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SDG Impact Finance Initiative Design Funding Window

We have extended the deadline for concept notes to May 8, 2023 (extended from May 1). Concept notes will be reviewed as they're received and applicants will be notified of a decision shortly after, thus early submissions before May 8 are highly encouraged. Based on this decision, Convergence will invite applicants to submit a full proposal for funding consideration. Full proposals will be due by June 18, 2023 (extended from May 19).

To learn more or apply:


Following the success of the first call for proposals in 2022, the SDG Impact Finance Initiative (“the Initiative”) has announced a second call for proposals targeting a new set of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG Impact Finance Initiative’s Innovation Window awards grants for innovative impact finance solutions that will mobilize private capital for sustainable development in emerging and frontier markets. The Initiative is funded by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency (SDC), the UBS Optimus Foundation, and the Credit Suisse Foundation.

The SDG Impact Finance Initiative aims to accelerate advancements in the impact investing market by supporting the launch of innovative solutions that address market failures, deploy financial products that are under-supplied or supplied at insufficient volumes, and mobilize funding into new sectors and regions.

It aims to achieve three key objectives:

  • Support the design and development of innovative impact finance solutions;
  • Scale impact investing solutions by mobilizing private capital at scale; and
  • Strengthen the impact investing ecosystem, improve overall frameworks, and promote quality impact management practices to enhance impact investment flows.

Under this second call for proposals, with support from Convergence, the Initiative will award grant funding for feasibility studies, proof of concept activities and expansion of existing solutions. Proposed solutions should target one or more of SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land).

Key highlights of the call for proposals

  • Application period & available funding: Concept notes will be accepted and reviewed on an ongoing basis until May 8, 2023. Full proposals (invite-only) will be due on June 18, 2023. Up to USD 2 million in total will be awarded to support 5-8 solutions. Finalists are expected to be announced at Building Bridges in October 2023. Winners are expected to be finalized and announced by the end of 2023.
  • Funding types: Both grants and conditionally repayable grants will be awarded to support the design, launch or scaling of solutions. Conditionally repayable grants and their repayment terms will be considered for Proof of Concept and Expansion applications on a case-by-case basis. Repayment is expected only if the solution successfully launches and meets key milestones such as financial close. See “Which type of grant should I apply for?” for additional details.
  • Thematic focus: This second call for proposals is seeking solutions targeting any one of the below SDGs. No preference will be given to solutions that target multiple SDGs.
    • SDG 5 (Gender equality): Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
      • Solutions targeting the nexus of economic empowerment and gender equality. Solutions should contribute to improving economic opportunities for women and girls through areas such as:
        • Financial inclusion;
        • Unpaid care work;
        • Education (basic education, vocational skills development and lifelong learning, tertiary education).
    • SDG 14 (Life below water): Sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development
      • Solutions can target any areas aligned with SDG 14, including:
        • Protection, or restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems;
        • Sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism and increased benefits to local communities (e.g., Small Island Developing States);
        • Reduction in marine pollution;
        • Financial services and market access for small scale fisheries.
    • SDG 15 (Life on land): Protect, restore, manage and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, forests and land, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss
      • Solutions can target any areas aligned with SDG 15, including:
        • Protection, sustainable management and/or restoration of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems (e.g., forests, wetlands, mountains, drylands), including their biodiversity;
        • Sustainable management of forests (afforestation, reforestation);
        • Mitigation of land degradation and sustainable management of land;
        • Reduction of poaching and trafficking of protected wildlife.
  • Geographical focus: Solutions can target any developing country or countries eligible to receive official development assistance (ODA) according to the OECD-DAC List of ODA Recipients. We highly encourage solutions that target low-income and least developed countries.
  • Demonstrated potential to benefit predominantly children: We highly encourage applications that can demonstrate direct benefits to children and adolescents. Up to USD 500,000 out of the total USD 2 million of available funding are earmarked for this purpose.
  • Developing country applicants and partnerships: We highly encourage applications that fall into any of these categories:
    • Applications from local organizations based in developing countries
    • Applications from a consortium of organizations from both developing and developed countries
    • Applications that strongly focus on building long-term partnerships with developing country actors

Which type of grant should I apply for?

Applicants can apply for Feasibility, Proof of Concept, or Expansion funding depending on the stage of the proposed solution.

Pre-LaunchPre-LaunchPost-launch (operational)
Feasibility studyProof of conceptExpansion
  • Grants up to USD 200,000.
  • Funding to explore the feasibility of a new solution and validate:
  • Its ability to attract private investors through market testing
  • Its likelihood of delivering the anticipated development impact
  • Its initial design, capital structure and financial model
Early stakeholder engagement and an initial design of the capital structure should have already been completed before applying.
  • Grants and conditionally repayable grants up to USD 500,000.
  • If feasibility stage (or equivalent) has been achieved, funding to complete all design and structuring activities required to launch the solution. For example:
  • Finalizing the capital structure and financial model
  • Set-up of the vehicle
  • Produce key legal and marketing documents
  • Fundraising activities to secure potential anchor investor(s)
  • Develop an investment pipeline
  • Grants and conditionally repayable grants up to USD 300,000.
  • If a solution has already launched but requires operational funding support to scale and reach a financially viable size. For example:
  • Fundraising/marketing to reach capital raising targets
  • Produce key legal documents
  • Due diligence on initial pipeline and capital deployment
  • Hiring of key personnel

Evaluation criteria

All applications received will be scored on a scale of 0-100 depending on the stage of the solution. We regret that we are unable to provide feedback on applications.

Maximum Available scores
CriteriaFeasibility StudyProof of conceptExpansion
Development impact
  • Impact: Potential social, economic, or environmental impact of the solution.
  • Measurement: Does the proposal identify robust metrics and impact measurement practices to measure the potential development impact?
  • Initiative’s funding: To what extent will the funding be catalytic in achieving the targeted development impact?
  • Target developing countries: To what extent will the solution address key market failures and catalyze long-term financing for the targeted countries?
Scale of private capital mobilization
  • Direct (high priority): How much private capital is expected to be mobilized directly through the solution?
  • Indirect: How much private capital is expected to be mobilized indirectly through the solution?
  • Leverage ratio: For every $1 of the Initiative’s funding, how much private capital is expected to be mobilized by the solution?
Pioneering innovation
  • Relative to alternatives: Why is the solution unique relative to existing alternatives in the market
  • Replicability: If successful, can the model be applied in different contexts? What valuable learnings can the solution offer to the broader ecosystem?
Developing country partnerships
  • Engagement: What levels of engagement have been completed to date with potential stakeholders and local partners in developing countries, and with whom?
  • Strategy: How well thought out is the engagement strategy?
Likelihood of successful fundraise
  • Capital raise: How likely is the solution expected to attract sufficient funding to launch and meet its fundraising targets?
  • Investors: What type of investors has the solution attracted to date (private, public, philanthropic)?
Track record of applicant
  • Does the applicant have the relevant expertise, track record, and capacity required to succeed?
Financial sustainability
  • Does the solution demonstrate a pathway to commercial viability over the long-term without the need for concessionality?

Application and review process

Stage 1: Concept note (accepting until May 8, 2023)

  • Interested applicants can start their application on our portal. Stage 1 includes the completion of screening questions and the submission of a 4-page concept note (template available on the portal).
  • All concept notes will be screened against the eligibility criteria (see below), and those that are eligible and will then reviewed against the evaluation criteria. Convergence will only contact applicants selected to submit a full proposal (Stage 2).

Stage 2: Full proposal (by invitation only - due June 18, 2023)

  • Competitive concept notes will be invited to submit a full proposal. Those advancing to this stage receive instructions on how to download a full proposal template through the grant portal.
  • Final proposals must be submitted to the grant portal by the June 18, 2023 deadline in order to be considered. No exceptions will be made.

Stage 3: Initial review and shortlisting

  • All full proposals will be reviewed and assessed against the evaluation criteria by Convergence. Shortlisted proposals will be recommended by Convergence to the funding partners of the SDG Impact Finance Initiative for further consideration and due diligence.

Stage 4: Due diligence

  • Shortlisted proposals will undergo two types of due diligence in parallel:
    • Proposal-level: Convergence will request responses to detailed questions on the proposal, and introductions to key stakeholders for interviews.
    • Applicant-level: Applicants will undergo a compliance review led by Convergence’s Chief Financial Officer.

Stage 5: Investment Committee

  • Shortlisted proposals that satisfactorily clear due diligence will be recommended by Convergence to the Investment Committee.
  • The Investment Committee is composed of independent experts who will recommend proposals to the SDG Impact Finance Initiative Executive Board for final approval.

Stage 6: SDG Impact Finance Initiative Executive Board

  • Proposals recommended by the Investment Committee will be reviewed for final approval by the SDG Impact Finance Initiative Executive Board.

Stage 7: Contracting

  • Following final approval from the SDG Impact Finance Initiative Executive Board, Convergence initiates the contracting stage with the selected awardees.

Eligibility criteria

Developing countries
  • Solutions must target activities that benefit ODA-eligible countries as defined by the OECD Development Assistance Committee
  • The Initiative will not fund solutions targeting any countries subject to financial sanctions.
  • Solutions must clearly and directly address SDGs 5 (Gender Equality), 14 (Life below water) and/or 15 (Life on land)
  • Solutions targeting SDG 5 must address the nexus of gender equality and economic empowerment
  • No preference will be given to solutions that target multiple SDGs.
Impact finance solution
  • Feasibility Study and Proof of Concept applications must focus on the design and structuring of new impact finance solutions that have not yet launched
  • Expansion applications must focus on the scaling of existing impact finance solutions that have already launched
  • Examples: bonds, facilities, funds, capital markets instruments, private companies, projects, results-based financing instruments etc.
End beneficiaries in developing countries
  • Impact finance solutions must clearly and directly benefit end beneficiaries in targeted developing countries.
Private capital mobilization
  • Solutions must show strong potential for private capital mobilization on a direct and/or indirect level.
Type of applicants
  • Applications will only be accepted by organizations or consortia of organizations
  • Organizations must have proof of incorporation and audited financial statements from the most recent fiscal year
  • Ineligible applicants:
  • Individuals
  • International Financial Institutions (IFIs), Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) cannot be the lead applicant. These parties can apply as part of a consortium, but they cannot directly benefit from any funding from the Initiative.
  • Applicants can be based anywhere in the world.
Target size
  • Solutions must demonstrate a credible pathway to scale to a size of at least USD 25 million.
Budget and ‘skin in the game’
  • At least 50% of the project’s total budget should be covered by a source other than the SDG Impact Finance Initiative (e.g., self-funded, another funder).
International ESG practices
  • All applications should adhere to international practices regarding environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.

Additional notes

  • Multiple applications from the same organization are accepted if the proposed solutions are different.
  • At this time, proposals must be submitted in English.
  • Applicants can access frequently asked questions here and submit additional questions to [email protected].

Grant Portfolio