Question: What is blended finance?

Answer: We have a more technical and detailed answer for you below and on this introduction page. But in simple terms, blended finance can be a combination of public/government financing and sometimes philanthropy for big sustainability projects that help reduce risk in order to make it more attractive to private capital to join based on its risk/return preferences.

Q: Can you provide us with some examples?

A: Absolutely! We have a number of examples, organized by Sustainable Development Goal, here. Peruse these and use them as guides for your solution!

Q: What if I don’t know anything about blended finance?

A: That’s OK, we don’t expect you to know. We created this so that students can learn about it by applying the concepts to something they care about. In fact, that’s why we will provide coaching sessions and work with you to help you learn about blended finance.

Q: How much time will this take?

A: You can start by joining us for a LIFT workshop on October 15, 2021, any time between 9:00AM and 4:30PM EDT. Email us using if you are interested. Also, you can work on it as much as you want. But you can also treat this like a case competition where you get a case on Thursday and present a solution by Saturday or Sunday. In fact, we will schedule an optional LIFT Hackathon for LIFT registrants in December or January, where you can attend information sessions about blended finance, ask questions and get some coaching on different aspects of your proposal. You can even use the LIFT Hackathon as your launch pad to a weekend working on your idea with your team.

Q: Do I have to be a business student?

A: No, any undergraduate or graduate student team can enter. We want to learn about everyone’s ideas!

Explore the embedded story map below

This story map has more information about blended finance for social equity, economic mobility, water and sanitation, and a map with more case studies.

What is Blended Finance?

The use of catalytic capital from public or philanthropic sources to increase private sector investment in sustainable development

Learn more on the interactive website here.

What is Impact Investment?

Impact investments are investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below market to market rate, depending on investors’ strategic goals. 

Learn more about Impact Investing on this interactive website.

Further Reading

Case Studies

Blended Finance in Global Health

“Global health is ripe for an uptick in blended finance. Low health budget-allocations across developing countries have resulted in a $134 billion annual health funding gap in low and middle-income countries. If funding trends continue, this gap is expected to reach $371 billion annually by 2030. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to only further exacerbate this funding gap, particularly in developing countries where healthcare systems are relatively weak, supply chains remain vulnerable, and difficulties persist in proper infection prevention and control.” Source

Blended Finance in Gender Equality

Blended Finance and Gender Equality

“There is a broad consensus that blended finance is
a useful tool to advance gender equality. However, while we have seen greater focus on gender lens investing in recent years, gender equality remains underrepresented as an investment theme in the blended finance market, with 18% of transactions aligning with SDG 5 (Gender Equality) from 2017-2019. Of transactions aligned with SDG 5 in our database, analysis conducted by Convergence earlier this year found 58% of them to be gender-aware (e.g., transactions that explicitly target women as beneficiaries while reporting gender-disaggregated data), while 42% of transactions signaled an intentional aim to achieve women’s empowerment or gender equality. On the upside, Convergence found that more than a third of all historical blended finance transactions third (34%) report gender-disaggregated data, an important first step in developing evidence-based approaches for equitable development and assessing the impact of blended finance on women and girls.” Source

Blended / Sustainable Finance Relevant Articles

General Advice

General Advice

After talking with several professionals in the blended finance and impact investing fields, our interns have gathered this general advice for students entering the LIFT challenge:

  1. When working on blended finance and impact investing projects, start with the problem you are trying to solve rather than the specific finance model. All projects have different needs and will require different forms of blending. 
  2. When designing a blended finance project, be sure that your proposal hits as many of the sub points on the 5 steps to creating a blended finance project created by the OECD.
  3. Technical assistance (especially in lower-income areas) is an important part of most all blended finance projects. 
  4. Be sure to engage with all levels of stakeholders before assuming what is needed for a project. Social equity and economic mobility look very different in different areas across the globe. 
  5. Make sure your project leads towards the development of at least one SDG, and clearly identify which SDG goals your project falls under.
  6. Understand the returns different levels of investors are expecting compared to market rate investments. 
  7. Identify how you can measure the impact of the project you are creating.
  8. Read case studies to get a general idea of how blended finance projects are set up, and if possible talk to experts working in the field (we are more than happy to help set up participants with stakeholder meetings).
  9. Find what motivates you to work on social equity and economic mobility, and apply it to your blended finance project. 


Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability

The Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability drives responsible thought leadership and inspired action to accelerate progress in social and environmental sustainability through innovative and profitable business solutions.

We accomplish this by engaging with and connecting stakeholders to empower students, faculty and businesses to create impactful solutions, strengthen resiliency and identify breakthrough opportunities.


⯈ UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

UNC Kenan-Flagler is a leading global professional school of business. Our research influences business leaders, academics and policymakers. Our graduates are known for their effective and principled leadership as well as their technical and managerial skills. We are a workplace of choice for faculty, staff and students; a valued member of the UNC-Chapel Hill community; and a contributor to the welfare of North Carolina and the world beyond.


⯈ Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise

The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise develops and promotes innovative, market-based solutions to vital economic issues. With the belief that private enterprise is the cornerstone of a prosperous and free society, the institute fosters the entrepreneurial spirit to stimulate economic prosperity and improve the lives of people in North Carolina, across the country and around the world.

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