Learn More About Upaya Social Ventures

1. Tell us about your mission.

Upaya Social Ventures mission is to create dignified jobs for the extreme poor – people living on less that $1.90 per day – by building scalable businesses with investment and consulting support. We bring investment capital, expert capacity building and a powerful network to early-stage entrepreneurs who share our vision of employing the extreme poor.

2. How is The West Foundation supporting our mission?

The West Foundation has been a part of the Upaya community since 2013, supporting the organization’s impact measurement and management program.

3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is The West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?

Upaya has been collecting impact data from the beginning, but with the support of The West Foundation, we have built far more robust system to collect and analyze this data and, more importantly, ensure that our work is in fact generating more jobs for the extreme poor. Being able to count on The West Foundation’s partnership has also enabled us to improve our current dashboard and analysis and share that information publicly on our website.

At the time of The Foundation’s first generous grant to Upaya, we had invested in three companies that had created a cumulative 582 jobs. Today, 7 years into our partnership, we have now invested in 23 companies and who are generating over 17,000 jobs.

4. How are you realizing your potential? 

When we began this year, the Upaya team set an ambitious goal – reach 50,000 jobs for the extreme poor in India. One month after we announced our goal, the Covid-19 pandemic struck, sending India into a nationwide lockdown, and threatening the survival of our portfolio companies and their employees. It is estimated that 395 million people globally may slide back into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic, and more than half of them would be located in South Asia. The situation required that we reexamine our goal and whether it would be possible to attain.

We decided there was only one way to confirm the predictions: interview our jobholders and ask them how the pandemic and resulting lockdown were affecting their daily lives. We discovered that the majority of them are still earning an income through our partner companies and that it is the main source of income for their households. If Upaya’s work means more people will earn an income to feed their families and help them survive this crisis, how can we stop doing everything we can to make that possible?

As the crisis has expanded into not only a health crisis, but an economic one, now is not the time to step back. Now more than ever, we need to invest in more early stage entrepreneurs who can employ the extreme poor. Upaya Social Ventures maintains its commitment to generating 50,000 sustainable, dignified jobs for the poorest of the poor.

5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?

Upaya’s mission is grounded in the fundamental belief that people living in extreme poverty are capable of holding and maintaining steady jobs and, in fact, prefer securing work and fair wages over more traditional forms of short-term aid. That’s why we are committed to generating dignified, sustainable jobs that give people the ability to live self-determined lives.

6. How can people reading this help you?

Your Gift Can Make a Difference – As we strive to push back against this growing crisis, we ask that you consider making a gift to support our efforts to reach 50,000 jobs for the extreme poor. We need to rebuild so many of the livelihoods wiped out by this crisis. Your commitment will help us make even greater progress in preventing people from falling back into poverty. Donate here

Partner With Us – If you or your company invest in early-stage entrepreneurs or want to support poverty alleviation through job creation, please contact us at sbhat-kincaid@upayasv.org.

Tell Your Friends – Please share Upaya’s mission and vision with your network and on social media. Some of our most meaningful partnerships have begun with an introduction from our community.

Keep in Touch – Connect with Upaya on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to follow our progress. You can also subscribe to our mailing list.

7. What are your deepest needs as an organization?

Having learned that our model works in a time of crisis, we at Upaya are doubling down on our commitment to small and growing businesses who can sustainably generate 50,000 jobs for the extreme poor. This effort requires financial support from generous individuals and institutions, and it requires partnerships with like-minded organizations to expand the work. We welcome conversations and opportunities for collaboration in this fight! Contact us at sbhat-kincaid@upayasv.org.


Photo courtesy: Upaya Social Ventures