Apply for funding

GIF’s Social Rate of Return Calculations

Updated 27 May 2022

The Global Innovation Fund is among a small group of funders that invest in innovations that benefit the poor in developing countries and, like other innovation funders, are seeking to calculate the social impact we have created to date. To calculate GIF’s social impact, we used an approach described in the March 2021 draft of “Assessing the Social Returns to Innovation for Development: The Global Innovation Fund’s Impact to Date”, based on USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures analysis of their early portfolio. From GIF’s start in 2015 through 2018, GIF invested in 38 innovations. We considered a few of GIF’s fastest growing innovations from that early portfolio that are now yielding tangible results.

We now make one significant methodological change: we report cumulative retrospective net benefits as the simple sum of annual net benefits. We believe this to be a more meaningful measure than discounting those benefits to 2015 (1). However, the benefit/cost ratios are, appropriately, based on flows discounted to 2015. For investments with limited data, 2021 estimates of costs are based on 2020 data. As a result, we now estimate that between 2015 and 2021, for the six investments have created over $576 million of social benefits, net of operational costs. We then compare the benefits from these six against the costs of all 38 innovations in GIF’s early portfolio, together with all of GIF’s operational costs through 2021. After only six years, these six innovations alone have yielded benefits that exceed GIF’s total costs for early innovations, returning $2.7 in net social benefits attributed to GIF for every dollar invested by GIF.

Click here to view the draft paper


1. Discounting benefits to 2015 would imply that we report, to readers in 2022, that a $1 benefit received in 2021 is ‘worth’ only $0.56, arbitrarily adopting the prospective viewpoint of 2015. Conversely, while economic logic tells us that it is better to have received benefits earlier rather than later, it feels counterintuitive to report a $1 benefit received in 2015 as ‘worth’ $1.77 in 2021.