Pacific Readiness for Investment in Social Enterprise (Pacific RISE) is a pilot initiative of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The program was designed to facilitate and grow the social impact investment market in the Pacific and ran from October 2019 through July 2021. Pacific RISE engaged partners across the investment cycle – investors, financial intermediaries, and social enterprises – to support investments with a social and gender equity lens across the Pacific region. While gender lens investing was still a relatively new field at the time of Pacific RISE’s launch in 2016, the program adopted a gender-inclusive impact investing approach. In its consistent attention to, and elevation of, a gender lens in building out the impact investment market in the Pacific over the last five years, the Pacific RISE program has emerged as a catalyst and leader in advancing gender lens investing.
This report examines the Pacific RISE program as a case study of comprehensive gender lens investing in action. It analyzes four thematic challenges that Pacific RISE faced in implementing gender lens investing goals, and discusses the strategies employed within the program to address those challenges. Notably, the challenges encountered by the program were not unique to Pacific RISE, or to the Pacific region, but are found in impact investing and gender lens investing programs worldwide. Thus, the ways that Pacific RISE dealt with these challenges has important implications for the broader gender lens investing field. This research exposes the impacts of the Pacific RISE program beyond the exchange of capital and demonstrates effects on the field of gender lens investing that exceeded the expectations of the original program design. Pacific RISE not only served to enhance gender lens investing capacity in the Pacific and beyond, but also provides valuable lessons learned and examples of comprehensive gender lens investments that serve to support the field as a whole.