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How We Work

Through making existing markets more accessible, inclusive, and efficient, S3IDF enables local entrepreneurs to reach their full potential and provide their communities with critical products and services.


The Idea for S3IDF Emerges

A group of experienced international development consultants, practitioners, and academics reflect on their hundreds of years of collected work experience in over 70 countries and their shared concern that the dominant paradigms too often failed to sufficiently benefit the poor. Appreciating the connection between access to and use of infrastructure services (modern energy, transport, communications, water supply, etc.) and poverty alleviation, they began to conceive of a new approach.


Through a phased dialogue driven by Dr. Russell deLucia, who would become S3IDF’s principal founder, the S3IDF market-based concept is initially articulated and then later refined with pro bono support from well-known and respected professionals, including Andrew Barnett, Ramesh Bhatia, Michael Lesser, and T.L. Sankar.


Read more about S3IDF’s history and founders here.

S3IDF Develops the Social Merchant Bank Approach (SMBA®)

It is critical to the founders that the S3IDF market-based concept be applicable across the many geographies and sectors. Acknowledging that while S3IDF’s work might be limited to only some geographies at first, once verified, the founders’ objective is to enable other development players to adopt a version of the approach so that development assistance and finance can have greater impacts. S3IDF’s approach becomes known as the Social Merchant Bank Approach (SMBA)®. The SMBA® reflects the history of merchant banking for project development and implementation that brings technology, business “know-how,” and financing together for commercial for-profit objectives. S3IDF’s founders see the potential for social and environmental benefits on local, regional, and global levels.

S3IDF Offices Begin Official Operation

S3IDF Offices Begin Official Operation

As the S3IDF concept is finalized and the agreement on a market-based, business-like non-profit structure agreed upon, the founding group sets up an office in Cambridge, MA USA and applies for and receives US IRS charity status.


S3IDF-US Receives Charity Status

S3IDF’s Cambridge, MA, USA office receives its 501(c)(3) public charity designation from the IRS.

1st loan leveraged by S3IDF

1st loan leveraged by S3IDF

To support micro clean-energy enterprises in the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Districts of Karnataka, S3IDF provides its first loan guarantee on the behalf of an entrepreneur to facilitate access to formal financial services. These micro entrepreneurs provide street vendors with clean solar charging based, battery and CFL lighting, reducing dependence on kerosene-based petromax lanterns

S3IDF & SELCO Partnership

S3IDF & SELCO Partnership

S3IDF begins partnership with SELCO to facilitate access to sustainable and clean forms of energy


S3IDF-India Receives Charity Status

S3IDF’s operation in India, with its head office in Bangalore, receives its Section 8 charity status from the Indian government.

S3IDF Partners with the Shell Foundation

S3IDF embarks on a partnership with the Shell Foundation after winning a grant through a pitch competition for energy work in Southern India. The relationship leads to ongoing support in subsequent years, building on the social merchant bank approach.

FPC provision added to the Companies Act

In 2003 a provision for setting up Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) is added to the 1956 Companies Act, which identifies FPCs as the most appropriate institutional form around which to mobilise farmers to build their capacity and collectively leverage production and marketing strength

Advisory Services Work with PwC

S3IDF sub-contracts to PwC on the World Bank project Global Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Financing Policy Network Concept Development and Options Study


Partnership with Blue Moon Fund

S3IDF begins a multi-year partnership with the Blue Moon Fund to expand the dissemination of the SMBA approach in India, Cambodia and Myanmar.

S3IDF Recognised At World Clean Energy Awards

S3IDF Recognised At World Clean Energy Awards

In its 6th year of operation, S3IDF is honoured with the World Clean Energy Award in the NGO and Initiatives category for its lighting program in southern India. The program reaches over 5,500 poor households, communities and SMEs in South India, providing access to renewable energy and energy conservation technologies

Advisory Services Work with Tetratech

S3IDF sub-contracts to Tetratech under the USAID SARI-Energy program to help lay the foundation for increased clean energy access and improved market structures to facilitate energy trade and investment

Partnership with GVEP

S3IDF contracts to Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) International to support GVEP’s International business plan implementation and regional East Africa energy access fund model design and planning in Kenya and Uganda.

Top Innovation Award from the Asia Clean Energy Forum

Top Innovation Award from the Asia Clean Energy Forum

S3IDF wins a Top Innovation Award for its Social Merchant Bank approach in the Clean Energy Finance Solutions category at The Asia Clean Energy Forum, an annual event hosted by the Asian Development Bank

S3IDF’s Public-Private Partnerships

S3IDF’s Public-Private Partnerships

USAID’s Global Development Alliance (GDA) choses S3IDF as a case study to demonstrate successful public-private partnerships in its Energy Sector Guide to its Building Alliances Series.

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SARI/E Success Story

USAID’s South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy (SARI/E) lists its collaboration with S3IDF as a “Success Story” that, along with other SARI/E projects, made “critically important regional energy milestones”

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Advisory Services Work with the ADB

Advisory Services Work with the ADB

S3IDF contracts to the Asian Development Bank for Increasing Access to Energy in Rural Nepal. The project applies the SMBA® in the renewable energy sector Nepal by working with an ongoing Improved Water Mill Program to make the program more sustainable and to expand the penetration of improved micro-hydro projects with an emphasis on livelihood via more productive agro-processing end-uses.

Recognition of Previously Informal Waste Workers

Recognition of Previously Informal Waste Workers

The Karnataka high court rules that the city must recognise the contribution of the previously unrecognised waste workers through the issuance of identification cards
Advisory Services Work with IWMI

Advisory Services Work with IWMI

S3IDF sub-contracts to the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to conduct work in Bangalore on the International Waste Management Institute four-city action research initiative with the objective to promote replicable large-scale liquid and solid waste stream recovery and safe reuse models in underserved urban and peri-urban areas

Advisory Services Work with Nexant

Advisory Services Work with Nexant

S3IDF sub-contracts through Nexant to USAID on the Government of India’s Partnership to Advance Clean Energy – Deployment (PACE-D), expanding the supply of renewable energy and increasing access for rural communities through developing a microfinance support program for off-grid renewable energy systems and applications

A Catalytic Step for Energy Entrepreneurs

S3IDF and SELCO India form the Selco Incubation Centre, which provides a nurturing environment for sustainable energy entrepreneurs during the early stages of their business development


Advisory Services Work with the Applied Materials Foundation

S3IDF contracts to the Applied Materials Foundation and partners with SELCO Solar Light Pvt. Ltd. for Round II: Electrifying Villages and Schools to further expand access to solar photovoltaic lighting and energy in underserved and marginalised communities in India

1st Crowd-Sourced Loan Guarantee Made to Waste Entrepreneurs

S3IDF works with RangDe, India’s first peer-to-peer online micro-financing platform based in Bengaluru, to crowd-source funds to supply waste entrepreneurs with low-cost credit to improve their business operations and finance essential investments, such as the purchase of a waste collection vehicle

S3IDF’s Work with the Clean Energy Access Network

S3IDF’s Work with the Clean Energy Access Network

S3IDF is a founding member and host of the Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN), which has a mandate to support, unify and grow the decentralised clean energy sector in India. It particularly aims to bring together diverse stakeholders across India working to improve energy access for the rural and urban poor and create an inspiring model for countries around the world to follow

SELCO Honour

SELCO Honour

Russell deLucia, S3IDF’s Principle Founder, is honoured during SELCO Solar Energy Pvt. Litd. 20-year celebration

S3IDF Begins a Strategic Partnership with Hasiru Dala

S3IDF begins a partnership with Hasiru Dala begins to address livelihood issues for workers in the waste sector

Russell deLucia Receives the Purpose Prize

Russell deLucia Receives the Purpose Prize

S3IDF’s Principle Founder Russell deLucia receives recognition as a Purpose Prize Fellow, highlighting his work as a socially engaged leader

Advisory Services Work with Nexus for Development

Advisory Services Work with Nexus for Development

S3IDF contracts to Nexus for Development to explore how to apply the SMBA® in Cambodia by pursuing pre-investment feasibility studies and developing a pipeline of specific pro-poor, small-scale energy and other infrastructure investments with their needed financing, engineering, and other partners


S3IDF Supports Smallholder Farmers

S3IDF partners with NABARD in order to strengthen Farmer Producer Organisations in Karnataka by providing financial and technical support services
S3IDF Begins Advisory Service Contract with Ecodit

S3IDF Begins Advisory Service Contract with Ecodit

S3IDF subcontracts to Ecodit under USAID’s Clean Energy Finance Facility for Caribbean and Central America to expand clean energy development in the Caribbean and Central America through public and private sector investment


Indian Banknote Demonetisation

The Government of India takes ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes out of circulation to cut down on corruption and income earned on the black market. This sudden announcement particularly impacts businesses run by small entrepreneurs who deal primarily in cash


1st Formal Bank Loan from Vijaya Bank to Waste Workers

S3IDF and our partners work with a group of 9 other waste workers running Dry Waste Collection Centres in Bangalore to facilitate the loans they need to open overdraft accounts using waste as collateral. One of our partners, a local social enterprise, provides Vijaya Bank, the channeling institution, with a “comfort letter,” agreeing to purchase the entrepreneur’s waste inventory in case of default. Thanks to the comfort letter and the business mentorship provided by S3IDF staff, the bank extends affordable working capital and term loans to waste entrepreneurs, marking the first-ever formal loan from Vijaya Bank to waste workers

S3IDF Celebrates 15 Years Of Operations In India

S3IDF Celebrates 15 Years Of Operations In India

S3IDF celebrates 15 years of operations in India. During which time we worked in 12 states, helped 29 financial institutions create more inclusive lending practices, and the average loan from a financial institution to one of our entrepreneurs is roughly $6,000

S3IDF Improves the Financial Literacy Skills of Waste Workers

S3IDF partners with the National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) to develop a series of financial literacy videos and training to enhance the business capacity of waste workers

S3IDF named top incubator in Entrepreneur India

S3IDF named top incubator in Entrepreneur India

S3IDF is named among the top 25 incubators in Entrepreneur India’s August 2017 issue listing of “100 brilliant start-up incubators”


S3IDF begins a partnership with the Multipurpose Organisation for Training Health Education and Rehabilitation (MOTHER)

Advisory Services Work with Nexus

Advisory Services Work with Nexus

S3IDF sub-contracts to Nexus under the Rockefeller Brothers Fund study to explore Driving Investments towards Sustainable Production of and Affordable Access to Clean Energy Solutions in Myanmar and Cambodia

S3IDF’s Approach Recognised by the NSKFDC

S3IDF empanelled as “waste workers handholding institution” by NSKFDC

A Rememberance of S3IDF Co-Founder TL Shanker

S3IDF mourns the passing of the great TL Shanker, and honours his memory by continuing the work in which he was so involved.

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S3IDF Embarks in a New Organisational Direction

S3IDF-US embarks on a feasibility study to explore building an impact-first fund to assist the growth of social enterprises in India

S3IDF Supports Livelihood Strengthening for Waste Workers

S3IDF forms a new partnership with Thamate and SKKS to engage with manual scavengers to create an institutional support window for alternate livelihoods through micro-enterprises as well as to explore sanitation-based livelihood by dignifying it with small scale infrastructure investments. This project intends to leverage monies from the NSKFDC under the PEMSR Act 2013

S3IDF Promotes Entrepreneurship in Tamil Nadu

S3IDF begins partnership with CII to conduct feasibility assessment and pathway plan for an Entrepreneurship Incubator Ecosystem (EiE) for underserved populations in Tamil Nadu