Dear Unitus Supporters,
I am excited to announce that Unitus is initiating a new strategy to tackle global poverty.
Our new strategy is to accelerate the growth and effectiveness of income generating “livelihood opportunities.” We will support projects that directly and significantly increase income-generating potential for millions of people battling poverty. We will do so in a way that demonstrates the social impact and commercial viability of these models and attracts other investors to the space, driving substantial amounts of investment capital and growth to livelihood ventures throughout the world.
To implement this strategy, Unitus Labs (the new name for Unitus, Inc. non-profit) is partnering with Unitus Impact, a new San Francisco-based early-stage impact investing company focused on livelihood acceleration at the base of the economic pyramid in Asia and Africa.
We believe that this strategic focus on livelihood opportunities is a great fit for Unitus. It is a natural next step in our mission to find and develop market-based solutions to global poverty and builds upon the work, knowledge base, and networks developed during our first 10 years as a microfinance accelerator.
Livelihood development projects require a systemic approach to fix inefficient systems and supply chains that are often gamed against the poor. They often involve providing access to markets, introducing new technologies not previously accessible, establishing cooperative buying/selling, and increasing access to supply chain financing and small business credit.
Our approach will be to accelerate livelihood development programs. In some cases, livelihood acceleration will help former microcredit borrowers increase their incomes to the next level and provide previously unattainable social mobility. In other cases, livelihood acceleration will provide new or enhanced income-generating opportunities for low-income populations engaged in industries such as agriculture, fishing and microfranchising. As we experienced in the early days of our work in microfinance acceleration, we anticipate much trial and error – but we are very committed to this exciting new challenge.
Our partner, Unitus Impact will be raising capital from investors looking for a double bottom line of financial return and social impact. Unitus Impact will identify and invest in early stage ventures that have the potential for financial self-sustainability and large impact, but are currently too high-risk for most investors or banks to support. The hope is that some of these ventures will grow rapidly and create replicable business models that we can take to other parts of the world.
I know that this is probably a bit difficult to completely visualize without concrete examples. Unitus Impact is finalizing its first few partnerships and will be providing more details in the coming few months. So, stay tuned!
Completing Previous Project Commitments
As promised, Unitus Labs continues to fulfill commitments in place when we made our strategic change announcement in July 2010. For example, we provided a significant grant to support the expansion of Yehu Microfinance in rural Kenya and provided strategic innovation project grants to four MFIs in India earlier this year. We are also making very good progress on the Sorenson-Unitus Ultra-Poor Initiative and will publish 6 case studies on pilot programs later this year.
Thank you for your continuing encouragement and support for our work in reducing global poverty!
Chairman, Unitus Labs