Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative

Pavement Dwellers in Chennai

Numbering 1.4 billion people worldwide, the ultra poor are those individuals at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder living on less than $1.25 a day. Unitus Labs is working to better understand how more efficient programs might provide new opportunities for hundreds of millions of ultra poor households to achieve self-sufficiency.  There have been good innovations in this space, but they are still relatively expensive – thus limiting their ability to scale and meet the massive numbers still in need.

Published Ultra Poor Case Studies

Here are our learnings from pilots supported by Unitus Labs seeking to discover improved approaches to providing opportunity to ultra poor populations:

#1: UPna sapna: Examining the Challenges of Ultra Poor Selection

#2: Kriti Vaaradhi: Understanding the Challenges of Establishing an Ultra Poor Pilot

#3: PnP: The Ultra Poor Program – An Examination of Livelihoods

#4: SKS NGO: Building Bridges to Self-Reliance

#5: Equitas Bird’s Nest: Housing the Homeless

More Resources

Frequently asked questions about ultra poor >
Additional resources and research about ultra poor >
More opinions about Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative >

About Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative

The Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative (UPI) was a unique, three-year program dedicated to the development of innovative and cost-effective interventions designed to alleviate extreme poverty. Initiated in Fall 2008, and generously sponsored by the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, the UPI supported the following organizations in the design and launch of ultra poor-focused interventions:

The term “ultra poor” refers to highly vulnerable, marginalized populations that live under $1.25 per day and struggle to meet basic daily nutrition, healthcare, shelter and income-generating needs. The goal of the UPI was to stimulate the microfinance industry to design and deliver products and services that sustainably elevate the ultra poor to a higher standard of living. Unitus Labs has worked with its partners both to initiate new ultra poor programs and help accelerate the growth and efficacy of existing programs.

During the course of the UPI, Unitus Labs works closely with its partner organizations to:

  • Provide onsite support around business plan development, new product / service development, pilot testing, general research, systems expertise, operations consulting, and social performance assessment, as it pertains specifically to the local context,
  • Leverage industry best practices to help our partners serve this segment in the most efficient, effective manner,
  • Evaluate and disseminate findings from the pilot programs to spread best practices across our partner network and to all practitioners seeking to provide opportunity to ultra poor populations.

Starting in 2011, Unitus Labs released case studies on each partner pilot describing the interventions undertaken and lessons learned about the efficacy of each approach.