Questions and Tools

When good intentions, charity, and investments are not enough

Lessons for private sector investors learned from troubled public efforts

After tens of billions of dollars invested in nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan both countries are arguably in no better condition than twenty years ago.  Efforts in these two countries have demonstrated that good intentions, charity, and public social impact investments are not sufficient to create sustainable positive social change in unstable countries. The same challenge applies to private social impact investments:  

  • How can I measure the social risks and gains of my investment objectively?
  • If I love a particular project, in which countries is it likely to succeed, or fail, or cause harm?

Tools to measure and build coalitions

At Sovereignty First, we have found three ideas useful to answering these questions, after years of building relationships and working in the field on the ground in Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, and around Syria. Our team’s tools for investors are based on these three ideas:

  • To minimize risk and maximize positive impact, investors need simple-to-understand, objective measures of developmental readiness and capacity: “floors and ceilings” of capacity.

  • Reliable information about a social impact investment requires ongoing, inclusive, and collectively objective assessments (think “Yelp” for politics).
  • Every social impact investment will encounter on-the-ground challenges. Success requires a network of “foul-weather friends.”

INCA (the Inclusive Nationalism Capacity Assessment)

INCA is a comprehensive, developmental, and simple assessment

In a single image, INCA represents a picture of a country that is comprehensive and reveals threats to the country and the country’s capacity to adapt to those threats. 

The simplicity of the measures makes them accessible and useful to a wide range of organizations from different countries and different sectors of a society. 

INCA provides a common vocabulary for use by any organizations or individuals who want to discuss, or negotiate or coordinate actions in a country.  

The Shared Information Framework

The Shared Information Framework is how we  implement INCA in a country.

We work with hundreds of individuals, organizations and other entities:

  • Our team of 15 Americans and 15 locals
  • Our client
  • 20-40 local experts
  • 50-100 organizations, groups, and individuals—those most influential in the life of the country 

We work in different ways:

  • Interviews
  • A public web portal
  • Coaching
  • Events
  • Targeted education campaigns
  • Analysis

The Framework is permanent:

  • It takes 8 months to ramp up.
  • Interviews and events are in 4 month cycles.
  • The cycles are ongoing. 


We have in worked in Indonesia and Iraq. 

Our web portal for Syria is here. 

About Us

Our mission

Sovereignty First is a freelance diplomatic firm.

We reduce systemic risk in developing countries and emerging markets.

Using our tool (INCA) and process to generate common understanding (the Shared Information Framework), investment banks are able to lower political risk and generate the transparency necessary to extend extending markets and open new markets, and social impact investor family offices are able to negotiate the multiparty agreements needed to solve social and environmental threats while gaining returns on their capital investment.

Contact Us

For more information, a presentation, or a price sheet—

1901 N. Fort Myer Drive
Suite 405
Arlington, VA 22209

(703) 272-5012