Suzanne Biegel and Patricia Jumi

Why It’s Cool to Invest in Girls: SPRING Accelerator is open for applications

Why is it cool to invest in girls?

Girls have the potential to end poverty for themselves – and the world. Girls become women who solve great problems, support their families and communities, run businesses, run countries and wage peace. And we are dramatically under-investing in girls today.

There are 250 million adolescent girls living in poverty around the world. So, the next question becomes: What is the potential of actual investments in companies that directly and positively affect the lives of these girls?

For every year of schooling a girl completes, her ability to earn exponentially increases. It’s been shown that she’s likely to reinvest 90 percent of that rising income into her family, compared to 35 percent for boys. Her family grows up healthier. Her children go to school. Agricultural productivity improves.

In Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda alone, 11 million girls live at the economic base of the pyramid. Most of them live at home and contribute to domestic duties, yes, but unlike previous generations the majority of them can read and write, which increases their understanding of the world and their influence on purchasing decisions. Some 40 percent of women and girls age 15 and older in Kenya have bank accounts, and more than 60 percent of the Adult Kenyan population has used mobile money. They’re more financially savvy than ever before.

Imagine being able to target your investments toward companies whose missions are to create impact and help pull girls and often their families out of poverty – creating assets that help these girls to learn, earn, be safe, save and invest. Companies that are directly aiming to improve girls’ lives – not incidentally – and are intentionally unleashing the power of girls.

Could positive investments in girls be game-changing?

We think so. Harnessing the power and potential of girls is the aim of SPRING, a new project from the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), Nike Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). SPRING will accelerate early to mid-stage ventures with products and services that improve the lives of girls in poverty.

We modeled SPRING as a pioneering accelerator seeking businesses with products or services that benefit the lives of girls. It’s a market-meets-social change model that revolutionizes the idea of industry, giving your business the chance to innovate and succeed in ways you never imagined before – and to forever improve the lives of girls.

As members of the consortium responsible for SPRING, we are lucky enough to have a good inside view. We are currently in search of our first cohort of as many as 18 ventures to accelerate and the application window is quickly coming to a close. Over the next five years, this project is looking to grow and to help raise investment capital for more than 80 companies that are directly focused on improving the lives of adolescent girls living in poverty, in eight countries around the world, starting in East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda this year). Our goal is to reach up to 200,000 girls during the five-year life of the program, and 50 million girls by 2030. (You read that right, 50 million.)

What if business, innovation and financial resources – a holistic market-based approach – came together to be a big part of the solution toward ending poverty for adolescent girls and their communities?

If you’re inspired by what can come of SPRING, start looking around to find positive, girl-focused ventures. Send them our way, or help us spread the word. Deadline for application is March 16, 2015. Apply now HERE.

Suzanne Biegel is the Founder of Catalyst at Large and Investment Director of SPRING.

Patricia Jumi is Kenya Country Manager of SPRING and Managing Director of GrowthAfrica.