Unitus Seed Fund is an impact investment fund based in Bangalore and Seattle that provides opportunities for economic self-reliance, education, and obtaining basic necessities to millions of people living at the base of the economic pyramid. It creates opportunities by accelerating the growth of early-stage businesses which primarily serve lower-income populations. Acceleration is achieved via seed funding, support and connections which help investees refine their plans, scale up their business, and secure additional growth capital.

Unitus Seed Fund was incubated by Unitus Labs from late 2011 until the summer of 2012 and then launched as a separate impact investment management company and fund to scale-up its investing operations to achieve more impact.

See Unitus Seed Fund website for details >

Ujjivan Financial Services and Parinaam Foundation developed a financial literacy program for low-income, low-educated urban populations in India

This is part of the Unitus Labs’ India Microfinance Innovations initiative

Financial literacy programs are often viewed as ‘preachy’, with a common complaint being the lack of tangible skills within such programs. MFIs have seen limited benefits from rolling out such trainings, which can often be expensive, and can consume significant time and resources.

This is why Ujjivan Financial Services and Parinaam Foundation decided to develop quality materials by partnering with high-quality creative consultants. They developed a film and training that resonates with their customer base, and which became highly popular amongst their customers. The film was subsequently translated into 10 regional languages.

Right from the onset, customers remained highly engaged, which showed that there is indeed demand for a customer-centric financial literacy training. While there were several logistical and scheduling issues, the classroom style training, developed by their NGO partner, Parinaam Foundation, utilized creative comic strips, a workshop format, and unique incentives (such as a free calculator, financial diary, certificates etc.) to achieve high attendance rates. Unusually, the Diksha Program also has an Impact Evaluation component. Over the years, Unitus Labs has come across several financial literacy trainings – and are convinced that this is by far the most effective financial literacy toolkit for low income populations within India.

NOTE: This is published in the spirit of open source. You may use and modify this content with the condition that you provide credit and intellectual property rights acknowledgement to Ujjivan Financial Services and Parinaam Foundation and provide a link back to this page.

Download Ujjivan-Parinaam Financial Literacy Project Report (PDF – 2MB)
Download Parinaam’s Diksha Financial Literacy Program Trainer Manual (PDF – 41MB)
Download Parinaam’s Client Financial Diary (PDF – 8MB)

Watch SANKALP Financial Literacy Training video

Watch full video: Hindi (with English subtitles), Hindi, Malayalam, Oriya, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi (with English subtitles), Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Assamese

Order DVD of videos

Request a free DVD of SANKALP Financial Literacy Training video to be mailed to you

ABOUT UJJIVAN

Ujjivan Financial Services Pvt. Ltd pioneered urban microfinance in India, starting its operations in Bangalore in November 2005. Ujjivan’s mission is to provide financial services to the economically active poor to enable them to lead a better life. With six years of operations, Ujjivan is present in 20 states with more than 300 branches and has reached over 1,000,000 customers, disbursing over $600 million with a repayment rate of 98.21%.

ABOUT PARINAAM

Parinaam Foundation is a not-for-profit organization which provides social services to poor women and their family members in India. Recognizing that poverty manifests itself in various forms and financial support alone cannot help the poor, Parinaam provides critical ‘social’ support to urban poor families. We provide services in the areas of healthcare, education, professional development and community development initiatives.

New livelihoods found critical to success and sustainability in fight against homelessness

The Equitas Bird’s Nest program in Chennai, India finds new livelihood creation as the key to combatting widespread homelessness among the urban ultra poor

Multiple settlements on a pavement in the T Nagar area of Chennai

With no reliable shelter, no access to clean water or sanitation facilities, and no real way to earn a living, the urban ultra poor are unmatched in their vulnerability and need. They struggle daily to find food while under constant threat from illness and crime, and commonly rely on begging as their only source of income.
Seeing the need to move pavement dwellers off the streets and into a secure home, Chennai-based Equitas Development Initiatives Trust (EDIT) partnered in 2009 with the Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative (UPI) to pilot an effective yet cost-efficient program that could address this problem. Through its Bird’s Nest program, EDIT provided housing, food security, healthcare, livelihood skill development, and supplemental education to ultra poor families over an 18-month period – ultimately placing them on the path to self-sufficiency.

The pilot revealed two critical insights that dramatically improved the success and cost-effectiveness of the program. First, it showed that income security was the primary priority among the homeless – even topping shelter as a concern. Despite the immediate availability of secure housing, the team realized that families feared losing their places in high-traffic areas and the means to their only source of income: begging. So to coax the families into leaving their locations on busy streets, they had to establish an alternative livelihood. In response, the EDIT team accelerated the introduction of structured income-generating activities – rolling incense sticks, candle-making, soap-making, and basket weaving – allowing participating families to move into new housing with the confidence that they would be able to earn enough to meet their needs.

Second, the team recognized that the introduction of an income-generating activity made it possible to recoup some of the program’s costs, as beneficiaries are both able and willing to pay for services. All beneficiaries that have been moved into housing were able to successfully take over and continue making their own rent payments. This means that instead of spending the average $600-$800 per-beneficiary common in other ultra poor programs, EDIT is on the path to achieving more economically-sustainable change for approximately $60-$100 per-beneficiary.

Looking at those ultra poor individuals who have completed the program, the cascading benefits of this livelihood-led approach to housing security are apparent. As a result of the move into stable housing, most people who couldn’t cook on pavements are now preparing their own meals every day. They also have access to water which allows them bathe everyday, wash their clothes regularly, and generally maintain a higher standard of hygiene. Most importantly, they now live a life of dignity and self-confidence, and have traded ridicule for respect and acceptance in the community.

Read: Equitas Bird’s Nest Case Study Overview
Read: Equitas Bird’s Nest Case Study Report (PDF)

SKS NGO overcomes great physical and cultural obstacles to secure lasting change in some of Orissa’s most isolated ultra poor communities.

Woman wearing traditional jewelry

Isolated rural communities represent an exceptional challenge for ultra poor interventions, as extreme distances and dramatic cultural differences make it very difficult to initiate change, and even harder to sustain gains after a program concludes.

With the support of the Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative (UPI), Hyderabad-based SKS NGO set out to overcome these obstacles, exploring new models that could take root in the isolated tribal communities of the eastern state of Orissa. Based on its previous work with a CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Program-modeled Ultra Poor Program (UPP) in Andhra Pradesh, the team set out to create a locally managed safety net in one of India’s poorest states and in an area where no other support services were available.

Seeking ways to extend the benefits beyond the conclusion of the intervention, the UPP team had to devise mechanisms to train its members to be 100% self-sufficient and embrace their role as each other’s caretakers before the end of the two year intervention. To achieve this, the team developed a set of enhancements to the traditional graduation model that addressed the most common challenges faced by tribal populations, specifically the frequent shocks to their food supply, health and income that result from their isolation.

Alongside traditional graduation program components, UPP introduced a food bank scheme and trained members to act as community health professionals to ensure the health and well-being of fellow members in times of crisis. They also introduced new livelihoods to allow members to diversify their incomes, financial literacy training and a mandatory savings scheme to provide protection against unexpected expenses, and self-help groups to link members to formal savings accounts.

Map highlighting Orissa state in India

These program enhancements, along with elements of the traditional graduation model, enabled the community to sustain the positive changes to their quality of life. Not only did 850 of the 887 participants graduate from the program, but they now have food banks in place for emergencies, primary health workers to diagnose and treat common ailments, an understanding of financial management with access to a bank account and loans, savings of as much as Rs 10,000 (US $200) per individual, and a set of skills and means to generate additional income.

Read: SKS NGO Case Study Overview
Read: SKS NGO Case Study Report (PDF)

Program overview

Unitus Labs began research for our social performance management (SPM) program in 2008 and began pilots with SPM partners in 2009. In the Fall of 2010, Unitus Labs transitioned resources and responsibility to complete this program to India-based MicroSave.

What is Social Performance Management?

An area of growing importance in microfinance, Social Performance Management (SPM) is defined as “an institutionalized process which involves setting clear social objectives (e.g. improved quality of housing), monitoring and assessing progress towards achieving these, and using this information to improve overall organizational performance.”

At its core, SPM involves evaluating what actually happens to the clients of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in practical terms of quality of life and income levels. In addition to providing an avenue for qualifying impact, SPM is a tool for MFIs to evaluate and improve financial products, services, and operational procedures in order to increase client satisfaction and retention.

Why is SPM important?

“We believe Social Performance Management allows us to demonstrate the impact (of microfinance), and assess what methods and practices work, in an objective, comparable manner. Unitus’s strong focus on the social aspects of microfinance and their network of socially committed MFIs makes them an important collaborator in this work.”

– Geeta Goel, Director, Microfinance at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

With the explosion of interest and rise in diverse microfinance programs over the past decade, Unitus Labs believes that it can no longer be assumed without question that genuine poverty alleviation automatically results from microfinance. Rather, with the belief that high-impact microfinance depends on measured outcomes and tailored services, Unitus is pioneering work in the area of SPM to identify implementation best practices and serve as a model worldwide.

SPM Implementation Project Overview

Unitus Labs launched the Social Performance Management Implementation Project (SPM IP) in Fall of 2009 with the support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Boeing Corporation and Deutsche Bank. A worldwide endeavor, SPM IP will work to increase adoption of social performance practice among microfinance institutions both as a gateway to smarter growth for MFIs and to ensure that microfinance has the best possible outcome for the greatest number in need.

The SPM IP program has two phases:

  • Phase One – SPM Foundation: Unitus works with 10 MFI partners to conduct analysis of existing social performance data, collect client-level data using the Grameen Foundation Progress out of Poverty Index™ (PPI™), and conduct an internal social audit using the CERISE Social Performance Indicator (SPI).
  • Phase Two – SPM Optimization: Based on findings from Phase One, partners may choose to participate in SPM Optimization, fully adopting and integrating SPM into their regular operations.

What Makes the SPM IP unique?

At launch, the SPM implementation project was India’s most comprehensive network-implemented SPM project, harnessing Unitus’ solid understanding of MFI strategies and operations to aid partners in integrating these tools into business practices. Over time, the project will expand to MFIs in other countries.

Unitus Labs staff spent nearly a year working with partners to evaluate the possibilities of SPM and amassing feedback as to what the potential opportunities and barriers to effective adoption will be, and designed the SPM IP to best navigate this course.

SPM Partners

Unitus Labs partnered with the following organizations to develop and operate SPM pilot projects.

UJJIVAN
“Initial projects we had done in monitoring and evaluating the impact of microfinance on the lives of our clients revealed some very interesting—and sometimes surprising—outcomes,” commented Mr. Samit Ghosh, CEO of Ujjivan. “We’re excited to take this opportunity to continue that survey work and to use the findings to tailor our services to better serve our clients.”

ANGKOR MICROFINANCE KAMPUCHEA (AMK)
“The SPM IP is a unique opportunity to be more innovative in how we collect information and integrate client-centric evaluation into our operations, building on the social performance management strengths for which AMK is already recognized,” said Paul Luchtenburg, CEO of AMK. “I am very excited to be partnering with Unitus on the SPM IP, as I think together we can ensure that our organization is best positioned to meet the needs of our borrowers.”

GRAMA VIDIYAL
“This is a very exciting opportunity for Grama Vidiyal, especially as our 25th anniversary approaches,” said Grama Vidiyal Founder & Chairman Managing Director Mr. S. Devaraj, “We are confident that the insights gained from a stronger understanding of our clients’ needs will ensure a more impactful and prosperous second quarter century for our organization.”

Swadhaar FinAccess was founded with the goal of providing the urban poor in Mumbai increased access to regular, reliable, and efficient financial services in a sustainable and scalable manner, and became a Unitus partner in 2006. In 2008, the organization launched Swadhaar FinServe Pvt. Ltd.—an NBFC (Non-Banking Financial Company)—to take over microfinance operations, which has steadily expanded to serve over 10,000 clients.

Since July of last year, Swadhaar FinAccess has focused its operations on financial education and savings programs to increase the capability of the urban poor to better manage their financial resources, improve self-reliance, and ultimately attain a more secure future. In March 2009, Swadhaar completed the first pilot of its financial education program “Talk on Money—How to Save and How to Increase Income,” which was offered to women from the slum communities in Mumbai. Unitus interviewed Executive Director Haseena Vahanvaty in April about this program for its MFI network newsletter, The Accelerator. The following is an excerpt from that interview.

Q: What are the objectives of your financial education program?

A: The three main objectives are 1) to impart the knowledge and skills necessary for learners to be better managers of their own money and better consumers of financial services; 2) to instill new behaviors and attitudes so that learners look beyond a “day-to-day” financial horizon and connect daily choices to future goals; and 3) to acquaint learners with financial products and services available to them, and to increase their use of these products and services.

Q: The program operates in the slums of Bandra, Wadala, and Chembur, some of the largest slums in Mumbai. What is the profile of the women attending the program?

A: Participants are women (mostly married) between the ages of 20 and 55. They work as domestic help, do “piece rate” tasks such as embroidery or stitching, work in the unorganized sector, or are homemakers. The informal and short-term nature of this work translates into incomes that are both low (ranging from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 6000 per month) and unstable. Many participants are migrants from rural India.

Q: Many financial education programs struggle to design a training module that meets the needs of microfinance clients. How has your training module been designed to meet the needs of women from the urban slum?

A: Swadhaar did seven months’ preparatory work prior to the launch of the program to ensure the program would meet the needs of these women. To ensure this, we:

1. Designed content with input from a needs assessment of the community women. The content includes basic preliminary financial concepts that are easily implemented by the women.

2. Identified community centers within the slum communities to conduct the training program. Conducting the training within the communities provides the women easy access to the training, allows for community participation, and increases the visibility of the training in the community to motivate other women to participate.

3. Produced low-cost training materials, comprised of flip charts, posters, picture cards, and a Budget Diary for every participant. The visual materials are easy to use and transport.

4. Use teaching methodologies like games, stories, and case studies to make learning and teaching interesting and fun.

We’ve found that our training module can be used in all urban Indian settings with few adaptations.

Q: Lack of financial awareness among clients can lead to overindebtedness and greater economic vulnerability. How does your financial education program address overindebtedness?

A: Our program focuses on teaching women how to calculate family monthly income, track monthly expenses, and prepare monthly and annual household budgets. We also enforce the idea of savings being an integral part of the monthly budget. A diary is given to each participant to note down daily expenses to help her to avoid wasteful expenditure.

In addition, we introduce Swadhaar FinServe’s loan product in the program. Women learn to use calculators to calculate interest rates from different sources. They are shocked to learn the difference between interest rates charged by the moneylender and other informal sources and those charged by Swadhaar and banks. They also learn to distinguish between productive and non-productive purposes for taking loans.

Q: Some studies suggest that financial literacy programs may lead to higher repayment rates and client retention, but may not result in increases in business income or assets for clients. Do you think your program will ultimately impact your clients’ businesses and income?

A: Our financial literacy enrollment is available to all women from the community and is not restricted to loan clients. Our primary goal is to empower those that are interested with knowledge to manage their finances, which we hope will make them more prudent and disciplined borrowers. We believe this will bring about a change in their attitude and motivate them to look for income-generating opportunities and avoid the conspicuous consumption prevalent in urban slums.

Q: One of the big obstacles in evaluating financial education programs is determining how to measure success. How do you measure the success of your program? What results have you seen to date?

A: The immediate outcomes of the training have been:

  • 52 percent of participants opened savings accounts.
  • A shift in women’s attitude toward savings.
  • A demand in the community for savings and loans from safer sources.
  • Expressed need from other women in the community and NGOs for a similar training.
  • Requested regular monthly meetings from participants in the community to sustain the new behavior they have learned.

We plan to have an outside research agency conduct the impact study of the program after completion of the pilot.

Q: If you had one piece of advice to give others in the Unitus Network, what would it be?

A: It is best expressed by 55-year-old Laxmi Karpe from Chembur, who sums up her sentiments about Swadhaar’s training program: “If only we had attended this program earlier, we would not be trapped in a cycle of indebtedness.” We recommend that MFIs emphasize inclusion of financial education along with loan products, ensuring that women not only gain credit, but also the ability to spend it wisely.

Setup in 2009, the Africa Microfinance Growth Centre was an 18-month leadership development programme for CEOs of East African microfinance institutions (MFIs) designed to help MFIs grow by improving strategy, leadership skills, and execution ability. The Growth Centre, a Unitus and Financial Deepening Sector Kenya (FSDK) partnership, sought to rapidly expand the financial services available to low income families with an initial focus on Kenya and Tanzania.

The program was designed to empower CEOs to overcome key barriers to growth and ultimately impact more low-income families through improved strategy, leadership skills, and execution ability. Key programme components include:

  • Leadership and Growth Workshops
  • Functional Training (e.g. technology, capital raising)
  • On-Site Strategic Planning Session
  • Access to a Dynamic Peer Network

After a rigorous review and screening process, Unitus Labs kicked off workshops and trainings in July 2009. Participants completed the program in 2010 with a strategic plan for their organization, training in functional business topics needed for day-to-day management, and strengthened leadership skills.

The Africa Microfinance Growth Centre was made possible through the financial support of FSDK, Omidyar Network, The Boeing Company and SV2: Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund.

SEE THE African Microfinance Growth Centre overview (PDF)

Indian MFIs publish detailed results of forward-thinking initiatives to help the microfinance industry mature and improve quality of financial inclusion

Women enjoying role-playing exercise while learning financial literacy

Unitus Labs is pleased to publish the results of four innovative initiatives by Indian MFIs completed in 2011:

Financial Literacy on Debt Management
Ujjivan Financial Services developed a financial literacy program for low-income, low-educated urban populations in India

Streamlining Individual Microlending
Swadhaar FinServe publishes in-depth analysis of multiple years of individual microloan data in order to accelerate industry progress for new individual lending products

Affordable Rural Education Centers
Grameen Koota opens new, affordable rural education centres seeking improved school results for very low-income children

Technology-Based Risk Management Framework
Mimo Finance has developed a technology-based risk management framework design to help MFIs to better assess business risks in a timely manner


About India Microfinance Innovations Initiative

Unitus Labs made a large investment in Microfinance Acceleration for over a decade. We announced in July 2010 that we would fulfill existing microfinance partner commitments but that we would not be taking on new microfinance partners or projects.

As we were winding down our engagements with existing MFI partners, the India microfinance industry ran into a crisis. We decided that we would make some final philanthropic investments to strengthen some of our MFI partners as well as the India microfinance industry. We thought the best way to do this was to identify and support innovation initiatives proposed by our MFI partners.

The turmoil in the Indian microfinance sector (starting in the Fall of 2010) had challenged traditional thinking about how organizations and industries that pursue financial and social returns should be managed. MFIs needed to improve their operations by creating robust and transparent delivery systems with a customer centric approach, in order to serve the poor better and achieve long term sustainability. Specifically, we felt that:

  1. It is imperative for social organizations to thoroughly understand the capacity and needs of target clients, and assess whether they’re servicing these needs on a continuous basis,
  2. Incentives that drive organizational performance need to be periodically evaluated and modified as per the industry lifecycle
  3. While traditional industries are often applauded for focusing solely on their core value proposition, social enterprises may need to approach solutions more holistically and diversify on their client touch points.
  4. Finally, since socially motivated enterprises often cater to large, diverse and politically sensitive client groups, buy-in for the services being through transparent and inclusive practices is imperative for longer-term sustainability.

In the India Microfinance Innovation program, Unitus Labs supported initiatives to help MFIs mitigate political, credit and operational risks, with an eye towards scalability and replicability of these projects across the industry. We funded four innovations projects proposed by trusted MFI partner organizations to study, identify and test key customer-centric innovations. These programs have the potential to transform the way microfinance is delivered to low-income clients. A key requirement for each project was that detailed results would be published in an open source format so that other organizations could benefit.

Acknowledgements

These learnings and published materials would not have been possible without the significant time and dedication of the teams at Ujjivan, Swadhaar, Mimo and Grameen Koota. These were managed as important strategic initiatives and had the full attention and support of the leaders of these organizations. We especially appreciate their willingness to share what didn’t work and to offer these detailed materials and tools for use by others going forward.

We would especially like to acknowledge the special contributions of Shashwat Mody as the lead for this initiative. Shashwat worked closely with each partner to help with project execution, and later to package the learnings in a manner that would be accessible to others so that this work can be leveraged for more innovation and impact.

About Shashwat Mody

Shash designed the India Microfinance Innovations initiative to help the microfinance industry build robust and transparent delivery systems, and balance financial and social returns. Shash joined Unitus in 2007, and subsequently led the Operations Advisory practice, passionately scaling critical financial and livelihood services across India, Africa and SE Asia. Shash also founded Eduheights Schools, an organization that provides quality education in North India, and Little Tree Financial Services, that envisions scaling affordable hospitals and schools across India.

Shash Mody is an Aga Khan Scholar, and is currently pursuing his MBA at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Unitus is pleased to announce that LifeBank Foundation has surpassed the 200,000-client milestone. Based in the Philippines, LifeBank has been a Unitus partner since 2006. Last year, the organization grew its client base by an impressive 105 percent, and anticipates 80 percent growth by the end of 2008.

LifeBank began as a rural bank in 1970 and ventured into microfinance in 1995. In 2001, they started microfinance operations and spun off LifeBank Foundation in 2003, with just 5,000 clients, to allow more rapid growth. The clients they serve are women, many of whom run their own sari-sari stores, which sell anything from small food items to school supplies and crafts. The organization is managed by founding brothers Manny Perlas, President, and Vincent Perlas, Senior Vice President. Manny brings more than 20 years of international development experience and Vincent is a medical doctor who made a career shift to focus on banking.

LifeBank was one of four microfinance institutions (MFIs) selected to receive grant funding for the Unitus Efficiency Project, a three-year Unitus endeavor supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. LifeBank employees have been working closely with Joe Silver, Unitus Efficiency Project Manager, and other Unitus staff on implementing different programs to improve the organization’s internal operations so they can meet their increasingly aggressive business goals. “LifeBank is clearly dedicated to meeting all of their milestones,” says Joe.

“They have the ability to see a need in a region, go there, and rapidly meet the needs of their clients. They are quickly addressing the demand for financial services in the Philippines.”

The next step for LifeBank Foundation is to continue to focus on growth. Many of the goals established through the Efficiency Project are dependent on updated technology, so LifeBank is in the process of working with Unitus to implement a new management information system in order to enhance operations and increase capacity.

“Vince and I have really been eyeing the 200K milestone for quite some time,” says Manny. “The bulk of the credit of course goes to our dedicated and hardworking staff. Also, many thanks to the Unitus team who have helped LifeBank reach this milestone as fast as we did!”

“And, of course, there’s 300K around the corner….”

Congratulations to LifeBank!

Unitus Labs (formerly Unitus, Inc.) announces a new strategic alliance with Unitus Impact to catalyze new markets for livelihood ventures in Asia and Africa, creating significant income-generating opportunities for millions battling poverty.

Seattle and Bangalore (June 13, 2011) – Unitus Labs announced today that it is supporting a new initiative to build income-generating opportunities for millions of people battling poverty. To implement this initiative, Unitus Labs is partnering with Unitus Impact Partners LLC (“Unitus Impact”), a new early-stage impact investing firm focused on livelihood acceleration for the base of the economic pyramid (“BoP”) in Asia and Africa.

Unitus Impact’s strategy for generating livelihood opportunities involves:

  • Identifying high-quality, on-the-ground entrepreneurs whose ventures will create large scale, income-generating livelihood opportunities for the poor
  • Providing catalytic equity and debt capital as well as strategic support to livelihood entrepreneurs seeking to demonstrate the viability of their business models and expand their operations and impact
  • Raising investment capital from investors interested in accelerating the growth of financially successful livelihood ventures and generating disproportionate positive impact on poverty reduction

Unitus Impact is initially focused on supporting livelihoods ventures with the following criteria:

  • Early stage ventures that require equity or debt capital
  • Possess high potential to create improved, sustainable livelihoods at significant scale
  • Involve innovative approaches that enable systemic change
  • Employ market-based approaches in areas such as agribusiness, microfranchising, supply chain optimization, micro enterprise financing, and job/skills training
  • Operate in rural or urban markets in Asia (especially India) or Africa

Unitus Impact is led by Geoff Woolley, an experienced impact investor and philanthropist in developing markets. Woolley joined Unitus Labs (formerly Unitus, Inc.) as one of its earliest board members and served as its Capital Markets Chair until 2009. He was instrumental in setting up Unitus Equity Fund, the first commercial equity investment fund for microfinance, and Unitus Capital, the first investment bank set up to serve social enterprises and microfinance institutions in Asia. Woolley is currently the Co-Chair of Unitus Capital, which has become an industry leader, raising more than $575,000,000 in debt and equity financing for microfinance institutions and other businesses serving the BoP. Prior to impact investing, Geoff worked for more than 20 years in venture capital and lending where he founded Dominion Ventures in the US and Kreos in Europe.

“We are excited to partner with Unitus Impact and work together to improve livelihood opportunities for millions to move out of poverty,” said Dave Richards, CEO of Unitus Labs. “We believe in the strong connection between access to finance, which we spent the last decade focusing on, and our new focus, enabling access to markets. We are excited about the livelihoods sector and the opportunity to address poverty in a new way, and hope to draw on and build on our previous efforts in accelerating the microfinance sector.”

“We are excited to partner with Unitus Labs to raise and invest capital in promising early-stage social businesses that will positively impact the lives and livelihoods of millions of hard working people throughout the world,” said Geoff Woolley, Executive Chairman of Unitus Impact.

The strategic partnership for livelihood acceleration includes specific goals for fundraising, market research, investment due diligence and investment management to catalyze a new market for livelihood ventures. As livelihood investments are made, Unitus Labs and Unitus Impact will share investment management fees paid by investors and any future profits generated by these investments. To ensure that there are no perceived or potential conflicts of interest, Unitus Labs board members have agreed to invest in Unitus Impact projects through charitable vehicles.

Unitus Impact will announce initial project investments in the next 90 days.

About Unitus Labs

Unitus Labs is a USA 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on reducing global poverty through economic self-empowerment. Unitus Labs’ unique focus is harnessing market forces to drive substantial increase in economic opportunity for those at the base of the economic pyramid (“BoP”) in developing markets. Unitus Labs attempts to leverage its influence by not just demonstrating the commercial viability of BoP strategies but by drawing other players into the space in a way that dramatically accelerates the scaling of proven ideas. Unitus Labs’ current focus is to create improved income-generating livelihood opportunities for millions battling global poverty. Unitus Labs was founded in 2001 and is based in Seattle and Bangalore. For more info, see unituslabs.org.

About Unitus Impact Partners LLC

Unitus Impact Partners LLC (“Unitus Impact”) works on livelihood acceleration for low-income people at the base of the economic pyramid (“BoP”) in Asia (especially India) and Africa by building scalable and sustainable enterprises. It finds, funds and collaborates with entrepreneurs who are creating innovative, market-based solutions that “un-game” systems on behalf of the poor. Unitus Impact’s livelihood acceleration model supports enterprises that increase incomes, create jobs and deliver significant value to the poor, at the very beginning of supply chains in agribusiness, SME finance and microfranchising. Unitus Impact deploys capital in innovative ways to grow and scale businesses that expand economic opportunities for those battling poverty and revolutionize livelihood development throughout the world. Unitus Impact was founded in 2011 and is based in San Francisco. For more information, see unitusimpact.com.