Though I have been interested in social finance and impact investing for several years, I have hesitated at making any sort of concrete career move in its direction. Given social finance’s relative novelty, I questioned the value of the learning opportunities available in this field. However, earlier this year when Grand Challenges Canada selected me as an intern, I couldn’t pass up on one of the few opportunities available for me to work in an organization conducting social venture capital within the global health space (an area of particular interest to me). In hindsight, this internship has proven to be a tremendous learning experience.
Working with my supervisor, Raymond Shih, and the rest of the Financial Innovations team at Grand Challenges Canada, I was able to gain insight about and appreciate the difficulty of evaluating the financial viability and scalability of global health investments.
Beyond typical due diligence, the team is challenged to figure out how to sustainably scale global health innovations into Bottom of the Pyramid markets. To do so, the team is working hard to adapt the best practices within both development and venture capital. In addition, they are looking into how emerging financial structures like social enterprises, development impact bonds, and pay-on-results mechanisms fill some of the gaps in traditional development. Nobody, including the Grand Challenges Canada team, has figured out a way to consistently scale innovation. However, through a “learning-by-doing” approach, the team hopes to get closer to achieving that goal.
This leads me to the most (pleasantly) surprising aspect of my work here at Grand Challenges Canada: the need to consistently think creatively in order to bring bold ideas to big impact. It’s exciting. And it is also what drove me to love my job this summer.
Other valuable lessons learned from this team about the social finance landscape, entrepreneurship, and development represent an unforgettable summer internship experience that will guide and shape my future career trajectory…whatever that turns out to be!
(If you are in learning more about these different pathways to scale yourself, check out the proposal development resource for great insights and examples.)
Ashley Teo is the Strategy and Operations summer student in Financial Innovations at Grand Challenges Canada. She is passionate about social inequality and global health. She is currently pursuing her B.Sc. (Hons.) in Psychology and Economics at the University of Toronto. Connect with her on Twitter @teo_ashley