The care economy — including childcare, eldercare and domestic work — is vital to society, yet it remains invisible, undervalued, and unevenly distributed. The disproportionate share of care and domestic work that falls on women and girls, especially when it is unpaid, is a key barrier to their empowerment.
Innovative market-based solutions to recognize, reward, reduce, and redistribute care activities are emerging, but more knowledge is needed on the impact and scalability of these models before they can contribute to global progress on gender equality.
Launched in November 2021, the Transforming the Care Economy through Impact Investing initiative is generating knowledge and evidence to direct investment into these social and for-profit enterprises. It supports action research to leverage entrepreneurship to grow sustainable and inclusive economic opportunities in the care economy in emerging markets. Research is conducted through local market analysis and case studies, impact assessments, by incubating and accelerating care economy businesses, research on regulatory frameworks and policies, and industry-policy dialogues.
IDRC and the Soros Economic Development Fund at the Open Society Foundations jointly fund the initiative. Many more partners are working together to build the evidence base, to support businesses in becoming investable and sustainable and to engage knowledge users to mobilize action.
The initiative has three pillars of action:
Kore Global leads a research consortium to assess market opportunity in the care sector in select countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The assessment involves mapping more than 160 businesses in the care sector, profiling 60 business models and developing a collection of 20 case studies, including promising early-stage ventures.
In partnership with Intellecap, Busara, Volta Capital and CoreWoman, this consortium also documents lessons on business models and assesses the impact of care economy businesses on women’s economic empowerment.
Incubation and acceleration
The initiative invests in several projects to incubate and accelerate scalable and market-based approaches to reduce, redistribute and reward women’s care burden. The projects aim to build the pipeline for impact investing in the care sector while learning about what works to strengthen women-led businesses and cooperatives that provide care services.
Partners in Latin America: Alterna, ProMujer and UN Women
Partners in Asia: UN Women Asia and Value for Women
Partners in Africa: Harambee, the IMBE Enterprise Incubator, DG Murray Trust, Smart Start, Ilifa Labantwana and Innovation Edge.
Outreach and engagement
A strong knowledge brokering pillar seeks to mobilize impact investing in the care economy and improve public policies to facilitate this investment.
Support for the Care Economy Working Group, created by GenderSmart and 2X Collaborative, is helping to build investor capacity with the ultimate goal of driving more capital towards the care economy.
Key investment fora such as the Latin American Impact Investing Forum and the Asia Venture Philanthropy Association are also contributing by sharing knowledge with investors and policymakers on investing in the care economy.
Business Fights Poverty supports the initiative by engaging with larger businesses on their role to help transform the care economy and propel entrepreneurship and social enterprises through their value chains.