We are delighted to announce that Jane Siebels has joined the GIF Board of Directors.
Jane brings with her an exceptional track record of ethical investing and philanthropic giving, extensive board experience, a commitment to evidence, and a deep understanding of investing in emerging markets.
Meet Jane Siebels
What most interested you about GIF?
I have always considered Sir John Templeton to be my mentor – he was like a father figure to me, and is someone that I admire greatly for all the amazing things that he achieved during the course of his career in philanthropy. A mantra of his that has always stuck with me is the idea that we shouldn’t talk in terms of alleviating poverty; instead, we should talk in terms of creating wealth. Whereas alleviating poverty implies an inequality, if you’re creating wealth together, then you are equal partners, each with responsibility for achieving impact. For me, GIF encapsulates this philosophy so well, and it is one of the reasons that I am so excited to join the GIF Board of Directors.
Which investments in GIF’s portfolio especially inspire you?
There are many innovations in the GIF portfolio which really inspire me – but for now, I’ll just briefly mention a couple of them.
Paga in Nigeria is wonderful. The problems that Paga is seeking to address are very local and very specific, and it is an innovation which demonstrates how, very often, it is local innovators who truly understand the problems and hold the key to the solutions. They know what to do and how to create a business. Paga illustrates the point that developed countries do not have a monopoly on entrepreneurial knowledge and spirit. It is exciting because it is locally-grown.
As a farm girl from Iowa, EM3 also really strikes a chord with me. We have seen time and again, even in developed countries, that farmers often buy huge tractors and other machinery in order to compete, and it is deeply inefficient. EM3 allows farmers to benefit from mechanisation, but there isn’t a lot of waste or debt taken on to do that. Yields go up, people are fed, and it’s better for the environment. It is helping farmers to make a better living.
How does being a GIF board member align with your values?
Well, I truly believe that being partners in creating wealth is the best way to conduct aid and help other people. I did venture capital in the 1980s in Silicon Valley (when it wasn’t such a big thing!), and I remember going out and seeing these companies and having to lie down to rest afterwards because I was so excited about all the possibilities. One of the things that excites me about GIF is to be able to give this same opportunity to developing countries. The greatest gift one can give is hope and opportunity, and I think that is what GIF is all about.
What makes the GIF approach to impact investment unique?
GIF’s approach is that aid is not just charity, it is empowerment: it is giving opportunity. I truly believe that. GIF’s model is about becoming a partner and helping people to help themselves – encouraging people and giving them hope.
Why is funding ‘innovation’ so important when seeking to improve the lives of those living in the developing world?
Innovation is important because if you are not innovating, you’re looking backwards. I have invested in emerging markets since 1985, and one example of the power of innovation that really sticks in my mind is the advent of cell phones. It was a game-changer – as a consequence of this technology becoming available, people were able to leap frog and really get ahead. It’s a good example of how innovation actually helps countries – developing countries should be able to take advantage of these same leapfrogging opportunities.
Partnership is key to GIF’s model – who would you like to see GIF partnering with in the future?
Well firstly, I am hoping that the partnerships GIF has already established with government aid programmes continue to grow and flourish. But there are others I would like to see GIF partner with as well. I run a social network for social philanthropists called iGivingWorld, and so many people I meet through this channel believe in the way GIF does development.
When I think about who I would like to see GIF partnering with in the future, I think of some of the new philanthropists entering the sector who are open to a new type of aid: the likes of Jack Ma in Asia, or some of the tech-based entrepreneurs in the US and Europe. I hope that, through its partnerships, GIF can show that doing good and doing well don’t need to be mutually exclusive.