Joseph Ssentongo of the Global Innovation Fund

Aid, Evolved
Aid, Evolved
Joseph Ssentongo of the Global Innovation Fund

As the Senior Vice President of Impact at the Global Innovation Fund, Joseph Ssentongo works at the challenging nexus of innovation, evidence and impact. He sits down with Aid, Evolved today to share his efforts to generate evidence even from early-stage innovations; how to measure impact even when that impact might not mature until 10 years in the future; and how Big Aid can evolve to be more innovative by adopting the right model of risk.

The Global Innovation Fund (GIF) is a non-profit, impact-first investment fund which has invested over 100M USD in innovations with the potential to improve the lives of those living on less than 5 dollars a day. It is backed by grant capital from UK, Canadian, Swedish, US and Australian governments as well as corporate and philanthropic donors. This interview reflects the personal experiences and views of Joseph Ssentongo and does not represent the position of GIF or any of its partners.

Conversation Highlights

  • (4m35s) – Joseph recalls his work with the Investment Climate Facility for Africa working with government to improve private sector investment across 14 countries
  • (13m08s) -What is the Global Innovation Fund (GIF)?
  • (18m19s) -How does GIF remain accountable not just to its major donors but also to the people and communities it claims to serve?
  • (20m33s) -Joseph unpacks the tricky balance between delivering world-class evidence and also investing in novel innovations which may not yet have a strong track record of evidence
  • (23m04s) -Joseph shares his personal experience and the unique contribution of GIF to the waste pickers of Mr. Green Africa, a new kind of recycling company in Kenya
  • (26m49s) -How GIF strives to be a catalyst that can lead the way for other donors to invest in risky innovations
  • (30m20s) -What’s next for GIF? Joseph describes the launch of GIF’s Innovating for Climate Resilience Fund as well as the Innovating for Gender Equality sub-fund
  • (31m22s) – Joseph tackles our Rapid Fire questions, from people who inspired him to his favourite podcasts

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  • Learn more about the Global Innovation Fund (GIF) on their website
  • Practical Impact is a sector-agnostic approach to measuring innovations that include both short and long-term returns. GIF has published a complete guide to this methodology here.
  • Joseph cites the success of a catalytic 2M investment GIF made to Development Media International to demonstrate the effectiveness of radio campaigns for family planning in Burkina Faso.
  • As part of his work with GIF, Joseph provided hands-on support to Mr. Green Africa, which is disrupting the plastics recycling sector in Kenya
  • Joseph’s shoutout goes to Gabriel Rugalema, who worked with Joseph at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and whose leadership during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone has been a major inspiration.
  • GIF has a long track record of successful grants and investments, including in PATH, Viamo,, IDInsight, and Simprints.
  • Joseph co-chairs the board of a charity, Orchid Project, that seeks to eradicate the practice of female genital cutting (FGC). Joseph makes the case not just for the human rights and health justification to end FGC but also the economic argument to do so.

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