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UBS launches international search for trailblazing social innovators

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UBS Social Innovators will select high-potential social enterprises that address some of society’s most pressing challenges and, over the course of a year, support them to scale up their operations and impact

Zurich, 7 July 2016 – UBS is today launching UBS Social Innovators, UBS’s signature global program to select high-potential social enterprises that are delivering innovative solutions to society’s most pressing challenges. The “UBS Social Innovators” will join an Accelerator program in 2017 to help them grow their organizations and achieve greater social impact. This tailored package of support will include access to UBS’s unique network and know-how, global exposure and expert coaching. UBS Social Innovators is being launched with support from Ashoka, global pioneers in the field of social entrepreneurship since 1980.

Eligible social enterprises can be working in any field and tackling a social or environmental issue at any scale from local to international. They must have developed their solutions beyond proof of concept and already be up and running and potentially looking to grow through social investment. Up to 12 shortlisted social enterprises in each participating region will be invited to a two-day Regional Bootcamp, during which they will pitch for a spot in their Regional Final. One social enterprise from each region will earn the title of UBS Social Innovator. They will enter a tailored year-long Accelerator program focused on scaling up their impact and receive a USD 40,000 grant.

UBS Social Innovators is an initiative of UBS and Society, UBS’s cross-divisional platform covering all of UBS’s activities in sustainable investing and philanthropy, environmental and social policies, including supply chain management, and community investment. UBS Social Innovators will build on UBS’s existing support for social entrepreneurs delivered through its programs in Community Affairs, Philanthropy and the Optimus Foundation.

“At UBS, we believe our clients can do well by doing good – that social investments can be profitable investments. But there is a gap: many social enterprises have difficulty growing large enough to become truly investable. We hope to identify innovative social enterprises that are at that difficult point and help them to scale.”

Caroline Anstey
Global Head UBS and Society

The UBS Social Innovators program will be implemented with support from Ashoka, including through three Ashoka Fellows who will act as program ambassadors.

“The partnership between UBS and Ashoka is important. As the rate of change in the world continues to accelerate exponentially, financial and social systems must change profoundly – and much faster. Such change requires the top-caliber social entrepreneurs we will help launch and grow together.”

Bill Drayton
Founder and CEO
For Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Find out more at

Application and selection process

Expressions of interest to enter the program should be submitted via an online form at, after which applicants will receive the official application form with questions organized according to the six selection criteria we will use to evaluate the entries. The deadline for submitting this official application form is 31 August 2016, 23:59 Central European Summer Time.

UBS and Ashoka experts will review all the application forms, provide each applicant with feedback and select a shortlist of 10 to 12 applicants in each region. Shortlisted social enterprises will be announced before the end of September 2016.

Regional Bootcamps and Summits

Regional Bootcamps and Regional Summits will take place as follows:

  • APAC region: Regional Bootcamp and Summit combined on 22 and 23 October 2016 in Singapore
  • EMEA region: Regional Bootcamp on 18 and 19 October 2016 and Regional Summit on 4 November 2016, both in London, United Kingdom
  • Switzerland: Regional Bootcamp on 20 and 21 October 2016 at Ermatingen (Schloss Wolfsberg), Switzerland, and Regional Summit on 3 November 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland

All shortlisted social enterprises will be invited to their region’s Bootcamp, where they will receive mentoring and support from UBS and Ashoka experts to help propel their vision to the next level and introductions to philanthropists and social investors from UBS’s and Ashoka’s unique global networks. Four social enterprises in each region will be selected as Regional Finalists and will attend the Regional Summit.

Each Regional Finalist will benefit from an advanced introduction on social investment, guiding them through the key elements from developing social impact metrics through how to refine their revenue model. They will also get the chance to pitch their social enterprise to be chosen as the UBS Social Innovator in the region, receive a cash grant of USD 40,000 and enter our Accelerator program. The three other Regional Finalists in each region will each receive a cash grant of USD 5,000.

Accelerator program

Together with Ashoka, UBS will build and execute a bespoke 12-month Accelerator program around each UBS Social Innovator, starting in January 2017 and ending December 2017. This will include quarterly meetings with Ashoka, UBS employees and other relevant third parties; a structured program of virtual and in-person workshops on preparing for social investment; 1:1 mentoring and coaching with key stakeholders; presentations to UBS employees, partners and potential investors; and other opportunities as appropriate to each specific organization.

Rewards summary

Three UBS Social Innovators (one per region):

  • Tailored Accelerator program focused on scaling impact and preparing for social investment
  • Network access
  • Mentoring and advice
  • Advanced introduction on preparing for social investment
  • USD 40,000 (each)

Nine runners-up (three per region):

  • Network access
  • Mentoring and advice
  • Advanced introduction on preparing for social investment
  • USD 5,000 (each)

Full details on the program can be found at


UBS is committed to providing private, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as retail clients in Switzerland, with superior financial advice and solutions, while generating attractive and sustainable returns for shareholders. Its strategy centers on its Wealth Management and Wealth Management Americas businesses and its leading universal bank in Switzerland, complemented by its Asset Management business and its Investment Bank. These businesses share three key characteristics: they benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets, are capital-efficient, and offer a superior structural growth and profitability outlook. UBS’s strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates. Capital strength is the foundation of its success.


Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with over 3,500 Ashoka Fellows in 80 countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. Ashoka launched the field of social entrepreneurship and has activated multi-sector partners across the world who increasingly look to entrepreneurial talent and new ideas to solve social problems.

UBS Group AG

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