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We believe in empowering local actors and innovators through active funding and advisory support.

Our funding approach

To be as catalytic as possible we fund via grants, program related investments and mission related investments

We support all forms of advancing human knowledge, whether it be furthering education in Africa or engaging with other innovators. We view our grants and investments as catalytic seed stage funding and want to see our contributions leverage further resources. We look for the future scalability, replication, and sustainability of every program, innovation, and research project we fund. We do this by paying attention and taking the time to carefully review all of our grant and investment opportunities.

Motivated by a recognition of the crucial role of impact investing in social and environmental change, IDP Foundation also engages in Program Related Investments (PRIs), created under the US Tax Reform Act of 1969 (Section 4944). PRIs can be made by a charitable foundation as part of their grantmaking under the requisite that the investment furthers its charitable mission.  Making returns on the investment is permitted provided it complies with the Internal Revenue Service’s rules. PRIs can take the form of loans, loan guarantees, lines of credit, linked deposits, or equity investments.

PRI Benefits

Program Related Investments (PRIs) are a highly useful addition to a pure grant to advance philanthropic activities as they allow funders to engage in high risk yet catalytic, early-stage investments that have the potential for large-scale social impact. High risk investments have previously been prohibited under the Prudent Investor Rule and therefore couldn’t be made of grant funds. If the PRI fails, it can be written off as a grant that counts towards the foundation’s mandatory annual disbursement of philanthropic funds if the organization qualifies. In IDPF experience, in order for a young enterprise to establish credibility and grow, they would often prefer an investment rather than a grant. This is one of the great advantages of being able to utilize a PRI.

 Ako Adjei Park – Accra, Ghana (PRI recipient) 

“IDPF provided PRIs at crucial times to support our mission to build Osu Ako Adjei area as the city’s innovation district and the nerve center for Accra’s entrepreneurs & bold thinkers.”

Will Senyo Co-Founder & CEO of Impact Hub Accra
Northwestern Medicine - Chicago, IL 

Working together across disciplines, our physicians and scientists are translating discoveries into promising new approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Our efforts and success through research would not be possible without the high-impact philanthropy provided by our partner, IDP Foundation, Inc. Together we are making an extraordinary difference!

Dr. Leon Platanias – Director – Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center – Northwestern Medicine
IDP Foundation Endowed Professorship in Dermatology

I am honored to be the inaugural recipient of IDPF’s charitable commitment to establish the IDP Foundation Professorship in Skin Cancer Research. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a faculty member at Northwestern University. I will forever be grateful to IDPF for its forward-thinking philanthropy and confidence in my research endeavors.

Dr. Pedram Gerami Dr. Pedram Gerami IDP Foundation Professor of Skin Cancer Research
Professor of Dermatology (Dermatopathology), Pathology and Pediatrics

Grant recipients and their work

Our grant making and investments are aligned with all 17 of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

IDP Foundation’s funding and investment strategies are focused on building a better tomorrow through sustainable programming and catalytic research. While we are highly active within the education space, we have long history of supporting innovative medical research.

Funding approach for Education (SDG 4)

Medical Research: Northwestern

Northwestern is a leading medical research center with brilliant scientists and bold breakthroughs.

To support innovations in medical research IDP Foundation Research Scientists Fund was established in 2008 to advance some of the most promising research being conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and its affiliated centers, including the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. The scientists who receive our support represent a variety of departments and fields, including Cancer, Neurological Sciences, Cardiology, Ophthalmology and Gastroenterology and other valued areas of medical research. These premier investigators are dedicated to advancing medical knowledge through pioneering research. The IDP Foundation Research Scientists Grants are a catalytic component to the continued success of the medical researchers.

Below are a few of the many esteemed Research Scientists supported by IDP Foundation.

Dr. Pedram Gerami

Department of Dermatology

IDPF has provided support to Dr. Gerami for the advancement of research in pediatric melanoma. Dr. Gerami is an international leader in molecular diagnostics and his research group has been involved in the development and implementation of molecular tests that have become integrated in the standard of care for difficult to diagnose melanocytic tumors.
Dr. Gerami is the the inaugural recipient of the IDP Foundation Professorship in Skin Cancer Research. Read more about his work here.

Dr. Surendra Basti

Department of Ophthalmology 

With the IDP Foundation’s support, the Department of Ophthalmology has established the IDP Foundation Fellowship in Ophthalmology Fund, with a one-year funded research fellowship (beginning in 2019) working under Dr. Basti with Dr. Volpe as the Department Chair.

IDPF’s commitment has allowed this fund to be established in perpetuity and will encourage other donors to add their support in the future.

Dr. Nicholas Volpe

Department of Ophthalmology

With the IDP Foundation’s support, the Department of Ophthalmology has established the IDP Foundation Fellowship in Ophthalmology Fund, with a one-year funded research fellowship (beginning in 2019) working under Dr. Basti with Dr. Volpe as the Department Chair.

IDPF’s commitment has allowed this fund to be established in perpetuity and will encourage other donors to add their support in the future.

Dr. James D. Thomas

Department of Cardiology

Dr. Thomas and his team have used the IDPF grant to support the Heart Valve Disease Research Program. Most recently, Dr. Thomas’s team established the IDP Foundation Image Processing Laboratory that has become crucial in performing important cardiovascular research.

Dr. Robert Bonow 

Department of Cardiology 

Dr. Bonow is one of the lead faculty members in Northwestern’s Department of Cardiology and the Heart Valve Disease Research Program. He received IDPF support through the IDP Cardiac Research Innovation Grants.

Dr. Darren M. Brenner

Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology

The IDP Foundation has provided the opportunity to share the vision to establish the Northwestern Neurogastroenterology Program and to fund strategic priorities that will launch the program on a positive trajectory.

Dr. James Surmeier

Department of Physiology

IDPF’s grant to Dr. Surmeier and his team has supported the training of postdoctoral researchers focusing on unraveling the mechanisms that are driving Parkinson’s disease and identifying strategies that slow its progression.

IDP Foundation Research Innovation Challenge Grants

In 2014 IDP Foundation created a five-year program called the IDP Foundation Research Innovation Challenge Grants at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University to encourage a spirit of collaboration.

The commitment is currently providing “seed” grants to different projects with Lurie Cancer Center scientists and clinicians to address novel questions and explore new ideas.
Each year, the Lurie Cancer Center committee requests proposals from faculty members that pursued innovative, team-driven, cancer research projects that are translational in nature, cross-disciplinary, and collaborative. The committee decides which research scientists would receive the grants based on a competitive process.

Dr. Leonidas C. Platanias

Director – Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center

Other IDPF+ Grantees

Harambeans are a network of highly educated young African entrepreneurs who use their talents to build high impact social and business ventures across the African continent. Harambeans are diverse, competitive, and impactful in ways that inspire others and produce meaningful growth. In 2017, IDP Foundation became one of the founding partners of Harambeans, committed to developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa and creating economic vitality and job creation across the region.

Shedd Aquarium has been recognized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) as a Center for Species Survival — one of just 11 Centers on the planet. Shedd is using applied conservation science to inform assessments and safeguard freshwater species and environments in key biodiversity hotspots.  As supporters of Shedd’s Learning & Community programs and dedicated advocates for educational advancement in Chicago and beyond, the IDP Foundation uniquely understands Shedd’s 92-year legacy of welcoming millions of school children to experience the astonishing diversity of the aquatic world, up close and personal.

The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is the the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere.  From field trips to teacher resources, MSI provides learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom—because improving science education is critical. IDPF supports the broad impact that MSI Education Programs have on the community. MSI makes science learning engaging, accessible, and fun for thousands of students, teachers, and families.

Our PRI recipients

We believe that our ability to support potentially impactful social enterprises with investment solutions such as PRIs is an important way to spur sustainable solutions to complex issues.

Ako Adjei Park and its forward-facing brand, Impact Hub Accra, works to advance a future for a new generation of leaders across 3 key communities: technology, creative economy, and social impact. Starting in 2023, the hub’s 3-year growth strategy (#FastForward2025) is built around 3 big components: Rapid Real Estate Expansion, Programs/Venture Building and Convening/Events. IDP Foundation has supported them debt investments since 2019
While working with farming communities in rural Ghana, co-founders Kwami and Emily were inspired by super-crop known locally as ‘the miracle tree,’ ‘the never-die tree,’ or just – moringa. Aid organizations had spread these moringa trees throughout rural communities in Ghana, explaining that the leaves and seeds were valuable and nutritious. Without connections to a market, however, the fast-growing moringa tree became a nuisance in farmers’ backyards and the seeds from the tree left to rot or fed to the animals. Kwami and Emily set about creating a supply chain to connect farmers to conscious consumers and introduce the world to moringa. IDP Foundation supports Moringa Connect so that their vertically integrated supply chain can continue to serve over 5,000 small farming families throughout Ghana. They have planted over 2 million moringa trees and help rural families break the cycle of poverty, multiplying incomes by 10x.  IDPF has supported Moringa Connect with debt investment since 2021
One enterprise that we support with a PRI is Edovo, a Chicago-based technology company that is innovating, developing, and creating progress through learning. Edovo is committed to building better lives for incarcerated individuals by bringing quality education, communication, and rehabilitation to millions of incarcerated people in the U.S. They have developed a tablet-based learning program preloaded with educational content that prepares inmates for a successful re-entry into the community. Content includes GED-preparation, behavioral therapy, and life skills training. Tablets are connected to a secure WIFI network and are formatted to only access the learning content. Our debt and equity investments in Edovo enables us to build on our mission while also providing valuable capital for a socially impactful venture
IDP Foundation has supported Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans (SASL), a financial microfinance institution based in Ghana, with PRIs for over a decade. It provides holistic financial solutions in Business, Housing, Agricultural, and Education through a range of innovative products and services. In 2008, IDP Foundation, in partnership with Sinapi Aba Trust, established the Rising Schools Program in response to market demand from low-income families seeking affordable, quality education for their children. This partnership aims to improve access to quality education and raise the profile of low-fee private schools (LFPS) in Ghana. As part of the program, SASL offers special concessionary loans to LFPS proprietors in Ghana who would otherwise not qualify, as well as financial and school management training to strengthen and improve the school’s sustainability. Since 2013, the IDPF has provided debt investments to further the expansion of the Rising Schools Program.
In 2022 IDP Foundation launched the Ongoza Program with Premier Credit and Dignitas. With a debt PRI we support Premier Credit, a credit-only microfinancier established in 2013, which serves over 211,000 active clients across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, DRC, and South Africa. As part of the 
Ongoza Program, this partnership aims to improve access to finance for education entrepreneurs in Kenya, through the creation of a special concessionary loan product for Kenyan low-fee private school (LFPS) owners who would not normally qualify. This blended finance model uses philanthropic capital to unlock private capital and bring more financing to low-fee private schools and is targeted to impact more than 100,000 children from low-income communities across Kenya.
IDP Foundation supports Eneza Education with a PRI. They aim to make 50 million students in rural Africa smarter by leveraging low-cost mobile technology. They provide a virtual tutor for students and as a teacher’s assistant and aim to become the go-to educational platform in Africa. Their goal is to improve the learning outcomes of underserved learners by using low-tech solutions that are readily available. Through SMS they provide revision notes and material that are aligned to the local curriculum and their web solutions are designed to consume low data bandwidth.
In 2014 IDP Foundation became a member investor of The People’s Poet LLC, who drove the creation of the first feature documentary to tell the full story of the incomparable Maya Angelou. The filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack had unprecedented access to trace Dr. Angelou’s amazing journey, spotlighting the untold elements of her life with never-before-seen footage as part of the PBS American Masters Series. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise  features interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll, Valerie Simpson, Random House editor Bob Loomis and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.  IDPF supported this project in the hopes that this inspirational film would be widely shown in high schools across the US.
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