Partnering with Think Tanks to Build the Evidence Base for Impact Investing: A 3-Part Blog Series


Opportunities exist to forge strategic alliances that bolster National Advisory Boards’ (NABs) credibility and empower them to drive significant changes in their markets, including policy reforms, increased investor impact allocations, the formation of new local alliances, and strategic partnerships.

These are the findings from a two-year project revealing that NAB-researcher partnerships, which initially intended to bridge knowledge gaps and enhance the skills and expertise of the local research community, extend beyond mere research and data-oriented cooperation.

In 2022, the International Development Research Center (IDRC), On Think Tanks (OTT), Impacto, the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG), and four GSG-affiliated NABs for Impact Investing — Ghana, Colombia, Nigeria, and Peru — joined forces to launch the project “Tapping into Local Research Expertise to Deepen Evidence-Based Impact Investing.” This collaborative effort has aimed to advance the impact investing market by building the evidence base through fostering lasting partnerships between NABs and local research institutes.

Moreover, this effort has the potential to advance the ‘decolonisation’ of research methodologies and practices in impact investing, a growing agenda in and for emerging economies. Local think tanks excel at discerning the necessary impact within their countries/regions, thus more fully representing the southern voice in their research.

Over the project, the GSG, OTT, Impacto, and the NABs conducted a series of sense-making learning sessions to pursue the two-dimensional learning approach:

  1. Generating new evidence that provides the backdrop for the acquisition of new skills and competencies needed to change policies, regulations, and investment allocations.
  2. Building lasting and sustainable partnerships between NABs and local researchers to contribute to continuous market-building.

These sessions have provided insights into how each NAB has approached their collaborations with local research partners.

To provide a glimpse into the project’s learnings and insights, the GSG has created a 3-part blog series featuring NAB-local research institution partnership case studies of Ghana, Colombia, and Nigeria NABs, who are preparing to publish their narrative reports in the second half of 2023.

Through these case studies, we aim to highlight the potential of local NAB-researcher collaborations, evidence generation, and knowledge exchange. These stories illustrate how such partnerships can unleash the full potential of impact investing, contributing to positioning the NABs to advocate for shifts in investor behaviour and policy change.

Before you delve into the individual country narratives, here is some context regarding each NAB’s collaboration with its respective local research partner.

1. Ghana NAB (Impact Investing Ghana) & Locally-based Multi-Sector Research Team

  • Research Partner: The NAB assembled a multi-sector research team bringing together expertise in applied research, consulting, and investment management in Ghana.
  • Research Aim: To gather and present performance data about Ghana’s Venture Capital/Private Equity (VC/PE) industry to encourage investment from institutional investors.
  • Partnership in Action: To facilitate an active engagement and collaboration between research and industry, the NAB established the Ghana Research Industry Collaborative (GRIC) and a dedicated multi-sectoral research partner team.

2. Colombia NAB & Fedesarrollo

  • Research Partner: Founded in 1970 as a non-profit research institution or think tank, Fedesarrollo works to contribute to the design, monitoring, and improvement of public policies in Colombia.
  • Research Aim: To develop a set of policy recommendations for the newly-elected government to strengthen the impact investment ecosystem in Colombia.
  • Partnership in Action: The research partner’s extensive network and strong reputation in the public policy domain lent invaluable credibility to the NAB when working with the new government.

3. Nigeria NAB & Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG)

  • Research Partner: NESG is a local think-tank that promotes sustainable growth and development in the Nigerian economy using research-based advocacy methods.
  • Research Aim: To identify regulatory issues and financing gaps preventing access to finance among local MSMEs in the healthcare, education, and agriculture sectors.
  • Partnership in Action: The NAB leveraged the research partner’s robust expertise in knowledge translation and dissemination, leveraging their local communication channels and networks to ensure research findings reach a broader audience.

In impact investing, an investor intentionally seeks to achieve a measurable positive impact alongside a financial return and commits to measuring and disclosing that impact. More broadly, impact investing lies at the centre of an ecosystem-wide approach whereby supply and demand, policy-making, academic, legal, and financial intermediation — the entire market — is primed to generate sustainable and equitable economic futures for all.

To set this shift in motion, the GSG has worked since 2014 to support the establishment of National Advisory Boards for Impact Investing (NABs), local bodies comprised of representatives from each ecosystem pillar who collectively work together to reframe and transition their domestic economies.

This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of IDRC or its Board of Governors.