Purpose Prize

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Announcing the CoGen Challenge to Advance Economic Opportunity

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Russell deLucia

The Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund, Inc. (S3IDF)
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

He helps the poor in the developing world access basic infrastructure services through enterprises owned and operated by local entrepreneurs.

In 40 years working in infrastructure development, I helped bring 60 projects to the developing world: electricity, water, light, clean water, sanitation, transportation, telecommunications. These utilities transform lives – but only some lives. The truth is, most of the poor can’t afford to connect to them. And w ithout access , the poor stay poor.

In 2001, I created The Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund, Inc. (S 3 IDF) to flip that model, by making the poor the owners of these services. We’re unique because we promote small-scale, financially and environmentally sustainable infrastructure projects that are operated and eventually owned by the entrepreneurs and communities we invest in.

We explicitly target the working poor in South Asia, where 67 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day . Poor people can be very good entrepreneurs, but often the only capital they have to contribute is ‘sweat’ capital. We provide access to financing, know-how and technology for sustainable infrastructure projects that don’t appear on the radar of most governments and nonprofits.

  • 200 investments in renewable energy and technology in South Asia 

  • Hundreds of thousands of lives changed


Our innovative Social Merchant Bank Approach® fills the financing gap between traditional banks and microfinance institutions. By using our own funding to partially guarantee loans or reduce the perceived risk of lending, we help banks step up to the plate, resulting in more impact in communities – and a more inclusive financial system.
Since 2001, S 3 IDF’s 200 projects have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in India. Water purification plants bring safe drinking water to rural communities. Reliable electricity produced by small-scale hydropower lets students study at night and businesses keep their doors open. Computerized embroidery machines boost income for women’s sewing cooperatives. Electric flour- and spice-grinding machines produce more goods.

Creating a nonprofit that epitomizes my values has been the best way to channel my lifelong passion for poverty alleviation. I am incredibly proud of what the entrepreneurs and communities we’ve invested in have accomplished.