Olivia Leland, Founder and CEO of Co-Impact, on their new Gender Fund and the importance of keeping equity, inclusion and justice at the core of systems change thinking.
Prior to founding Co-Impact in 2017, Olivia served as Founding Director of the Giving Pledge, an effort launched by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Co-Impact, brings together partners from around the world to drive forward just and inclusive systems change. They’re operating in 13 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Funding comes from philanthropists, institutions, corporates and social change leaders; and their program partners are locally-rooted organisations that are working to transform government and market systems to be more effective and more equitable.
They are focused on education, health and economic opportunity; and they have recently launched a new Gender Fund, which advances gender equality and is focused on women’s leadership in law and economics. The Gender Fund has a 10-year horizon and aims to invest $1 billion, of which they have already raised a third.
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About Olivia Leland
Prior to Co-Impact, Olivia served as founding director of the Giving Pledge, an effort launched by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to help address society’s most pressing problems by encouraging wealthy families from around the world to commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. She led the development of the strategy from inception, including the design of learning opportunities and other engagements, grew the community to more than 130 families (now more than 200), and built the core team. In an earlier role at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she led several cross-foundation initiatives focused on grantmaking approaches, public-private partnerships, and organizational effectiveness.
Olivia has extensive experience in working with governments to structure and support large-scale programs. At the Millennium Challenge Corporation, she developed a series of multimillion-dollar projects aimed at reducing poverty and supporting economic growth in the areas of financial services and private sector development – working closely with civil society and in-country teams in Benin, Ghana and Morocco to determine the best use of US government funds and support implementation. Through her own consulting practice, Olivia also advised on a dissemination strategy for the Business Linkages Challenge Fund, a DFID-funded £17 million cost-sharing grant scheme promoting private sector partnerships within the agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, and tourism sectors.
Gender equality and women’s leadership have been core themes running throughout Olivia’s career including focusing her undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations around gender equity in relation to education and microfinance; working on a campaign against teen dating violence in the United States; advising institutions such as Women’s World Banking, and microfinance NGOs such as Mi-Bospo in Bosnia; serving on the Board of the International Center for Research on Women; and ensuring the adoption of a gender lens throughout all aspects of Co-Impact’s work.
Olivia also serves as Senior Vice President at The Rockefeller Foundation and sits on the Board of the Full Frame Initiative. In 2014, she was distinguished as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. She and her work have been featured in media outlets including the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Barron’s, and Forbes, and she speaks regularly on the role of philanthropy in supporting large-scale change.
Olivia received an AB in Social Studies from Harvard University and an MSc in Development Management with a focus on gender and development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She lives with her husband and three children near Geneva, Switzerland, and holds dual US/French nationality.
Access these helpful resources to learn more about Co-Impact's approach to systems change and trust-based philanthropy.
Revised Handbook (Pg. 30 Grant Making Process)