MIT D-Lab among the winners of ANDE Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund grants


ANDE Press Release

May 28, 2020

Fund will distribute up to $1.2 million in grant capital across eight winning proposals out of a pool of more than 180 total applications

Contact: Natalie Alm
Communications Manager
Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE)


Washington, DC, May 28, 2020–The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), along with partners the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Visa Foundation, announce that eight organizations have been selected to receive funds under the Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund (AWEF).

AWEF is the first activity to take place under the ANDE Gender Equality Initiative, first announced at the ANDE Annual Conference in September 2019 as a partnership under the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative. The fund seeks to address the significant gap in access to finance for women-led small and growing businesses (SGBs), currently estimated by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at nearly $320 billion in developing countries. Research from ANDE’s Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) finds that women-led businesses are less likely to apply to acceleration programs, and those that do receive this growth-oriented support are still less likely than their male counterparts to secure equity financing.

To help address this gap, AWEF will distribute up to $1.2 million in grant capital to test models for increasing investment into women-led SGBs over two years in South and Southeast Asia, with critical financial support from USAID and the Visa Foundation. “ANDE has run catalyst and challenge funds over the past decade to address a variety of sector challenges,” said Jenny Everett, Managing Director of ANDE. “We are excited to bring this experience to bear in tackling the specific issue of the gender financing gap for entrepreneurs in the region, and look forward to sharing important lessons learned from these innovative approaches with the SGB sector.”

Each winner will receive up to $150,000 over one year to test models that catalyze investment into women-led SGBs through innovative approaches. The proposed projects span the region, covering Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Vietnam.

“We’re excited by the quality of the proposals and diversity of approaches represented in the Fund,” said Graham Macmillan, President of the Visa Foundation. “Over the next year, we’ll be able to test and learn how best to get investment capital into the hands of women entrepreneurs in emerging markets, a critical need now more than ever.”

An expert panel selected the eight winning proposals out of a pool of more than 180 total applications, based on their clear understanding of the problem AWEF seeks to address, their feasibility and intended impact, and the extent to which lessons learned from the project will inform the work of SGB service providers and investors going forward. The selected winners are:

  • BoP Innovation Center and One to Watch, to develop a new acceleration booster to increase the number of investment-ready female-led SGBs in Myanmar;
  • MIT D-Lab, to identify a new pipeline of female SGB founders to participate in a co-created accelerator program to tackle the investment gap from the bottom up in India;
  • Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and CaterpillHERS, to provide an online business curriculum, training, and mentorship to build the investment readiness of women-led enterprises across five cities in Pakistan;
  • SHE Investments, to create a pipeline of investment-ready women-led enterprises in Cambodia and provide access to the resources and support they need to scale;
  • Value for Women, to strengthen access to finance and business development services for women-led businesses and gender-inclusive social enterprises in Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam;
  • Village Capital, to test the impact of revenue-based financing on fundraising outcomes for women-led SGBs in India;
  • Villgro Philippines, to create an accelerator program to provide high-potential women-led or -owned SGBs in the Philippines access to working capital, capacity building, mentorship, and investor matching; and
  • Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE), to address the gap in seed and early-stage funding for women-led businesses in Vietnam by increasing market opportunities in the angel investing ecosystem.

Projects will begin in the coming months and last up to one year.


About ANDE

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) is a global network of organizations that propel entrepreneurship in emerging markets. ANDE members provide critical financial, educational, and business support services to small and growing businesses (SGBs) based on the conviction that SGBs can create jobs, stimulate long-term economic growth, and produce environmental and social benefits.

As the leading global voice of the SGB sector, ANDE believes that SGBs are a powerful, yet underleveraged tool in addressing social and environmental challenges. Since 2009, we have grown into a trusted network of almost 300 collaborative members that operate in nearly every emerging market. ANDE grows the body of knowledge, mobilizes resources, and connects the institutions that propel the small business entrepreneurs who build inclusive prosperity in the developing world.

ANDE is part of the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.

About The W-GDP Initiative

In February 2019, the White House established the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, the first whole-of-government approach to women’s economic empowerment. W-GDP seeks to reach 50 million women in the developing world by 2025 by focusing on three pillars – Women Prospering in the Workforce, Women Succeeding as Entrepreneurs and Women Enabled in the Economy. W-GDP leverages a new innovative fund, scaling private-public partnerships which address the three pillars. In its first year alone, W-GDP programs reached 12 million women across the globe.


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results, through programs such as Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE). USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience. USAID’s PACE is an initiative that catalyzes private-sector investment into early-stage enterprises, including women-owned businesses.

About the Visa Foundation

The Visa Foundation seeks to support inclusive economies where individuals, businesses and communities can thrive. Through grantmaking and investing, the Foundation prioritizes the resilience and growth of micro and small businesses that benefit women. The Foundation also supports broader community needs and disaster response in times of crisis. The Visa Foundation is registered in the U.S. as a 501(c)(3) entity. For more information, visit:

About Visa

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network – enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of digital commerce on any device for everyone, everywhere. As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit: