Economic Development

The nonprofits, entrepreneurs and governments we work with foster economic opportunity in some of the world’s most challenging environments. We also partner with impact investors backing delivery of vital services to the poor.
Our Clients’ Impact

310 million-plus

lives touched by impact investing partners

3 million-plus
jobs created by entrepreneurs
13 million-plus
smallholder farmer families reached
50 million-plus
refugees served
Supporting social-first impact investors

Where traditional philanthropic and market solutions have fallen short, social-first impact investors step in. Unlike investors that focus first on financial returns, this group has a high tolerance for risk and a long time horizon. They support innovative enterprises that serve the world’s poor with business models that can ultimately become commercially viable and self-sustaining. Bain helps them set a bold ambition for growth and systemic impact, and develop a clear roadmap for getting there. (Read about our approach in this Forbes interview with Willy Foote, CEO of Root Capital, an enduring client.)

“[Our work] takes grit and determination. What fuels that is not only a sense that we can do this, but also that we find joy in it. The Bain teams have brought that same commitment, perseverance and joy to the work. I can’t see partnerships lasting any other way.”
Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen
Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Founder and CEO, talks about Acumen's work and our partnership.


Acumen pioneered the use of “patient capital” to invest in innovative companies whose products and services enable the poor to transform their lives. Founded in 2001, Acumen has invested in more than 115 companies across Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the United States. These investments have touched the lives of more than 260 million of the world’s poor—providing clean drinking water and sanitation solutions to more than 6 million people, supplying affordable clean energy to more than 115 million people, and much more. Since 2012, Bain has donated more than 52,000 hours of consulting time to Acumen globally, working on nearly a dozen distinct projects, helping focus the organization’s investing strategy and align its operating model to deliver greater impact as well as collaborating on research papers. In turn, Bain consultants who’ve done externships at Acumen and its investees return as “better leaders,” says CEO Jacqueline Novogratz.

Partner since 2012

Over 52,000 hours on projects globally

Michael Schlein, Accion CEO, discusses the Accion and Bain partnership.


Accion is a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. Bain collaborated with Accion to develop a five-year strategy to dramatically lower the cost and improve the quality of financial services for the world’s three billion financially underserved people by building innovative and scalable demonstration models and catalyzing the financial inclusion industry. Bain also worked with Accion Venture Lab to develop its portfolio engagement strategy to help inclusive fintech start-ups overcome core entrepreneurial challenges such as customer acquisition and segmentation and expansion planning. In the US, which has a $130 billion financing gap, Bain recently helped Accion develop a plan to scale its lending portfolio to meet widespread demand for inclusive financing over the next five years.

Growing vibrant, self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystems

Small businesses need a support system to become big businesses. A strong entrepreneurial ecosystem fosters innovation and growth, and businesses that are part of one have a much higher chance of success. There is groundbreaking evidence that the most vibrant entrepreneurship develops when high-impact entrepreneurs operate in tight-knit networks, nurturing fellow risk-takers and trading know-how, capital and tough love. This is as true in some of the harshest global terrain for innovation as it is in Silicon Valley.

“Endeavor would not be the organization it is today, and I would not be the CEO I am today, were it not for the insights, guidance and wisdom we've received from Bain.”
Linda Rottenberg, Cofounder and CEO, Endeavor
Video courtesy of Endeavor


Endeavor is a leader in the global high-impact entrepreneurship movement. Over the last two decades, it has helped promising entrepreneurs scale by facilitating access to mentorship, networks, talent and capital. Once successful, those companies then “pay it forward,” inspiring, mentoring and investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs, the multiplier effect at the heart of building entrepreneurial ecosystems. Now operating in 34 markets around the world, Endeavor has supported more than 1,800 entrepreneurs leading 1,100 companies that have collectively created 3 million jobs. Since 2011, Bain has donated 75,000 hours of consulting time on 30 distinct cases in 13 countries, helping Endeavor define its growth strategy and develop a repeatable model covering all aspects of operations from entrepreneur selection to post-selection services. In addition, dozens of externs have supported local affiliates and entrepreneurs, and senior partners serve as mentors and panelists at the International Selection Panels of entrepreneurs.

Partner since 2011

30 projects in 13 countries

Fostering inclusive economic growth

Around the world, 2.5 billion people living on less than $4 a day depend on agriculture for their livelihood. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, agriculture is dominated by smallholder farmers who own 0.5 to 2 hectares of land. More often than not, these farmers lack affordable access to yield-enhancing inputs such as seed and fertilizer, technical assistance, financing and markets. Bain strengthens organizations that help improve smallholder farmer productivity and livelihoods.

“I envisioned hiring a local consultant. Instead we had a six-person Bain team with us for four months. This felt like going from asking your cousin Billy to play guitar for your backyard event to showing up to find him replaced by U2.”
Jeff Dykstra, Cofounder and CEO, Partners in Food Solutions

Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency

In Ethiopia, agriculture accounts for 34% of GDP and 71% of employment, including 12 million smallholder farmers, and the sector’s strong performance has been key to the country’s economic growth over the past decade. Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), an innovative government organization dedicated to accelerating the transformation of Ethiopia’s agriculture sector, recently partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch an agribusiness accelerator; Bain was brought in to help with the design of the strategy and operating model. Together we developed an ambitious vision for the Ethiopia Agribusiness Accelerator Platform (EAAP), a demand-driven platform catalyzing the growth of specific value chains in which Ethiopia can become globally or regionally competitive, while improving smallholder farmer incomes. Early results of its pilot program with honey are promising—the platform currently supports seven companies, including the country’s largest honey exporter.

Social Impact Results Award Winner
Photo courtesy of Partners in Food Solutions

Partners in Food Solutions

In Africa, agriculture accounts for 60% of jobs and 25% of GDP; yet the continent imports $35 billion a year in food and, unlike developed markets, adds relatively little value in local processing. Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) is helping to build Africa’s local food processing sector by transferring technical and business expertise from employee volunteers of six leading global companies—General Mills, Cargill, Bühler, DSM, Ardent Mills and Hershey—to promising local entrepreneurs. Bain helped PFS develop a three-year roadmap and operating plan that will quadruple the number of high-potential food companies it supports, so that they can integrate more smallholder farmers into supply chains and provide greater access to safe and nutritious food. For more, please watch this PBS interview with Jeff Dykstra, cofounder and CEO of PFS.

Video courtesy of TechnoServe


Founded 50 years ago and now operating in 29 countries, TechnoServe harnesses the power of private enterprise to help people lift themselves out of poverty. From strengthening coffee cooperatives of East Africa to revitalizing Mozambique’s cashew processing sector, TechnoServe links people to information, capital and markets, helping millions create lasting prosperity for their families and communities. Bain has collaborated with TechnoServe to strengthen the focus and impact of its project portfolio, and make its operating model more effective and sustainable.

In 2018, Amigos do Bem was recognized as the Social Impact Results Challenge winner in the Americas, hear the story.

Amigos do Bem

When Bain began working with Amigos do Bem (AdB), the NGO was searching for a way to grow revenue, improve its margins and create jobs in the drought-plagued and impoverished northeast of Brazil. After a portfolio review, Bain recommended expanding its investment in the cashew, which is native to the area and is processed in part using semi-manual methods. Following Bain’s five-year strategic plan including new approaches to marketing, retail and operations, the project will significantly increase employment and improve the quality of life for thousands more.

Social Impact Results Award Winner
Building better futures for refugees and families in crisis

Today 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced, nearly four times the number 10 years ago and the highest on record. Resettling and integrating them requires mobilizing unprecedented levels of human and financial resources, and the demands on organizations that support refugees and families in crisis have never been higher. We partner with groups rising to this monumental challenge with initiatives that help people recover and rebuild their lives.

“UNHCR is filled with pride. People work day and night to care for and protect refugees. [We] know a lot about what should happen, but Bain surprised us with what we could do better, and should do better.”
Mark Vogt, Managing Director, European Private Sector Fundraising, UNHCR
Bain teams worked with UNHCR to develop a sustainable private sector fundraising strategy and collaboration model.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) leads the world’s response to the rising refugee crisis. Serving tens of millions of people, it is by far the largest organization in the world dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. Faced with unprecedented need for its work at a time when local governments are cutting funding, UNHCR, with Bain’s help, will better engage with the private sector, both as a source of funding and for other kinds of support that facilitate refugee resettlement and integration.


UNHCR Made51

Made51 is a UNHCR platform that helps refugee artisans sell their creations online. Bain helped define their three-year strategy, including priority growth opportunities, intended impact and plan of action. They are now working on full-scale implementation aiming to provide 300,000 refugees worldwide with the opportunity to earn a fair wage from their heritage and skills.



Medair is a Christian faith-based NGO working with refugees and families in severe crisis because of conflict, drought or natural disaster. In 2017, Medair secured access to clean drinking water for more than half a million people, provided shelter for more than 200,000, and treated approximately 75,000 patients suffering from malnutrition. Bain worked with their staff in Switzerland to better focus their fund-raising activities, including reducing churn and growing donations from existing donors, adopting a more structured approach to working with foundations, and building a network of supporters.

Economic Development Insights


Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations

Microdrip irrigation systems. Drought-resistant hybrid seeds. Asset-backed microloans. These innovations can transform the lives of those farming on less than two hectares of land and earning less than $4 a day. Yet until relatively recently, they were unknown to most smallholder farmers. Bain and Acumen, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, undertook a four-month research effort focused on South Asia (India and Pakistan) and sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Kenya and Uganda) to understand what it would take to catalyze the large-scale adoption of innovations that could lead to greater prosperity for smallholder farmers.
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Indian Farming’s Next Big Moment: Farming as a service

Farming as a service (FaaS) provides agricultural services via a subscription or pay-per-use model. Small and marginal farmers are expected to benefit the most from these services as they usually cannot afford to invest in equipment. Our recent study describes the increasing activity in the sector in India, across all stakeholders in the FaaS ecosystem—start-ups, investors, corporations, government and research institutions—and the vast economic and social benefits that it can produce.
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