Project name: Ascend Venture Fund

Type of refugee investment: R4 – Refugee-supporting, host-weighted

Investment size: €30M at final close

SDGs addressed: 8 – Decent work and economic growth; 10 – Reduced inequalities

Country/ies: Greece

Impact: The Ascend Venture Fund (AVF) will invest in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Greece to create quality jobs for refugees, migrants, and vulnerable locals. AVF is Greece’s first social impact fund, and one of the first funds ever to be deliberately designed for the purpose of forging stronger intercommunal relations between local populations and more recent arrivals. The fund aspires to impact over 2,000 refugees and other vulnerable populations, and help over 25 investee companies grow.

Investment Thesis: The investment thesis behind AVF, initially developed by Radcliffe foundation, combines a clear impact goal—social integration of vulnerable populations through employment generation and ongoing support—with a targeted financial return of approximately 5% net IRR. Their investment thesis is motivated by the identification of a market opportunity to invest in high-quality local SMEs with significant growth potential that have also had difficulty accessing financing at competitive rates due to funding constraints in the local market. With a range of debt and equity instruments, AVF investments will help companies in labor-intensive industries, including agriculture, tourism, construction and manufacturing, grow while meaningfully integrating refugees and other vulnerable populations into their workforce.

Structure: The fund will be based in Cyprus, and managed by CNL, an innovative Greek “alternative investment fund manager” with a successful track record in local SME investing. AVF is complemented by a non-profit technical assistance vehicle, which will identify, train, and support job candidates, as well as monitor key outcomes during their period of employment with AVF portfolio companies. It will also support portfolio companies to improve workplace standards and create on-the-job programs that help employees from vulnerable populations succeed, reduce intergroup tensions, and promote successful social integration through the workplace. Finally, the AVF technical assistance vehicle will be responsible for putting in place rigorous impact metrics to capture the effect of AVF on participating populations along specific dimensions, including self-reliance and social integration.

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Sara Beatty