Unitus Among Nation's Top Social Entrepreneurs in the 2006 Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Awards

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Selected for its work to alleviate poverty by increasing access to microfinance, Unitus to appear in Fast Company’s January 2006 issue.

Unitus, a Redmond, Wash.-based organization that alleviates global poverty by increasing access to microfinance, is among the 25 winners of the 2006 Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Awards.

The program honors non-profits, or “social entrepreneurs,” across the nation who combine creativity and ingenuity with business solutions to address the most challenging social problems today, ranging from poor healthcare in developing nations to unequal education access, homelessness, unemployment and substance abuse in the United States.

Unitus is transforming the lives of poor people worldwide by increasing their access to microfinance products such as microcredit loans, savings plans and insurance. By partnering with the highest-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) and providing them with capital assistance and consulting services, Unitus is helping them serve exponentially more clients. In doing so, Unitus is also demonstrating that MFIs can be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to local capital markets. Unitus’s seven MFI partners currently serve more than 500,000 clients in India, Kenya and Mexico.

“We’re incredibly proud to have been chosen by Fast Company,” said Unitus president and CEO Geoff Davis. “This award validates our strategy of helping microfinance evolve toward a market-based model, and away from a donor-based model, thus enabling our MFI partners to bring microfinance to more people than ever before.”

Unitus and the other 24 award winners will be featured in the January 2006 issue of Fast Company, appearing on newsstands on December 27. (See page three for the complete list of winners.) Winners being announced today include Boston-based ACCION International, a leading global microfinance organization with whom Unitus has recently partnered to create the Unitus-ACCION Alliance for India. Based in the India Microfinance Center in Bangalore, the Alliance will help establish financial services for 15 million of India’s neediest by 2015.

Rigorous Evaluation

Unitus was chosen from a field of 240 Social Capitalist Award nominees. Of the 240 nominees, 125 agreed to participate in an evaluation process, which required them to submit two years of audited financials, tax filings and online surveys and to participate in a 90-minute interview with the nomination board.

Unitus will be recognized at a ceremony in New York City, on Thursday, January 12, 2006. This year, The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, started by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, will pick a winner from the Social Capitalists list to receive a free trip to Davos and join its network of global social entrepreneurs.

Investor’s Guide to Giving

“We applaud the efforts and business acumen of Unitus, which, in addition to its work to reduce poverty worldwide through a commercially successful social investment model, is a business-oriented organization of vision worthy of imitation in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors,” said Mark Vamos, editor of Fast Company.

“By approaching social capitalism in a rigorous, data-driven fashion, our evaluation process reveals the truly amazing nature of Unitus – and all of our winners,” Vamos said. “And while rating non-profits is controversial, Fast Company thinks it is a necessary step for the sector to grow and improve. Frankly it’s a way to see that these excellent organizations get the recognition they deserve.”

Fast Company partners with the Monitor Group, a global strategy-consulting firm, to select the award winners. Monitor Group created the first methodology to compare non-profits of different sizes and ages across social sectors. The Monitor Group manages the evaluation process for the awards program and measures each organization’s work in five categories: social impact, entrepreneurship, innovation, aspiration and growth, and sustainability.

“Prior to the Social Capitalist Awards, no ranking process existed to directly compare these kinds of organizations,” said Mark Fuller, chairman and CEO of Monitor Group. “Our evaluation measures the impact and effectiveness of these non-profits, making the Social Capitalist Awards a robust source of guidance for performance-oriented leaders of such organizations, as well as a donor's guide for those who want their charitable dollars to get the highest ‘social’ return possible.”

About Unitus

Unitus is a global microfinance accelerator that acts as a social venture capital investor for the microfinance industry. Unitus identifies the highest-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) in developing countries and helps accelerate their growth through capital investments and capacity-building consulting, thus empowering them to help exponentially more poor people worldwide. In doing so, Unitus aims to demonstrate that MFIs can be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to local capital markets. As of October 2005, Unitus had seven MFI partners worldwide serving more than 500,000 poor clients. Based in Redmond, Washington, USA, and with an office in Bangalore, India, Unitus relies on innovative financial instruments, and the financial resources of like-minded individuals and foundations, to fulfill its mission. Unitus received the 2006 Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Award for taking an innovative, entrepreneurial, business-minded approach to alleviating global poverty. For more information about Unitus, please visit: http://www.unitus.com.

About Fast Company and Monitor Group

Fast Company, founded in 1996, is a magazine for and about the creative class. It is a journal of change and changemakers — dynamic, compelling leaders in both the for-profit and non-profit spheres who are making dramatic innovations to shape the future. Visit http://www.fastcompany.com for more information. The Monitor Group is a family of professional services firms, linked by shared ownership, management philosophy, and knowledge assets. Each entity in Monitor's global network is dedicated to providing products and services that fundamentally enhance the competitiveness of its clients. Visit http://www.monitor.com for more information.

The 2006 Social Capitalist Awards winners are:

  • ACCION International (Boston, Mass.)
  • BELL (Dorchester, Mass.)
  • Calvert Social Investment Foundation (Bethesda, Md.)
  • Citizen Schools (Boston, Mass.)
  • City Year (Boston, Mass.)
  • College Summit, Inc. (Washington, D.C.)
  • First Book (Washington, D.C.)
  • Grameen Foundation USA (Washington, D.C.)
  • Heifer International (Little Rock, Ark.)
  • Housing Partnership Network, Inc. (Boston, Mass.)
  • Jumpstart (Boston, Mass.)
  • KickStart (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • New Community Corp. (Newark, N.J.)
  • New Leaders for New Schools (New York, N.Y.)
  • PATH (Seattle, Wash.,)
  • Pioneer Human Services (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Raising a Reader (Menlo Park, Calif.)
  • Rare (Arlington, Va.)
  • Room to Read (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • Rubicon Programs Inc. (Richmond, Calif.)
  • Teach for America (New York, N.Y.)
  • Transfair USA (Oakland, Calif.)
  • Unitus (Redmond, Wash.)
  • WITNESS (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Working Today (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

For more information about the Social Capitalists Awards program, visit http://www.fastcompany.com.

Contacts:     

Robert Lowry

PR Associate                            

Unitus                            

425-881-2574

Carol Schuler

Haberman & Associates, Inc.    

612-372-6451

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UNITUS
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