UBS partners with Ashoka in Latin America

On 27, 28 and 29 September this year, outstanding social entrepreneurs in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina each received up to $25,000 as winners of UBS and Ashoka’s Visionaris Social Entrepreneurship Prize.[1] The prize is part of an expanding partnership between UBS and Ashoka, and this partnership is in turn part of UBS Philanthropy Services, through which UBS helps its high-net-worth clients to develop effective philanthropy.

The partnership between one of the world’s largest private banks and the organization  that pioneered the concept of social entrepreneurship began last year, when the first Visionaris prize was awarded in Mexico City. The idea is to identify mature Ashoka fellows who need ‘next stage’ funding. The main benefit for the social entrepreneurs is not so much the prize itself as the fact that groups of finalists are introduced to UBS clients. In the long term, the plan is to scale the scheme to the rest of Latin America and possibly to another region of the world. UBS and Ashoka make ideal partners as both have a global reach.

The second strand of the UBS-Ashoka partnership – and undoubtedly the more challenging one – involves considering what structures are needed for financing the most effective social entrepreneurs and developing suitable financial services.

How does the partnership with Ashoka fit into the wider scheme of things at UBS? Although UBS does have a CSR arm, Philanthropy Services is actually part of the business side of the Bank, one of its wealth management services for individual clients. The aim is to help the Bank’s high-net-worth clients develop effective philanthropy – increasingly something that private banks are taking on. Clients seem to want to be advised by banks on this subject, while the banks in turn prefer that their wealthiest clients should receive advice from them rather than go elsewhere for it.

UBS works with clients at very different stages of their giving – with ‘greenfield’ philanthropists, who have made donations before but not in a very structured way; with clients who already have a foundation but are not fully satisfied with what it’s doing; and with larger clients, who often have a trust already but want to look at other options to achieve social impact – but in each case the question to be addressed is the same: ‘How can I give more effectively?’ The partnership with Ashoka is an attempt to find part of the answer to that question. Especially for some of the Bank’s younger generation of clients, the idea of supporting successful social entrepreneurs is a very appealing and potentially highly leveraged way of using their money to achieve social change.

1 In Brazil, six winners each received 25,000 Reais. In Mexico, the winner received $25,000 and four finalists received $5,000 each. In Argentina, the winner received $20,000 and three finalists each received $5,000.

For more information contact Dr Maximilian Martin, Head, UBS Philanthropy Services, at

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