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Investing in New Opportunities

While “restriction” seems to characterise much of life today, promising pockets of growth are emerging. Ivan Chew, TEAR’s Head of Impact Investing, outlines an exciting new avenue for TEAR and our partners: social enterprise and impact investing.

In a nutshell... what is Impact Investing?

Impact investing involves making investments into organisations, projects or funds with the intention of generating measurable social and environmental outcomes, alongside a financial return. Impact investments are different to grants and normally take the form of loans or equity.

How is it relevant for an organisation like TEAR? How is it different from how TEAR usually works with partners?

For TEAR, impact investing presents an opportunity to support partners in building market-based development approaches which demonstrate potential for financial sustainability and scalability. When successfully executed, TEAR will be able to recycle the initial capital plus financial return into another investment. These approaches complement traditional grant-funded development projects, in which there are no financial return expectations.

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Along with community-led development initiatives, entrepreneurship and employment can be powerful tools that unlock new opportunities for people facing poverty.

Why is TEAR doing this?

We believe that, along with community-led development initiatives, entrepreneurship and employment can be powerful tools that unlock new opportunities for people facing poverty and help them achieve more of their God-given potential. Furthermore, as traditional donation mechanisms and aid-funding arrangements are under increasing public and political pressure, this model can help unlock new forms of capital. It is our innovative response to continue fighting poverty and supporting our partners.

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How did Impact Investing begin at TEAR?

Four years ago, TEAR began exploring impact investing after hearing from a few partners about their interest in market-based development approaches. TEAR was also challenged internally to think innovatively about new funding sources for our work. We consulted with partners in South Sudan, Ethiopia and India to better understand the initiatives they had in mind. At the same time, consultations with more experienced Australian impact investing organisations helped inform our early thinking. Currently, TEAR works closely with Brightlight (a subsidiary of Christian Super) to continuously refine our approach and integrate it with our development work.

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TEAR partners in Nepal gathered for a workshop to explore new social enterprise opportunities.

What has TEAR done so far in this area, and what's next?

In the last eighteen months, TEAR’s work has been focused around two key pillars of our strategy namely Create and Build and Grow and Scale.

On one end, TEAR is supporting nascent, untested models by our NGO partners; on the other end, proven business and impact models by new partners. By doing this, we’re intentionally building a pathway for partners at both ends to intersect and share knowledge. Our hope is that this will lead to stronger business and impact models being built.

Create + Build
Grow + Scale

How has COVID-19 impacted the program?

With our “Create and Build” partners in India and Nepal, their nascent social enterprises have had to be suspended due to the lockdowns. We are supporting them to help them relaunch once the restrictions are eased. As for our “Grow and Scale” partner, their expansion plan to Nepal had to be suspended too. They had to take prudent cost measures immediately to keep the business stable but still prioritised supporting their vulnerable staff members with basic necessities. We continue to stand with all of our partners who have been impacted and pray for their work.

How can someone get behind this work?

You can make a tax-deductible donation to TEAR and highlight that you will like it to be used for our Enterprise Program. For more information, visit tear.org.au/enterprise, and if you’d like to register your interest as an investor in future impact investments, please contact Ivan at [email protected]

More information

GladRose participants

Read more about GladRose, one of the first social enterprise projects TEAR is partnering with.


Ivan Chew is TEAR’s Head of Impact Investing.