© Root Capital

Guiding principles

1.  Put impact first by:

  • relentlessly focusing on sustainably improving the livelihoods of extremely poor people in rural sub-Saharan Africa
  •  have a sustainable business plan for the smallholder farmer at the heart of every investment decision.

2.  Be catalytic by:

  • focusing on the real blockages to impact, not on a pre-conceived notion of the kind of investments we are comfortable making. To date, this has led Small Foundation to make mostly unrestricted grants for the core costs of organisational capacity building, system-changing innovation and sector-building learning. 
  • identifying gaps and proactively seeking to fill them, including searching for partner well-placed partner organisations
  • seeking the most highly-leveraged intervention point possible in the system
  • derisking interventions, crowding in other sources of capital, moving on.

3.  Be prepared to learn every day by:

  • constantly challenging our own assumptions
  • investing in knowledge building, knowledge sharing and learning from others
  • learn that we were wrong, as quickly as possible, by listening closely to our partners and others about what is working, and what is not
  • finding high-quality partners with whom we can create a safe space of thought partnership so that it is never about delivery on a contract, always about working together to optimise long-term impact
  • plan for and embrace mid-course corrections so that learning becomes truly actionable
  • scanning the horizon so we can identify and support early-stage innovations with the potential to have sustainable impact at scale.

4.  Collaborate:

  • by fostering collaboration among implementing organisations by sharing the cost and, where necessary, helping to create the platform
  • building relationships with other funding organisations to increase our own learning, sector-wide coordination and coalitions for collective impact.

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