Bold and Beautiful — How Crossroads International Achieves Greater Institutional Impact with Socially Conscious Investing

blue background with image of countries in white and a person on top pointing up, with the writing "Crossroads International"

Crossroads International has a bold vision when it comes to institutional impact: it’s working toward a beautiful future — a world where poverty is eliminated, equality prevails and the rights of women and girls are fulfilled.

A tall order? Perhaps. But the impact the organization has had since its founding in 1958 by a group of Canadian volunteers is remarkable — from girls’ empowerment clubs that provide a safe space for survivors of violence to learn about their rights, to the development of opportunities in organic farming for former practitioners of female “cutting” who seek new ways of earning a living.

Working to improve the lives of people in some of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Crossroads originally focused on building infrastructure like roads and schools. But today it works to focus its institutional impact on building capacity—partnering with local non-profit organizations to advance social justice.

In 2020, Crossroads helped to:

  • Save 136 girls saved from genital mutilation in Tanzania 
  • Grow 87 girls’ empowerment clubs, 9 mixed clubs and 18 boys for change programs reaching more than 3,000 members in 5 countries and addressing issues ranging from child marriage to sexual abuse to female genital mutilation
  • Provide 7,942 vulnerable people (6,035 women) with access to decent jobs or improved income sources, including working with women farmers to adapt to climate change
  • Empower 4,528 people (76% women and girls) to assert their rights  
And it achieved all that through the power and benevolence of volunteers. “People who join with us as volunteers serve overseas in a whole range of placements,” says Christine Campbell, Crossroads’ National Director of External Relations. “They help to develop capacity building plans based on where our partner organizations have plans. This could be in governance, finance or programmatic approaches.”

But Crossroads doesn’t stop there. The organization, a Genus partner for the past 10 years, has also been creating impact throughout its investment portfolio.

Amplifying impact through socially conscious investing

When Crossroads first sought to add socially conscious investing to its portfolio, impact investing was still a nascent sector, but the organization knew it wanted to maximize its institutional impact. “Crossroads had the foresight to find a partner that’s aligned with our values,” says Heather Shapter, Crossroads’ Executive Director. “It’s an extension of our mission. We’re a small organization, so if we can do that with our supply chain partners, that multiplies the impact we can have.”

I want a guarantee that our investing is ethical—no arms, no child labour. And Genus can guarantee that the supply chain has none of that.

Heather Shapter, Executive Director, Crossroads International Tweet

Shapter offers one key piece of advice when it comes to finding an investment manager that’s values-aligned. “Ask a lot of questions about measurement,” she says. “How do they measure the return? Genus does a great job — they filter out environmental impact and social impact. I want a guarantee that our investing is ethical—no arms, no child labour. And Genus can guarantee that the supply chain has none of that. We’re really proud of that. They’re great community champions.”

And while this past year has shifted a lot of the work Crossroads is doing on the ground (pivoting to new recruitment models and to Covid response strategies), it hasn’t changed much about the organization’s investment strategy, which is designed to maximize institutional impact. “The market is a little bit different now, but it doesn’t shift our priority on partnering and investing from our values,” Shapter says. “It just means we’re shifting a little bit and listening to Genus’ advice in terms of where the opportunities for investment are as we emerge out of Covid.”

Investing in impact for the long-term is part of Crossroads’ DNA. And we’re proud to be their partner. 

Learn more about institutional investing with Genus or contact us to talk to an institutional investment expert on our team.

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