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When one plus one equals three: A tale of a unique collaboration to reach more children living in poverty

By Mauricio Rincon

For 50 years, Opportunity International has been a waymaker for individuals, foundations, churches, and corporations to share in our mission to serve the most marginalized people in the world, empower them to build their livelihoods, and enable them to break free from poverty.

A significant milestone in our journey was announced on November 1, when we unveiled a $100 million collaboration with Oikocredit, a Netherlands-based social impact investor and worldwide cooperative promoting sustainable development through investments. Through our collaboration, Opportunity’s Education Finance (EduFinance) program and Oikocredit will target financial institutions serving the needs of the most vulnerable populations in low-income countries and provide a combination of capital, training, and support for the development of the education sector. This investment will improve access to, and ensure a quality education for, an estimated 1.6 million children across approximately 6,600 schools.

This collaboration marks a new type of funding approach for Opportunity International. We are innovating and strengthening the way we work alongside impact investors by leading the way for impact capital to meet the needs addressed by our programs.  After research and consultation with numerous parties in the impact investing, blended finance, and international development spaces, we found that building collaborations with mission-aligned impact investors accelerated our impact in the field—especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Our joint effort with Oikocredit will help fight the global education crisis, which according to UNICEF has left more than 617 million children worldwide either out of school, or in school but not reaching adequate levels of learning. Our EduFinance program has proven that when schools get access to capital and training, and parents receive timely financial support, students have a chance to break the generational cycle of poverty. 

A unique aspect of this collaboration is the breadth of experience and global reach of both organizations, with more than 90 years of combined history working in low-income countries. The collaboration will initially target five African countries—Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda—and over time, we aim to expand its reach in Africa, Latin America, and India, contributing to the advancement of Sustainable Development Goals #4 and #17 around education and partnerships.

The collaboration with Oikocredit defies arithmetic: in this case, one plus one equals three. By sharing our expertise, we can do far more good work together than we can individually.

We are beyond grateful for all our friends and partners that lent us their time, insights, and knowledge to reach this milestone. We are optimistic about the role that impact capital can play in serving those living in extreme poverty and the part that Opportunity International can play to increase the funds mobilized alongside our programs. At Opportunity, we’ve learned that the road is made one step at a time, or in the words of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado: “Waymaker, there is no road, you make your own path as you walk.

Mauricio Rincon is the Managing Director of Capital Solutions for Opportunity International.

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