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“All financial players must make the transition to a sustainable economy and prioritize impact over financial returns. SDG-focused partnerships between companies, governments , and civil society actors that are seeking transformative change offer a clear path forward and an exciting investment opportunity.”

Ani Dasgupta, President & CEO, World Resources Institute

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“This report outlines how we must be willing to explore and discuss lessons learned across the industry, regardless of the outcome. By identifying the roadblocks preventing us from addressing the SDG financing gap, this report shows us steps funders can take to ensure our world and its inhabitants are healthy for generations to come.”

Amit Bouri, ​CEO, GIIN

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“It has never been more clear that collaboration between governments, investors, and entrepreneurs is essential to make progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We have the opportunity to bring new, innovative ideas to life and the recommendations outlined in this report gives investors and partnerships a roadmap on how to achieve this.”

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility



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As the world confronts challenges like urban growth, reliance on fossil fuels, water scarcity and more, "Unlocking Early-Stage Financing for SDG Partnerships" examines how innovative approaches to investing can support partnerships and the transition to a more sustainable economy.

The report identifies gaps in financing and key recommendations intended to help achieve the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals through commercially-driven partnerships. While there has been immense growth in the number of multi-stakeholder partnerships that are commercially-focused, this report focuses on how to ensure partnerships with real transformation potential are long-lasting and well-funded to make a positive impact. It outlines four key recommendations for partnerships and funders to overcome these barriers and unlock environmental, social and financial rewards.

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Chapter 1: Introduction

In this chapter, we set the stage by defining partnerships and their funding environments, and by laying out key knowledge gaps. These partnerships are struggling to meet their potential, becoming mired in the “missing middle”—the transitory period in which they have outgrown grant funding but are still too early-stage for commercial investment.

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Chapter 2: Partnership Facing Challenges

Take a look into 66 commercially driven partnerships to better understand their experiences navigating the financing journey—providing a perspective that may be helpful for funders to consider as they make investment decisions. We also provide six partnership case studies to add color to these challenges and present ways partnerships are working to overcome the missing middle.

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Chapter 3: Partnership Funders and Investors

Many grant funders and investors—including government donors, philanthropies, DFI's, and private sector investors—are starting to deploy innovative approaches to financing that can help overcome the missing middle. This chapter explores several examples of such approaches and features two special sections covering the role of institutional investors and the importance of strong impact measurement and management.

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Chapter 4: Driving Impact: Recommendations and Conclusions

While SDG impact is the driving priority for partnerships and funders, achieving that impact is not easy, and our research indicates that it is often complicated by other funder priorities. There are several actions that partnerships and funders can both take, however, which can guide them on the path to true SDG impact.

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