Criterion was founded in 2002 and over the last 15 years, we have developed a proven methodology and theory of change around why and how it is possible to instill hope by shifting systems that are seen as intractable and complex. This theory rests on challenging power: once you get others to see power differently – particularly their own power – you unlock their confidence and ability to effect change.
Since our founding we have led innovative initiatives, from founding a venture fund to spearheading innovative research programs with international organizations, to becoming the leading think tank in using finance for social change.
Through our work we have played a significant role in building new fields, developing gender lens investing, partnering with church to transform their relationship with finance, and demonstrating new ways to shape markets to create good.


Criterion founded as a consulting firm dedicated to systems change


The first Convergence convened leaders from finance, women’s rights organizations, and the many expressions of the Christian church met to push the boundaries on how to use finance as a tool for social change. These convenings, where ideas and conversations converged to create energy, collaboration and direction within the emerging field of social finance, were held regularly throughout the United States until 2015.

Related resource: Reflections: A Decade of Convergence


Joy Anderson Co-Founded Good Capital, the first institutional expansion-stage fund using the power of markets to create a more equitable economy and a more sustainable world. The fund’s evolution had a significant influence on pipeline development and the emergent field of impact investing.


Launch of the Charlie Project to explore the role of church finance, particularly within the Lutheran community, in fostering urban education and community economic development.


The term “gender lens investing” is coined as Criterion helps define and develop the emerging field.

Related resource: Framework: Defining a Gender Lens


Release of Cash Market Report following five years of convenings, research and analysis on the root causes of medical debt and designing an innovative approach to leverage financial systems to alleviate the burden. The report was part of Criterion’s HealthCare_Uncovered program, funded by Rockefeller Foundation.

Related resource:  Project Reflection: Reframing Healthcare

Launch of Leaders Shaping Markets to build and support a community of people changing how the systems that undergird our economic markets work. This program evolved into Shaping Market Systems as our learnings allowed for a shift to how to tangibly transform markets.

Related resource: Reflection: Leaders Shaping Market Systems – London Dialogue

Launch of Congregational Engagement Campaign, initially called 1K Churches, inspiring churches to invest in small businesses in their local economy, at Clinton Global Initiative. Criterion continues to publish resources to guide and support congregations as they explore how to use finance for social change in their communities.

Related resource: Implementation Guides: 5 Investment Pathways for Congregations


State of the Field Summit convenes 40 leaders in gender lens investing.

Related resource: Report: State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing

Development of Criterion’s 5 strategies for using finance as a tool for social change. These strategies can be adapted to a wide range of actors and social issues, and form the framework of our TOOLKIT for Finance as a Strategy for Social Change and Blueprint on Using Finance as a Tool for Social Change.

Related resource: Blueprint: Women’s Funds Using Finance for Social Change

2018 and beyond

We continue to research and evolve our programs to work with institutional partners and their leaders to create lasting systems change. Visit Our Work to see what we are up to now.


SEPT. 9 – OCT. 1, 2020

Convergence XVII: Financing the Reduction of Gender-based Violence – A Digital Global Gathering

Our signature convening, Convergence, will take place September 9 to October 1, 2020 online across multiple time zones. This unique gathering of catalytic change-makers will bring together leaders and pioneers from philanthropy, finance, government, and the social sector to move forward specific and tangible ideas to leverage the power of finance to address gender-based violence.  Secure your spot today.

Criterion Institute, 501(c)(3) 81 Church Hill Rd · Haddam, CT 06438 860-345-3520 (main) · ©2023, all rights reserved.

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