Capital Ecosystem Design & Development

Capital Ecosystem Design & Development


Zebras Unite uses a facilitated, participatory multi-stakeholder processes to design, form and deploy the capital we need to support the growth and thriving of businesses that are better for the world.

These processes result in novel inclusive, integrated financial innovations that are embedded in supportive ecosystems in order to mobilize capital in particular geographies, sectors and / or demographics. They are time delimited processes that typically take 3 - 12 months, and result in one or more financial products and an infrastructure to support their governance and deployment.

This body of work is informed by the “capital collective” framework developed by Zebras Unite founding member Armillaria, building on their impact finance practice and design principles, and prototyped in the context of addressing the racial wealth gap in the United States in 2020.

The result was the creation of the Inclusive Capital Collective—a co-operative for and by BIPOC fund managers and entrepreneur support organizations that Zebras Unite is incubating with the goal of spinning it out in early 2023.

All Capital Ecosystem Development projects follow the same pattern:

  • We identify a small core group of partners through inbound or outbound cultivation around a particular sector, geography and / or demographic, (”the Core Team”)
    • Typically, one ore more of the regional / sectoral partners see a role for themselves in the management and / or implementation of the resulting product or platform. So it’s biz dev to an extent, and we also factor their time during the project into the budget — but more on a cost recovery basis.
  • We bind ourselves in an MOU that captures our intent and how we will proceed to identify the resources for and participants in the Collective
  • We author a concept paper that describes the demand and supply side issues in the economic sector / geography / demographic that is the focus of the design process, and lays out the opportunities to participate for Funders, Key Informants, and Contributors.
  • We secure the needed resources, with the full process typically requiring $150,000 - $300,000
    • The specifics depend on the context of the capital ecosystem in which we are intervening, and is negotiated with the core partners at the concept paper stage. Typically the breakdown is as follows:
      • 100-150K for the facilitated design process (depends on how much project management is done by the facilitator), plus
      • Whatever the core partners need to participate in the strategic capacity (assumption is one month FTE at 20K fully loaded each, but might be more if a core partner takes on project management or research, for example), plus
      • 25K each per specific legal and financial subject matter experts, 2-5 of those, depending on the context.
  • We retain one or more co-op members with the appropriate facilitation expertise (to date that has been SecondMuse and Armillaria)
  • We launch the collaborative design process, which typically takes 3 - 9 months, and goes through an initial Discovery phase, followed by a Design phase that results in the creation of one or more financial instruments and the creation of a supporting infrastructure.
  • The process specifics are left to the implementation team, and Zebras Unite is generally agnostics at the outset of a Collective as to what its role in the management of the financial instrument and participation in the resulting infrastructure will be.
  • In terms of stakeholders, we make the following distinctions:
    • Core Team: 3 - 5 organizations who form the operational core of the project, and take responsibility for fundraising, experience design, coordination and project management.
    • Key informants: They have direct experience of the capital ecosystem as entrepreneurs, investors, intermediaries, or others who are touching capital. These are people we want to at least interview, and potentially invite to a Define and / or Design workshop;
    • Contributors: These are technical experts that intersect with the ecosystem, and who have pertinent capacities that we might want to tap, e.g. financial engineers who could help build a new product, conduct desk research, or participate in the analysis, typically in a paid capacity;
    • Influencers: These are people we want to invite to the Define and Design workshop because they are in key positions of authority in financial and / or government institutions and are allies for advancing the capital product and interventions we identify in the project.
    • Funders: These are companies, foundations and / or individuals who are aligned in their interests and can contribute financial resources to the project. They may or may not be potential investors in the capital product(s) we create in the project.

Capital ecosystem design projects currently in process or in development: