In 2015, the United Nations unveiled 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Goals that had set the agenda for international cooperation and development in the first part of the 21st century.

The first 16 address the principal challenges facing a world where the climate is changing, inequality is rising and people are blighted by hunger, illness and little or no access to decent education or a fair judicial system.

The 17th goal stands out from the rest. It is entitled Partnerships for the Goals, and is a call for alignment and cooperation, between countries and between sectors. It demands that private corporations and governments find new ways of working together to meet the 2030 deadline.

It’s against this backdrop that TRANSFORM was created. We at TRANSFORM recognise there were (and are) urgent problems that require long-term, but rapid solutions; and that private entrepreneurs already working in low-income communities were the people best placed to provide them.


In 2015, Unilever and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office created a new kind of public-private partnership. Both organisations believed that lasting change could come from market-based solutions offered by those local entrepreneurs and the breakthrough ideas they were eager to turn into viable businesses. In 2018, EY joined that core team.

TRANSFORM focuses on meeting the needs of low-income households and supporting entrepreneurs who had little hope of attracting the support they needed from conventional financial institutions and venture capitalists.

With the combined support of the TRANSFORM core organisations, we empower businesses to learn and scale quickly, so they’re best placed to attract exponentially larger amounts of capital from other investors. We believe in the power of collaboration, so TRANSFORM is an open-source project that shares the success stories and failures of the businesses we work with including other donors, investors and entrepreneurs.

Over the past eight years, TRANSFORM has supported more than 100 projects across Africa, South Asia and beyond, impacting the lives of over 15 million people. We want to foster more peer-to-peer learning within the impact entrepreneur community, and inspire more co-operation between governments and private businesses. To us, that’s what SDG17 means.

We are not making fast enough progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This is how TRANSFORM, a unique public-private partnership, is pressing the accelerator pedal.


Both the TRANSFORM-supported enterprises and core organisations have learnt a lot, and to commemorate the end of the first phase of TRANSFORM, we have developed a series of reports highlighting the successes, challenges and learnings of the initiative over the past 6 years.

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  • square iconInsights
    This report looks at how the TRANSFORM programme, and teams within it, operate. It outlines the collective learnings from the core partners and also discusses the meaning of partnership in the development space.
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    This report outlines how TRANSFORM works with impact enterprises to validate and test their business models and establish a customer base, providing practical tips throughout. It also discusses the importance of helping early stage businesses validate their assumptions and details the unique offering Unilever, EY and the FCDO provide helps businesses grow.
  • square iconInsights
    This report looks at how TRANSFORM helps impact enterprises to build experience salesforces and distribution networks so that new products reach the end customer efficiently and effectively.
  • square iconInsights
    This report looks at how TRANSFORM helps impact enterprises establish a customer centric value proposition and marketing materials that will resonate with their customers.
  • square iconInsights
    This report looks at how TRANSFORM is bridging the digital divide and what the impact enterprises we work with have learnt.


TRANSFORM is now entering the next phase with the ambition, by 2025, to expand our scale and impact. We are looking for new partners to join us to tackle the world’s issues more effectively.

We’ll be stepping up our digital engagement with partners and enterprise communities through our TRANSFORM collaboration platform and extending our partner, enterprise and geographic reach.

If you are an impact investor, ecosystem enabler or corporate, and if you are in the acceleration business, then read these reports and tell us what you think. Better still, act: apply for funds, suggest ways you can join forces with us or ask how you can reuse and adapt the products, services and processes we describe.

It’s a competitive world. But we will only beat the clock if we compete together.

Read the full introduction report here