The Continuum of Capital in Asia: What Does the Data Show?

Continuum of Capital in Asia_Bridge Image_Front Cover

June 28, 2018

5 Min Read

Summary Points:

  • The “missing middle” affects early stage non-profits (NPs) and social enterprises (SEs), though its impact on non-profits is far more pronounced.
  • Funders appear to view the post-revenue growth stage as an important turning point in social investment risk.
  • The AVPN membership is well equipped to address a pressing gap in Southeast Asian social investment.

The recent AVPN conference saw the publication of the Continuum of Capital in Asia report, which introduces and discusses a collaborative framework that encourages a total portfolio approach to financing instruments and can be used by social funders to ensure a pipeline of support for social purpose organisations (SPOs) across growth stages. The Knowledge Centre’s conference booth brought the Continuum of Capital (CoC) to life: attendees were encouraged to fill out a sticker detailing the financing instruments they use, the range of ticket sizes they provide, and the types of non-financial support they provide, and place it on the CoC wall according to which SPO growth stages they support. We received 300 entries from 100 members, and looked at how the information provided by these organisations compared to the findings of the CoC report.

The Missing Middle: Differing Affects on Non-Profits and Social Enterprises

  • The Continuum of Capital in Asia report locates the “missing middle” at the early growth stages, when SPOs seek funding to scale their work. This insight was reflected in the data collected from AVPN members.
  • Twice as many AVPN members worked with early stage social enterprises than early stage non-profits however. This discrepancy is attributable to the fact that though foundations work across the Continuum, impact funds work predominantly with social enterprises.
  • ESG investing is a comparatively nascent field in Asia. It’s emergence, and recommendations for how to spur the field’s growth, are outlined in the Driving ESG Investing in Asia report also published at the conference. The sharp decline in funding support at this stage of the Continuum is most likely a consequence of its novelty, and not of a decline in interest in larger SEs.

  • An analysis of the relationship between SPO growth stage and investment ticket size appeared to reveal a significant inflection point in investor confidence at the post-revenue growth stage. Up until the post-revenue stage, there was a generally inverse relationship between ticket size and the frequency with which it was offered – from the post-revenue stage onward, this relationship became generally positive.
  • This would suggest that the occurrence of the “missing middle” is in part driven by a perceived risk in early stage SPO investment, and that early stage organisations might require non-financial support before they are properly equipped to receive larger-scale investment.


  • Though foundations are well positioned to support these earlier stage SPOs and fill the “missing middle” because financial returns are less critical for foundations than impact funds, they appear to exhibit similarly risk-averse funding behavior.

Southeast Asia: An Opportunity for the AVPN Membership to Make a Difference

  • The Continuum of Capital in Asia report highlights a significant gap in investment ticket sizes in Southeast Asia – a 2017 study conducted by AVPN found that funding in the USD $5,000 to USD $2,000,000 range is in short supply in the region.
  • Among AVPN members at the conference, however, Southeast Asia is the most invested-in of the three Asian subregions, and is supported by the most balanced provision of ticket sizes. Country-specific landscapes might vary and merit more detailed examination however.

Next Steps: How These Insights Can Be Leveraged

At AVPN we have begun to see funders adjusting their social investment practices to better meet the needs of SPOs. AVPN is devoting substantial resources to exploring how these practices create impact, and to facilitating the movement of capital along the Continuum to maximise impact. Based on what we’ve gathered from this data and the report, two recommendations emerge:

  1. Foundations can play a key role in facilitating SPO growth along the Continuum of Capital by investing in early stage organisations. This stage requires both financial and non-financial support to ensure that SPOs are well prepared to receive later-stage investment from funders like impact funds.
  2. AVPN’s network of members can play an impactful role in filling an important funding gap in Southeast Asia, and enable SPOs in the region to scale existing solutions.

We invite you to participate in this work, and the Knowledge Centre team can be reached at

Read more about the Continuum of Capital here.


About Author
Jackson Gates
Jackson Gates Knowledge Centre Intern AVPN

Jackson Gates is a rising senior at Harvard College majoring in History with a minor in Economics. He is currently beginning research for his senior thesis, which examines the relationship between moral paradigms and economic policy through the lens of the American abolition of slavery, while working for AVPN's Knowledge Centre in Singapore. He is interested in a career in cross-sectoral impact strategy, having worked in the for-profit, political, and philanthropy sectors and been published in the online impact magazine Impakter.

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