital as a key lever in the funding system to de-risk innovation for for-profit investment.
We plan to do our bit by de-risking those who are often overlooked to get their rightful place at the table. To do this well, we hope to experiment with new forms of capital that have been developed, by tweaking traditional grantmaking (eg. recoverable, convertible grants, guarantees, forgivable loans, etc.) to make our funding more inclusive, more sustainable, and more purpose driven.
“I’m excited to be a part of this, and what excites me the most is the people. The people with the right sort of overarching agenda and drive to do good. The aspirations for the work Brink does is exactly the type of stuff I love and what I think can truly make a difference.”
Kristoffer Gandrup-Marino, Chief of Innovation at UNICEF and Brink Foundation Director.
3. Sparking cooperation
Complex challenges require the kind of collaboration that most sectors aren’t set up for. We are lucky to be working cross-sector, with a range of different groups considering R&D, business models, evidence and research - yet they are often fragmented and we know none of these alone will have the impact needed.
“Right now, we have a huge opportunity to build partnerships across government, civil society and the private sector. This is something Brink has been doing really well via the Better Futures CoLab, which brings different actors together and harnesses innovation to address global challenges.”
Magdalena Banasiak - Associate Director, Global Development and Partnerships at Acumen and Brink Foundation Director.
We want to use grant funding to spark new forms of collaboration and partnerships. We are eager to explore new modes of funding ‘missions’ through pooled funds, complementary funding partnerships, and by building on our CoLab work.
Supported by our Board of Directors
Brink Foundation will be supported by an incredible board of directors who we are honoured to announce.
- Health. Kristoffer Gandrup-Marino is Chief of Innovation at UNICEF and brings deep innovation and global health expertise across start-ups and corporates, in venture capital as an investor, and within the UN. We know he will push the boundaries of our work while keeping us grounded in reality.
Read our interview with Kristoffer
- Education. Teresa Mbagaya is Founding Principal at Imaginable Futures. Teresa has extensive experience at the intersection of education, innovation, and finance. Teresa will help us chart new paths in philanthropy - from new models of patient capital to democratising access to role models.
Read our interview with Teresa
- Climate. Magdalena Banasiak is Associate Director, Global Development and Partnerships at Acumen. Magdalena has had an exciting career in both international development and impact investing, with a focus on climate change, gender, poverty. We know Magda will keep our strategy sharp and visionary.
Read our interview with Magdalena
The work has started!
We are pleased to have secured our first grant earlier this year. Brink Foundation has partnered with TRANSFORM - a Unilever, FCDO and EY joint initiative - to explore the Future of Work in the Informal Sector in Kenya. The project takes a closer look at the entire informal economy in Kenya, with a specific focus on women and youth, who often face greater levels of adversity. To do this work well, we have awarded sub-grants to Kenyan researchers at Laterite, ProCoL Kenya, Busara, who are supporting surfacing the needs and wants of the informal sector.
Together, we are taking a participatory approach to generate evidence with and by people in the informal economy producing grounded evidence. We’re doing this through citizen science approaches and by hosting regular events that bring all kinds of people together to share what they know and hopefully build demand for evidence down the line.
If you’re reading this and have thoughts, feedback or if it’s sparked an idea or possible opportunity for us to collaborate, we would love to hear from you. We know we’ll go further, if we go together.
📬 Get in touch at [email protected]