Dame Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam GB, is in talks with European financial services groups about creating a "fund of funds". This would raise capital to invest directly in projects to help would-be entrepreneurs in some of the world's poorest regions.
Dame Barbara said Oxfam hopes to work with a private-sector partner to raise "many millions" from investors which could be invested in small ventures.
"It's still at an early stage," she said. "But .... helping some of the poorest people in the world get access to capital to build up their own small business is important."
Over the past few years, Oxfam has forged closer links with private business and has just launched a partnership between 30,000 onion co-operative farmers in Azerbaijan and Unilever to ensure their supply chain works fairly.