Global Catalyst Initiative – Call for Applications

Global Agents for Change is excited to launch the 2011 Global Catalyst Initiative (GCI), continuing our search for some of the world’s most promising early stage, market-oriented ventures tackling global poverty. Our goal is to help take high-potential projects from pilot to proof of concept, working with entrepreneurs to improve their models and dramatically increase their ability to garner further support. More information at the bottom for how you or an organization you know may be eligible for one of two $40,000 partnerships to accelerate your idea.

While this entry is mostly about a great opportunity for early stage entrepreneurs tackling global poverty, I wanted to take a moEducate! in Ugandament to discuss the broader problem it serves, and why we think this is important.

As impact investing matures we’re beginning to see a crowd gather at the upper end of the pipeline, with investors looking for market or blended returns from more established ventures, or taking relatively sure bets on high impact later stage organizations. However outside a few exceptions (microfinance the largest), deal flow is tough, and investable enterprises and entrepreneurs are few and far between. One of the reasons – impact investing lacks a well developed network of seed stage funders and support to efficiently identify and accelerate high potential new ideas.

Global Agents’ Global Catalyst Initiative (GCI) is in part a response; while investors struggle to deploy dollars, start-up ideas languish, with entrepreneurs unable to garner sufficient support to prove their idea can work. Traditional start-ups know this as the ‘valley of death’; you garner early energy and support to launch, but just run out of money and time before you can work out the kinks. We believe that providing a relatively small amount of funding and support at this critical stage allows time to challenge assumptions and test models, before trying to scale. Our goal is to help move high impact projects from pilot to proof of concept, and on to larger funders. We want more projects across that ‘valley of death’, more groundbreaking ideas reaching their potential, and more inspiring entrepreneurs given room to grow.

There are a lot of reasons why its tough for investors to invest in earlier stage organizations, not least of which are risk, lack of information and the cost of due diligence and management for small investments. We might argue that a fear of failure, despite much talk of embracing it, also plays a role. Interesting models such as Village Capital are evolving, and after a very lively seed stage session in 2010, we see SOCAP 2011 shifting some of its attention to entrepreneurs and early stage ideas this September in San Francisco.

We hope to play a role in finding these solutions, and we invite you to join us – either as an entrepreneur through the application below, a funder with an interest in connecting with early stage ventures, or just someone with the knowledge and energy to help us learn how to make this work.

The 2011 Global Catalyst Initiative application is now open:

The GCI provides $40,000, project support and access to key advisors. To be considered, applicants must fit the following criteria:

  • Global Agents to be a majority or significant early funder
  • The venture has been operational for no more than two years, and has an annual operating budget of under $150,000 USD
  • Projects are beyond the idea phase, having at least begun to pilot their idea
  • The organization is dedicated to monitoring and measuring social impact
  • If applicable, local community has been closely involved in project development and implementation
  • You or a co-founder are prepared to work full-time on your venture, with the ambition to have impact on a global scale

Applications are due August 15, 2011, and will launch in January 2012 – for more information on our eligibility criteria and selection process, click here.

The 2010 GCI partnerships were Kito International’s Street Youth Today, Entrepreneurs Tomorrow in Kenya and Educate!’s Micro-technology Institute and Social Venture Incubator in Uganda, and I strongly encourage you to check out the work they are doing.

Please note: Global Agents for Change is a registered Canadian charity, and as such is only able to spend money on our own projects in pursuit of our approved charitable objects. GCI funding is not invested capital (debt or equity), nor a grant – GCI partners act as our legal agents in the field, implementing a commonly agreed set of activities, paid for by Global Agents funding. For more information please contact us at

Photo credit: Kelli Smith at Global Agents for Change

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