Unlocking Early-Stage Financing for SDG Partnerships

Appendix A: Survey Methodology and Instrument

Findings in this report that support case studies and lessons learned are based on a survey of multistakeholder partnerships conducted between July and August 2021. The objective of this survey was to gather information about partnership investment challenges and funding approaches as well as characteristics that hinder a partnership’s ability to attract investment.

Selection Approach

Our survey pool includes partnerships that are:

  • Planning to or have been successful in securing returnable investment (i.e., commercial, blended finance, equity, debt, convertible, etc.); and are
  • Working in one or more of the following SDG areas:
    • SDG 2: Zero Hunger
    • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
    • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
    • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (transportation and buildings)
    • SDG 12: Reponsible Consumption and Production

Because of varying definitions of partnership, and because not all initiatives identify themselves as multistakeholder partnerships, we did not make formal collaboration with commercial or noncommercial partners a requirement for inclusion. Instead, we asked initiatives surveyed to describe how they collaborate with business, government, and CSOs formally or informally.

Data Collection Strategy


To disseminate the survey, our team tapped into a network of platforms that work with commercially driven partnerships or social enterprises. We identified target platforms through desk research and through the WRI and P4G networks of partner organizations. Our team worked with each platform to determine whether their initiatives aligned with survey inclusion criteria. Once this was determined, platform leaders disseminated the survey and instructions to their networks. Because our research team has an established relationship with the P4G partnership network, we sent the survey directly to these partnerships.

In total, 66 out of a total of 77 partnerships that completed the survey were eligible. Participating partnership platforms and survey responses received are detailed in Table A1. It should be noted that some partnerships indicated their affiliation with multiple platforms.

Table A1 | Overview of Survey Participant Sample



Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs




Climate Policy Initiative






Energy Catalyst


Harvard Kennedy School Roy Award


IDH—the Sustainable Trade Initiative


Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030









Survey format

We used a self-administered web-based survey platform. For each partnership, we requested the survey be completed only once by a delegated representative to avoid creating too much additional time burden. The survey design included multiple reminders and deadline extensions to accumulated as many responses as possible.

Incentive structure

Participants were provided the option of having their partnership featured in this report as a contributor or as a potential case study.

Questionnaire Development and Testing

The survey was informed by a literature review of partnership financing challenges and several rounds of feedback from WRI experts and partnership platform leaders, and it was tested with three partnerships.

Literature review

In addition to gaining insights into the partnership funding process over time, the objective of this survey was to identify key partnership characteristics (i.e., location, SDG area, stage, etc.) that made a partnership more likely to receive funding. An initial list of characteristics to include in the survey was based on a systematic literature search using EBSCO Host, Google, and Google Scholar. This literature search was limited to works published between 2015 and 2021 by CSOs, governments, businesses, and academia. Search terms included multistakeholder partnership, SDG initiatives, impact investing, SDG investing, blended finance, philanthropic funding, philanthropy, crowded out investment, and catalytic finance.

Roundtables and survey pilot

To refine survey questions and framing, we held two roundtable discussions with partnership platform leaders. Workshops included representatives from P4G, the Harvard Kennedy School, the Climate Policy Initiative, IDH—the Sustainable Trade Initiative, Partnerships2030, and Danida. The survey was also piloted with three partnerships: GreenCo, Energise Africa, and WeTu.

2021 State-of-the-Art Report Survey Instrument

Thank you for participating in the State-of-the-Art Report survey. Through this survey, we aim to understand your initiative’s funding path, your primary funding challenges, and how you have transitioned, or plan to transition, from relying on philanthropic/aid funding to revenues and returnable investment (commercial investment, blended finance, DFI funding, etc.). There will be many opportunities in this survey to share your insights, and we encourage you to provide as much detail as possible in the spaces provided. Your reflections on your initiative’s funding journey will contribute to a deeper understanding of how commercially driven SDG initiatives can overcome investment challenges, from which we hope practitioners and financiers can learn.

Recommended approach for filling out the survey. For each initiative, we request that the survey be completed only once. We recommend that a key representative familiar with the initiative’s financing structure (e.g., development or administrative coordinator; chief financial officer) is identified to complete the survey. We estimate this survey will take 10–15 minutes to complete.

Instructions for navigating this survey:

  • If you hover your mouse over the blue underlined text, definitions and examples of the text will appear. 
  • You may complete this survey in more than one sitting by clicking the Save and Continue Later button in the top right corner.
  • Please be sure to navigate between survey pages using the “next” and “back” buttons at the bottom of the survey page, NOT the “back” arrow in your browser as this will erase unsaved progress.

Privacy and confidentiality. Survey responses will be kept confidential and will not be made publicly available or attributable to the respondent or partnership. We will collect identifying information for each initiative so we can categorize results.

As this is an online survey, your confidentiality will be kept to the degree permitted by the technology being used. We cannot guarantee against interception of data sent via the internet by third parties.

Taking part is voluntary. Your participation in this survey is voluntary. You may refuse to participate before the study begins, discontinue at any time, or skip questions that may make you feel uncomfortable with no penalty to you or your initiative.

Section 1: Respondent information

  1. Name
  2. Email
  3. Organization and role

Section 2: About the initiative

  1. Initiative name
  2. Initiative website
  3. Which platform or network is your initiative associated with? [Drop down based on participating platforms]
  4. Which SDG area does your initiative primarily focus on? Select all that apply.
  5. [End survey if “other SDG” or “not focused on an SDG goal”]
    1. SDG 2: Zero Hunger
    2. SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
    3. SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
    4. SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (transportation and buildings)
    5. SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
    6. Other SDG
    7. Initiative is not focused on an SDG goal
  6. What best describes your initiative’s funding status regarding returnable investment? Check all that apply. 
[Hover over returnable investment: e.g., commercial, blended finance, equity, debt, convertible, etc.]
    1. Have secured returnable investment
    2. Have not secured returnable investment
    3. Actively seeking or planning to seek returnable investment
    4. Not currently seeking returnable investment but have in the past or plan to in the future
    5. Not initially planning to seek returnable investment but now planning to seek, seeking, or have secured returnable investment
    6. Have not sought and do not plan to seek returnable investment at any point
    7. Funded by earned revenue
    8. Other—write in
  7. In what year was your initiative established? [Open-ended write in]
  8. What stage of development is your initiative in?
    1. Ideation/concept generation: Initial business idea developed
    2. Research and development: Conducting market and product research, developing initiative theory of change, and fitting initiative solution to the problem at hand
    3. Pilot: Business model, product, or service launched as small-scale, temporary project to test assumptions and pivot initiative model if necessary
    4. Start-up: Early-stage initiatives that are on a clear path towards developing a scalable solution
    5. Scale-up: Initiatives that are already engaged in promising, business-driven green growth innovations and are working to expand operations and accelerate their impact
  9. What countries does your initiative primarily operate in?
  10. Which statements best describe your initiative’s primary objective? Select all that apply.
    1. New business venture: Initiative seeks to launch or pilot a new commercial product, service, or business model (e.g., ME SOLShare, GreenCo) 
[Hover over ME SOLShare: ME SOLShare has developed a way for rural communities to turn their excess solar energy into profit by connecting solar home system users with nonsolar users and monetizing excess solar energy in real time with mobile money.] 
[Hover over GreenCo: GreenCo, via its local operating entities GreenCo Power Services Limited, acts as a creditworthy intermediary offtaker and service provider, purchasing power from renewable IPPs and selling that electricity to utilities and private sector offtakers (i.e., commercial and industrial users) and markets of the SAPP. GreenCo will mitigate the risk of purchaser default through an ability to secure alternative buyers or through short-term trading on the SAPP electricity markets. It aims to mobilize $2 billion in private sector investment to support renewable energy supply.]
    2. Financial instrument or fund development: Initiative seeks to tackle investment barriers through the development of financial instruments, such as funds and bonds, that de-risk investment in developing countries and underdeveloped or new markets (e.g., GeoFutures GreenInvest, Blended Finance on Water Partnership). 
[Hover over GeoFutures GreenInvest: The GeoFutures GreenInvest partnership aims to establish an investment fund to provide sustainable development loans and a premium finance facility to early-stage geothermal project developers. GeoFutures GreenInvest aims to support the creation of 600 megawatts of low-cost, reliable geothermal power in Kenya and Ethiopia—supplying more than 31.5 million people with power and avoiding almost 3.1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.]
[Hover over Blended Finance on Water Partnership: The Blended Finance on Water Partnership focuses on Vietnam’s drinking water infrastructure by developing blended finance models for greater investment in the sector.]
    3. Project development: Initiative seeks to advance low-
carbon, sustainable, and inclusive development and infrastructure. These projects go beyond traditional public-private partnerships to rethink the way people and products move in a way that aligns with a 1.5°C target and the SDGs (e.g., SSEZ, the Post-Consumer Resin Market Development Partnership). 
[Hover over SSEZ: The SSEZ partnership aims to transform special economic zones into hubs for low-carbon, sustainable, and inclusive business and community growth. The partnership has the potential to reimagine green industrialization and make countries such as Kenya hubs in this transitioning industry.]
[Hover over Post-Consumer Resin Market Development Partnership: The Post-Consumer Resin Market Development Partnership will gain commitments from consumer product companies in Vietnam to use recycled plastic (known as post-consumer resin) in their packaging materials and develop a plan for a local plastics recycling factory.]
    4. Convening: Initiative creates an enabling environment for SDG progress by bringing stakeholders within an industry, supply chain, sector, or issue area to exchange knowledge and set standards of practice or commitments (e.g., We Mean Business, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)
[Hover over We Mean Business: We Mean Business (WMB) convenes leading companies to commit to bold climate action through various WMB initiatives. One of its primary activities is to strategically engage with businesses that have joined the partnership and provide them with WMB-endorsed guidance, tools, and clear playbooks to follow in their journeys to the zero-carbon transition.] 
[Hover over Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil: The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) aims to transform the palm oil market by convening business, government, and civil society stakeholders to set industry standards and create an enabling policy environment for sustainable palm oil production. The partnership now has over 4,000 members across the palm oil supply chain that have committed to produce, source, and use palm oil that complies with RSPO social and environmental criteria.]
    5. Accelerator: Initiative provides capacity and business development support to new SDG partnerships or initiatives (e.g., P4G). 
[Hover over P4G: P4G is a global platform accelerating market-based partnerships to build sustainable and resilient economies. P4G bridges the gap between development and investment agendas to deliver inclusive, tangible solutions to meet the SDG and the Paris Agreement. P4G provides an action-oriented global ecosystem of business, government, and CSOs to unlock opportunities for partnerships working in five SDG areas: food and agriculture, water, energy, cities, and circular economy.]
    6. Other—please write in
  11. Are the following characteristics present in the market (sector or location) in which your initiative operates? Check all that apply.
    1. Credible and stable policies: The market has well-defined policies that provide clear “rules of the road” for all parties.
    2. Accurate industry information: Data and market information is accessible to help investors understand the financial and impact potential of investments.
    3. Technological reliability: Established technology and infrastructure has a proven track record in the relevant market.
    4. Standardization: Clear market standards give investors confidence in the solution they are investing in.
    5. Strong conveners: Connections to platforms facilitate knowledge exchange and build trust among market actors.

Section 3: Financing

The primary objective of this survey is to understand barriers SDG-
focused initiatives face in transitioning from philanthropic/aid/grant/other nonreturnable capital to investment. In this section, we are interested in understanding where your initiative is on this progression. Please answer the following questions with as much detail as possible.


  • Civil society organization (CSO): An NGO or any nonprofit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organized on a local, national, or international level. This includes UN agencies, family foundations, and nonprofits as well as government-funded programs that are administered through these groups. 
  • Concessionary: This term is broadly defined as a type of capital that requires less than the market rate of return or has higher risk tolerance, typically, in order to increase social and economic returns. Such capital is also used in blended finance transactions to crowd in commercial investment.
  • Funder geographic scale: 
    • Local: Based in and funds initiatives in one specific city, country, or state (i.e., a local NGO, a state bank that is country specific)
    • Regional: Based in and funds initiatives in a group of select countries or states (i.e., organization working in Latin America or Sub-Saharan Africa)
    • International: Funds or works with initiatives globally (i.e., UN organization, international foundation, international bank)

Number 1 | How has your initiative raised capital to date? Please complete as many rows as needed.

Investor/Instrument (select one)

Name of Funder (optional)

Funder Geographic Scale

Type (select one)

Amount (US$, millions) (select one)

Date Secured (write in)

  • Private foundation/CSO/nonprofit (including CSO programs that distribute government funding)
  • Corporation/business
  • Government agency/ department/program
  • Founder or partner organization equity
  • Friends and family
  • Angel investors
  • Seed-stage VC, including impact investors
  • Series A stage VC impact investors
  • Series B or later VC, incl. impact investors
  • DFIs or MDBs
  • Commercial banks
  • Public capital markets (i.e., initial public offerings [IPOs], bonds)
  • Membership fees
  • Local
  • Regional
  • International
  • Grants
  • Equity
  • Concessionary equity
  • Debt
  • Concessionary debt
  • Mezzanine (including convertible notes, etc.)
  • Other—write in
  • <$2
  • $2–$5
  • $5–$15
  • $15–$50
  • $50+

Is there any additional information or detail you would like to provide about your initiative’s current funding structure?


Number 2 | Which type of funding is your initiative currently seeking or planning to seek in the next zero to five years? Please fill out the table, adding rows as needed.

Investor/Instrument (select one)

Funder Geographic Scale

Type (select one)

Amount (US$, millions) (select one)

  • Private foundation/CSO/nonprofit (including CSO programs that distribute government funding)
  • Corporation/business
  • Government agencies and programs
  • Founder equity
  • Friends and family
  • Angel investors
  • Seed-stage VC, including impact investors
  • Series A stage VC impact investors
  • Series B or later VC, including impact investors
  • DFIs or MDBs
  • Commercial banks
  • Public capital markets (i.e., IPOs, bonds)
  • Membership fees
  • Local
  • Regional
  • National
  • International
  • Grants
  • Equity
  • Concessionary equity
  • Debt
  • Concessionary debt
  • Mezzanine (including convertible notes, etc.)
  • Other—write in
  • <$2
  • $2– $5
  • $5– $15
  • $15–$50
  • $50+

Is there any additional information or detail you would like to provide about your funding plans?


Section 4: Funding characteristics

  1. Does your initiative have a business plan in place that includes securing returnable investment as part of your long-term funding strategy?
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Not yet

Number 3 | Please describe the organization with which your initiative collaborates formally or informally.


Does your organization collaborate (formally or informally) with one of the following?

If yes, is this organization local to the country in which you operate?







Financial institutions






[Hover over collaborates: organizations you consider primary stakeholders in your initiative or that your initiative shares governance, leadership, and accountability with. Your initiative may or may not have a formal agreement with these organizations. If your initiative is membership based, this does not include member organizations.]

[Hover over CSOs: An NGO or any nonprofit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organized on a local, national, or international level. This includes UN agencies, family foundations, and nonprofits as well as government-funded programs that are administered through these groups.]

Please provide any additional comments about how your initiative collaborates with organizations here.

  1. What role does government play in your initiative? Check all that apply.
    1. Funding
    2. Connecting initiative to relevant industry and government actors in ecosystem
    3. Navigating or changing policies that better enable initiative success
    4. None
    5. Other—please write in
  2. What best describes the experience level of your initiative’s leadership team? Check all that apply.
    1. At least one person with >5 years of previous work experience in relevant sector/SDG area
    2. At least one person with >5 years of previous work experience in the country or countries in which your initiative operates
    3. At least one person with previous experience procuring or managing early-stage investment
    4. At least one person local to the country or countries in which your initiative operates
    5. At least one woman included on the leadership team

Section 5: Challenges

We are interested in better understanding the following:

  • Challenges specific to initiatives transitioning from grant/philanthropic funding to returnable investment
  • How grant/philanthropic funding enables or impedes securing returnable investment
  1. Please explain your most significant funding challenge in seeking grant or philanthropic funding. Nonexhaustive examples include the following:
    • Grants can be too restrictive and often require certain activities or a certain partnership arrangement that limits the innovative potential of a business idea.
    • Grants can be too burdensome in terms of reporting or other requirements, which diverts resources away from an initiative’s ability to develop a strong business plan.
    • Initiatives reliant on grant funding for too long may be negatively perceived by commercial investors (e.g., they may be considered too risky or not “innovative”) or the initiative has not leveraged risk mitigation instruments like guarantees and insurance. 
  2. Please explain your most significant funding challenge in seeking returnable investment. Nonexhaustive examples include the following:
    • Initiative does not align with investor portfolio or is too high risk due to its business model, location, or because it lacks a sufficient performance track record.
    • Return timeline is considered too long due to the nature of the business model or policy changes required for the initiative to succeed.
    • Capacity constraints. The initiative does not have the resources to provide all needed information to demonstrate proof of concept to commercial investors (e.g., lack of network, limited staff time available to write proposals, etc.)—this may or may not be related to grant funding.
    • Legal structure. An initiative set up as a nonprofit to receive grant funding may have to create a separate for-profit business in order to receive or apply for investment. This can be resource intensive and disincentivize initiatives from fully transitioning to self-sufficiency beyond grant funding.

Section 6: Additional information

  1. What are the top three funding lessons you have learned from your experience seeking returnable investment so far?
  2. Is there anything else you would like to mention about your initiative’s funding or investment strategy?
  3. May we contact you if we have additional questions about your initiative? [Yes/no]
  4. We may include your comments in our final report, and to provide more context, we may be interested in attributing them. Please indicate if you are comfortable with being identified. [Contact me first/yes/no]
  5. Would you like to be featured in the report as a contributor or as a case study? We would like to thank all initiatives that have contributed to our study by listing initiative names in a “contributions” section at the end of the report. [Yes/no]

Thank you page

Thank you for completing the State-of-the-Art Report survey—we greatly appreciate your time.

Please reach out with any questions: 

Erin Gray, Economist, WRI: erin.gray@wri.org

Maggie Dennis, Research Coordinator, WRI: maggie.dennis@wri.org

Bounce-back email

Thank you for completing the WRI and P4G State-of-the-Art Report survey. A copy of your responses is available below.

Please contact Erin Gray (erin.gray@wri.org) or Maggie Dennis (maggie.dennis@wri.org) with any questions.

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