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Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

Name: Children’s Investment Fund Foundation Annual income (expenditure) (2011): $73 million (estimated) for year ended 31 August 2012
Website: CEO: Jamie Cooper-Hohn
Year founded: 2002 No. of staff in CIFF: 50 permanent staff and 20 consultants


This profile was written by Augustin Flory from CIFF and is based on a set of questions about the organisation framed by the ENN (Ed).

1. Provide a brief history of CIFF – when formed, by whom, mandate/objectives, who sets the mandate?

The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) is a philanthropic organisation that has its headquarters in London. The Foundation, which is a UK registered charity governed by a board of directors, is approaching its 10th year of grant making.

CIFF’s core mission is to demonstrably improve the lives of children living in poverty in developing countries by achieving largescale, sustainable impact. In 2008, CIFF also launched a Special Initiative on Climate Change, recognising the devastating threat global warming presented to the wellbeing of the next generation of children and that the current response to halting it was woefully inadequate.

2. What is the range of CIFF activities or programme support?

CIFF currently focuses on three priority impact areas: hunger alleviation and nutrition, child survival and educational achievement. In each of these areas, CIFF has carried out a comprehensive landscape analysis which is available on CIFF’s website ( These analyses identify areas where there is strong evidence of interventions that have a high impact, a large unmet need, and opportunities for CIFF to play a transformative role. CIFF is currently active in all three areas, with a particular focus on five strategic priorities: undernutrition, perinatal survival, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, early learning and deworming. The Foundation is in the process of landscaping adolescent reproductive health as an additional priority impact area, and plans to consider early childhood development, economic readiness and childcare environment in the future. In climate change, the strategic priorities are climate smart urbanisation and energy transformation.

CIFF’s approach is to focus on ‘investments’ with broader transformational opportunities. That might be, for example, through demonstrating that service delivery programmes can be implemented at national scale with high impact and in a cost effective manner; through advocacy to influence norms or global actors; through research and development to remove technological bottlenecks; or through investments focusing on evaluation or data systems when they are significant barriers. Although most CIFF investments are carried out through grants, other instruments are also used, such as loans or equity participation when more appropriate, e.g. for investments with the private sector. All investments are evidenced based, data driven, with a strong focus on impact and cost effectiveness. The preferred approach is to work with and through governments. Furthermore, CIFF only invest in programmes where there is a clear exit/institutionalisation strategy. We consider ourselves to be a very engaged partner throughout the investment life cycle.

Most of our activities are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the needs are greatest.

3. When did nutrition become part of CIFF’s portfolio and what are the current areas of nutrition interest and activities?

Undernutrition has always been a core priority of CIFF and has become CIFF’s top priority in recent years because of its overwhelming impact on child development (mortality morbidity, cognitive development) and more broadly, on human capacity. Undernutrition not only stunts and kills the citizens of high burden countries, it also stunts these countries’ competitiveness and economic growth, and this economic dimension is often overlooked.

Our focus is explicitly on undernutrition, rather than the broader hunger, food and food security area, because food and hunger are primarily about calories, while nutrition is about nutrients, care practices and maternal and child health. Our portfolio of investments spans micronutrients deficiencies (e.g. micronutrients Sprinkles investment with GAIN in Bangladesh), stunting (e.g. stunting reduction programme with WFP), severe acute malnutrition (e.g. community management of severe acute malnutrition (CMAM) programme with the Government and UNICEF in Nigeria) and advocacy in the global nutrition space (e.g. global nutrition advocacy grant with a consortium of partners). Mainstreaming CMAM into public health services has been an early priority because of SAM’s impact on child mortality and the existence of a simple proven intervention to treat it.

4. How does CIFF operate or work to support its aims, e.g. as a funding agency, through field staff supporting country or regional programmes?

We are quite flexible about the form that investments can take. We can support governments in delivering impact, directly or through technical partners, hire consultants to support government bodies or finance specific components of programmes, as long as the investments contribute to CIFF’s higher level transformational objectives. For each priority area, including nutrition, there is an advisory panel including many of the leading experts in their field.

5. Where does CIFF get its funding from and what proportion goes to nutrition?

CIFF funds through its endowment, often copartnering on specific initiatives with other foundations, individuals and governments. CIFF is on track to be granting over $100 million annually by the end of this fiscal year. In aggregate, the Foundation has committed more than $100 million to nutrition investments since CIFF’s creation and anticipates that nutrition will represent the largest element of CIFF’s portfolio for the foreseeable future.

6. Does CIFF have a nutrition strategy?

Our main priority currently is to elevate undernutrition to a top economic and development priority and to bring together a coalition of partners to mobilise commitments and resources around validated and prioritised country plans to accelerate impact on the ground. Programmatically the aim is to accelerate take up of the high impact direct nutrition interventions, such as promoting good nutritional practices, increasing the intake of vitamins and minerals and therapeutic feeding that will produce tangible impact (i.e. increases in cognitive development, morbidity and mortality reduction) most quickly. The strategy is regularly reviewed and updated based on new evidence and developments as they become available.

7. How many nutrition staff are there (HQ or field) and how do they link up with other sectoral staff?

CIFF is a relatively small organisation with 50 permanent staff and about 20 consultants. The Foundation team comprises operating teams (leverage, programmes, investments, climate change, finance & operations, programmes, office of the CEO) and governance teams (that comprises advisory boards and trustees). There are small regional offices in India and Kenya and a flexible organisational structure in which staff contributes to work in different areas based on need and skills. At the moment, more than 20 staff work on nutrition who draw on the Nutrition Advisory Panel and other external nutrition expertise as needed. Staff work on different sectors and strive to link up and integrate investments across sectors whenever possible.

8. What is CIFF’s nutrition vision or plans for next five years?

Our vision is to see nutrition elevated to the level of a top economic and development priority in all high burden countries and to contribute with others to changing the trajectory of the global response to accelerate the achievement of the objectives recently agreed by the World Health Assembly. This requires action at many levels: supporting the development and implementation of strong country plans; building a new coalition of partners around nutrition, involving not only the traditional government players, donors and private sector players, but a much broader constituency of partners from other southern countries that have already achieved significant progress on nutrition and the non-food private sector. We are committed to mobilising resources and commitments for nutrition globally. It will require advocacy, demonstrating that programmes can be implemented at scale in a cost effective way and building the evidence base where it is lacking.

CIFF want countries to follow the good examples of government leadership and commitment which have led to enormous progress, such as Brazil where the prevalence of stunting dropped from 37% to 7% in three decades, or more recently the State of Maharashtra, India, where the proportion of stunted children fell from 39% to 23% in only 6 years. These and many other examples prove that success can be achieved and that others can and should take action.

9. What does CIFF see as the main challenges in the nutrition sector and how will they endeavour to address these?

A key challenge is the overly narrow framing of nutrition as a technical issue, which misses the larger economic costs of undernutrition, insufficient leadership and accountability at the highest level and as a result, the misdirection of attention and lack of effectiveness in trying to solve the problem. This has resulted in responses almost exclusively addressing hunger and/or agriculture and in so doing not recognising that the problems will not be solved through an indirect focus on food security or with economic growth alone, i.e. nutrition sensitive programming. Raising caloric intake without addressing nutrient deficiencies in the early years will continue to result in many countries having virtually half their populations stunted. Furthermore, there is a basic lack of resources and generally a failure to appreciate the great value for money of investing in nutrition – which has been recognised as a best buy in development by, for example, the Copenhagen consensus.

10. How is CIFF different to other equivalent organisations or is it a unique entity?

CIFF’s approach is a substantial divergence from the norm of development funding. CIFF works only where it thinks it can effect transformational change at scale and through activities and processes which will be institutionalised. To achieve impact, CIFF marries the acumen and discipline of the private sector with the appreciation of context and evidence of what works in development. On a programmatic level, this involves establishing explicit clarity around success by all partners from the outset; designing initiatives and incentives in order that they will ultimately be sustained through the public sector or through market mechanisms; modelling, agreeing and monitoring key implementation targets that will deliver the desired impact, and correcting programme design where aspects of the programme are not delivering or where greater impact could be achieved. CIFF is prepared to invest heavily in the monitoring and evaluation systems needed to make such an approach successful. CIFF also works deliberately to influence and leverage beyond its investments to build momentum for change.

11. How would you best encapsulate the ethos and culture of the organisation?

CIFF is uncompromising in its expectations of demonstrable positive change and sets clear targets for success. CIFF exclusively backs high return (impact) investments that are based on evidence or that confront a critical bottleneck: passion plus activities does not equal impact. CIFF maximises return on investment (impact) by engaging throughout the life of the investment, and working with governments and partners to leverage the investment. It’s an investment, not a gift.

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Augustin Flory (). Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. Field Exchange 45, May 2013. p48.



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