Tamzin Ractliffe

Ashoka Fellow
South Africa
Fellow since 2008
This description of Tamzin Ractliffe's work was prepared when Tamzin Ractliffe was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008 .


Tamzin Ractliffe is working to facilitate a vibrant citizen sector and dynamic social capital, which she believes to be the cornerstone of democratic development. Toward that end, she has developed the concept of a Global Social Investment Exchange, which will provide accredited citizen sector social investment opportunities with a platform to display their work and link them with individual and institutional donors.

The New Idea

In 2006 Tamzin launched the Southern African Social Investment Exchange (SASIX) and has already raised more than US$800,000 for development work across Southern Africa. Building on the success of SASIX, Tamzin is now preparing to launch a new, web-based, global social investment marketplace. The Global Social Investment Exchange (GSIX) will provide a range of investment opportunities along a continuum of purely social or combined social/financial in their returns. GSIX is envisaged as a global federation of in-country social investment platforms supported by in-depth information from each country exchange that would allow for a more efficient and dynamic social capital market, and in turn support the creation of a more efficient development sector. GSIX will create an environment to a traditional stock exchange to link citizen sector organizations needing funds for well governed, high impact poverty eradication initiatives with corporate and international social investors and philanthropic donors who want to contribute to development. The GSIX platform will list selected non-profit organizations and make them available as investment opportunities. The return on this investment varies from purely social: improvement in the lives of the disadvantaged and marginalized to a blend of social and financial returns. GSIX will also impress upon the citizen sector the need for accountability and aims to establish a more dynamic social capital market. Indeed, ultimately GSIX indeed support the establishment of the various Social Stock Exchange initiatives currently in planning in various countries, which true Social Stock Exchanges intend to be fully authorized and regulated exchanges for the trading in securities of social enterprises and other social purpose businesses. These Social Stock Exchanges will provide the potential exit route for financial social investments in pre-listed opportunities available on the GSIX platform. GSIX accredited country member platforms will provide independent research, evaluation, and monitoring to ensure that listed projects meet set criteria, including the ability to deliver measurable returns. Investors will be able to “buy” shares in GSIX projects online or through participating brokers and will always have the ability to track the performance of their investments and view their impact online.

The Problem

During the apartheid era, following the banning of political organizations, citizen organizations (COs) in South Africa thrived both as the voice of the oppressed and as important providers of much-needed services (in education, health, and other development-related fields). In support of those activities, COs received large influxes of outside funding. Foreign governments and aid organizations sought to encourage social activism and, often in direct opposition to the regime, invested heavily in the sector. Because many local organizations worked on issues that the State considered to be “political,” donors rarely stressed accountability in terms of funding; recognizing that such demands could threaten the existence of the organization. This evolved into what is sometimes termed “struggle accounting.”

Since democratization in 1994 most foreign donors have redirected their funding. The State is now regarded as the principal player in redressing the inequalities of the past, making it the largest recipient of foreign support. However, the unwieldy State system and the sheer magnitude of South Africa’s social needs require more people, ideas, and energy than the State apparatus can provide. While citizen sector organizations continue to have an enormous role to play, they face significant sustainability challenges as there are no longer large sources of donor aid available to them. Having depended on international funding for so long, they are only now developing strategies for raising local money. Given these challenges, the citizen sector has struggled to work sustainably. Disillusioned by the change and attracted by better working conditions, better salary and job security, and greater likelihood of long-term impact, many of the sector’s former leaders have left their posts for corporate or government jobs.

Nonetheless, the State has recognized its inability to address the country’s social needs without engaging the citizen sector, and as a result, there have been mounting calls for joint partnerships. Registration authorities have no effective measures to verify the credibility of citizen sector organizations and a small number of large and better known organizations currently receive the lion’s share of foreign investment. Smaller organizations, meanwhile, tend to have less developed donor accountability mechanisms and thus have difficulty attracting investment—particularly from resource-rich countries abroad. Many lack secure web-based portals that can process donations, small and large, from around the globe.

There is an increasing trend both nationally and globally for smaller companies and individuals to become involved in donating to development—increasingly directly through the Internet. And while many of these donations are small, donors nonetheless want to ensure that they are indeed contributing to actual community upliftment. Smaller organizations without a web presence or accountability mechanisms will continue to struggle to attract donors and keep donors, and the citizen sector in South Africa will suffer.

The Strategy

Tamzin is fostering the growth and sustainability of South Africa’s citizen sector by providing investors (i.e., individual and institutional donors) and COs with accessible mechanisms through which to connect. The Southern African Social Investment Exchange (SASIX), and the soon to be launched Global Social Investment Exchange (GSIX), both provide web platforms for donors to learn about vetted citizen organizations, make secure donations, and track the social and financial returns on their investments. For COs, the platforms provide important vehicles for reaching donors, both in South Africa and globally, and for communicating the importance and impact of their work.

Tamzin’s efforts to address these needs began in 1998 with a kind of online “guide” for COs engaged in important development initiatives. This later developed into an organization called Greater Good South Africa (GGSA), which provided a secure system to facilitate and track not only individual donations to the sector but also all aspects of corporate social investment, including employee donations of both cash and volunteer time. In just two years, GGSA raised some 5M Rand (US$500,000) from small donors, registered and performed due diligence on 1,500 community based organizations, tracked 37,000 volunteer hours and efforts, and distributed 200,000 donations in-kind. Greater Good South Africa also developed a communication loop for donors to receive feedback on the benefits of their contributions.

Tamzin spent two years within Greater Good South Africa researching the donors and their motivations. She found that although the general perception was that donors were in a state of fatigue when faced with the overwhelming needs in South Africa, their interaction with GGSA left them with a sense of achievement when they could see the impact of their contributions. Since 2006 Tamzin has been expanding the research and developing web-based technology that will promote this relationship of accountability of beneficiaries and impact measurement by donors.

The success of Greater Good South Africa led Tamzin to found the Southern African Social Investment Exchange (SASIX), which, much like a financial stock exchange provides a wide range of investment opportunities and vehicles for donors in the citizen sector. In essence it represents a way for citizen sector organizations to raise funds and for donors to keep track of their investments’ impact without having to undertake their own due diligence and monitoring at significant cost. All the evidence so far suggests that such social investment exchanges can significantly reduce the transaction costs for both donors and recipients—by as much as 50 percent—making it a viable option for cash-strapped citizen sector organizations. Technology networks can transform the traditional map of development, expand community horizons and create the potential to realize the same kind of progress in 10 years that was once only possible after many decades of work. Since its inception in 2006 SASIX has raised over 6.3M Rand (US $600,000) for social development projects in 11 development sectors. Tamzin’s plan to launch the Global Social Investment Exchange (GSIX) builds on this success and the realization that online opportunities are available throughout the world and that the same issues of financial sustainability affect development everywhere.

GSIX is based on technology developed in-house to support the receipt and recognition of donors in any of the world’s major currencies, and at the same time provides web presence to smaller organizations that could otherwise not afford to develop a website.

Citizen sector organizations are becoming more accountable as they produce and upload annual reports and audited financials onto their GSIX sites and provide both narrative and financial feedback to donors on a regular basis. In fact, should a CO not produce the requisite reports, they are deregistered—an incentive for organizations to comply with the regulations contained in their contract with GSIX.

Ongoing monitoring of all the organizations listed on GSIX will provide transparency and rich feedback for investors. This will create a sense of direct relationship and community that makes for committed repeat givers. GSIX already employs staff who update the feedback sites regularly, which has improved the extent to which organizations are able to upload updated information onto their sites as well. This relationship in terms of reporting is governed by the contractual relationship between COs and GSIX.

Finally, Tamzin has instituted a Board to govern the organization and direct policy, and is now working to determine the international requirements to set GSIX in motion globally. She has visited various international sites including BOVESPA, Brazil's Sao Paolo Stock Exchange, where she established an ongoing relationship for learning with Ashoka Fellow Celso Grecco and his project Bolsa de Valores Sociais (BVS), the Social Stock Market. Tamzin is similarly establishing relationships with COs in Kenya, Colombia, Australia, China, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Person

Tamzin has volunteered since she was nine-years-old at dozens of COs in South Africa. The strong social conscience that she developed was further honed by her work with the release and repatriation of political prisoners in South Africa. Her experience in stock broking companies in Europe and the United Kingdom created the linkage in her mind between COs and credible social investment vehicles to create sustainable sources of income for the citizen sector.

After her experience in Venture Capital at Rothschild’s Asset Management in London during the mid 1990s, Tamzin returned to South Africa and embarked on various fundraising initiatives for well-known citizen organizations, including the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and the Athlone Association for the Blind. Despite the powerful work of each organization, Tamzin was constantly forced to confront the lack of access to resources for the citizen sector. She noticed similar challenges at Big Brother, Big Sister South Africa, and it was out of these experiences that the idea for the GSIX was born. After testing her theory that providing information on work being done by citizen sector organizations in an accessible form would elicit funding, she established Greater Good South Africa.

The fact that the majority of South African organizations did not have a web presence and were not vetted presented a further dilemma. It was clear that there were donor communities who were willing to invest in development and particularly in COs, but the lack of credible information on these organizations represented a hurdle that Tamzin was driven to address.

Her vision to create a climate for investing in development organizations was realized in the formation of SASIX, and later the creation of GSIX, where donating to development is matched with accountability and impact measures. Her passion and zeal to present the citizen sector as a viable investment vehicle is premised on her belief that the democratic process depends on the existence of a vibrant and strong citizen sector in South Africa and around the world.