What we fund

We're constantly working with our partners and extensive network to find, develop and fund new programs with the potential to be transformative, scalable and sustainable. The following are just some examples of how we are achieving powerful results by working together.


A fight for freedom

Bringing partners together to end slavery

We’re collaborating with the Freedom Fund in its fight against child trafficking and modern slavery. The Freedom Fund brings private philanthropy to the front line of the grassroots organizations fighting trafficking in their own communities. And it maximizes impact by bringing those organizations together around collective objectives.

46 million

people are enslaved around the world.


of the world’s sex trafficking industry is in Asia.


of workers in the commercial sex industry are children under the age of 18.


The problem

Every part of the world is plagued by the sex trafficking industry, but 66% of the burden falls on Asia, and huge numbers of children are suffering the terrible consequences. Over the past fifteen years, Nepal has seen a dramatic rise in sex work in the Kathmandu Valley. This has also led to an increase in the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), an internationally recognized form of modern slavery.

At least half of all workers in the commercial sex industry are children under 18, and often those over 18 entered the sector as minors. A UN-funded study in 2011 estimated that more than 26,000 girls and women are working in the sector, 41% of them located in the Kathmandu Valley.

The partner

The Freedom Fund partners with frontline organizations to combat slavery directly in defined regions with a high concentration of slavery. They do this by setting up "hotspot" programs – clusters of the most effective community-based organizations in these regions. Partnering with these organizations in some of the world's poorest and most marginalized communities is difficult, demanding, and time intensive. But it is also one of the most effective ways to achieve large-scale and sustainable change.


Some things should not be for sale

Especially people…

Child slavery continues in the fishing industry around Lake Volta in Ghana using children as young as six. It is driven by a lack of parental awareness of what happens to their children, a lack of economic alternatives, and the relative impunity with which traffickers operate. Challenging Heights was established by a former child slave, James Kofi Annan. His story of determination and courage is behind its work to rescue and rehabilitate child slaves, and to work with communities and the government to prevent the cycle of trafficking.

Meet James. The founder of Challenging Heights

I worked as a child fisherman in more than 20 villages between the ages of six and 13, when I finally escaped. I was tortured and abused in various forms. On a daily basis, my working day started at 3am, and ended at 8pm, and was full of physically demanding work. I was usually fed once a day and would regularly contract painful diseases which were never treated. I was first trafficked with five other children out of the six of us; three lived, and three did not. I saw many children die from either abuse or the rigorous work they were forced to do.

James Kofi Annan, founder Challenging Heights

The problem

The 2016 Trafficking in Person Report indicates Ghana is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. An estimated 103,000 Ghanaians live in conditions of modern slavery according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index Report. A 2013 study on child labor in Lake Volta fishing (International Labor Organization / International Program on Elimination of Child Labor) estimated 49,000 children were working on Lake Volta, with 21,000 forced to work in highly dangerous conditions.

The partner

Challenging Heights is a Ghanaian grassroots NGO working to prevent child trafficking, reduce child slavery, and promote children's rights. James Kofi Annan, who was a child slave on Lake Volta from age six to 13, fought to get an education and became a banker before giving it up to return to his community and fight slavery. Over twelve years, Challenging Heights has successfully rescued and supported 1,600 victims of slavery in the fishing industry on Lake Volta.

Until the last person is free, none of us are free – hear from James

Going home

An end to child institutionalization

The evidence is clear. The best place for children to grow up is in a family. Most children in “orphanages” are not orphans. And they’re at huge risk of being neglected and exploited. Along with our inspiring partners, we’re pursuing alternatives. Rather than maintaining a broken system, philanthropy can act as a catalyst for positive long-term change. Change that keeps and brings children home.

The problem

The precise number of children in institutions is unknown – the sad fact is that no one counts them. Official statistics from 2017 record 2.7 million children living institutions, but this is likely a “small fraction” according to UNICEF. A 2006 widely cited UNICEF estimate put the number at 8 million. The children who end up at orphanages are usually there as a result of poverty or a desire for education, not as a result of being orphaned.

The partners

Together with frontline partners, advocacy organizations and knowledge networks, we’re creating sustainable and innovative evidence-based models of family-based care. Here are some of the partners we’re supporting within our families not orphans portfolio.

  • Lumos helps international philanthropists, governments and communities redirect funds from orphanages to services that allow children to be raised in loving families. We’re supporting their efforts to understand the sources of funding to orphanages and develop evidence-based strategies to redirect it.
  • Better Care Network is an international network of organizations committed to supporting children without adequate family care. The Network fosters collaboration, research and information sharing. We’re supporting them in developing a toolkit to help the travel industry move away from orphanage “voluntourism.”
  • Child’s i Foundation is working to transform Ugandan orphanages into family support centers, reintegrating children into loving homes. We’re supporting Child’s i’s work in two districts in Uganda to demonstrate that there is a viable alternative to orphanages.

Thinking of supporting an orphanage? Think again and here is why.


Back to school for good

Preparing out-of-school kids to return to school

Voice from the field

Lousis Johnson’s parents died of Ebola in 2014 and she was forced to drop out of grade two. Lousis is now excited to be back at school as part of Second Chance's catch-up class program in Liberia. She says:

I am just happy to be among my friends in class again. The class is so interesting I think I am learning more new things. If I continue going to school I am sure I will be a lawyer one day.

250 million children globally are illiterate and innumerate, of which 130 million are in school and not learning. Second Chance develops best-in-class education innovations and drives system change working with children in greatest need to help them learn and thrive.

The problem

  • Pupil-teacher ratio in Ethiopian Government schools is 54:1
  • Lebanon, which has a population of 4 million, hosts 1.5 million displaced Syrians, including 250,000 out-of-school children. This adds strain to an already over-burdened public school system
  • Following civil war and the Ebola outbreak, Liberia has the second-highest rate of out-of-school children in the world, with 62% of primary-school-age children out of school

The partner

  • The Luminos Fund is a private donor philanthropic fund designed to develop and scale initiatives which help out-of-school children get back to school and learn.
  • It was incubated by the Legatum Foundation and is founded on a core belief in the power of private philanthropy to drive innovation in education


Knowledge is power

Transforming the way education is funded in India

Together with the British Asian Trust, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Tata Trusts, we're supporting a US$11m Development Impact Bond (DIB) to improve education in India. To date it's the largest impact bond, globally, for education, aiming to improve learning outcomes for more than 300,000 children in India and transform the way education in the country is funded. Such models offer the potential to unlock vast new sums from governments, private investors and foundations (approximately US$2 trillion), to help achieve the ambitious United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).

The problem

The primary education system in India suffers from poor learning outcomes. While campaigns initiated by the Millennium Development Goals have vastly improved enrolment: 96.7% of children (aged 6-14) are now enrolled in school in rural India, many Indian children still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills due to poor quality of education. A typical student is at least two grades behind the level that is expected for their age and by Grade 5, less than 50% of children can read a Grade 2 level Hindi text.

The objectives 

  • Increase financial flows to high-quality programs that deliver improvements in learning outcomes
  • Maximize educational outcomes by establishing robust monitoring frameworks and accountability mechanisms
  • Demonstrate the benefits of innovative financing mechanisms and operating models to government to create a systemic change in the Indian educational system.

The partners

Gyanshala, Kaivalya Education Foundation, a Piramal initiative, and the Society for All Round Development – all selected for their diverse and proven interventions – will work within the DIB mechanism to improve learning outcomes for thousands of children. UBS Optimus Foundation is the risk investor that will provide the working capital for the programs and will be repaid by the outcome funders once verified outcomes have been achieved. The outcome funders are the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, with Tata Trusts, The Mittal Foundation, British Telecom and Comic Relief providing funding through British Asian Trust.

Outcomes of the program will be assessed by an independent evaluator, Gray Matters India. Dalberg Global Advisors serves as program manager and will work together with local NGOs to maximize outcomes. The UK Government, through the Department for International Development (DFID), is also providing technical assistance to the program, including funding for program management, legal advice, learning and evaluation.

I am delighted by the launch of the Quality Education India DIB. This is a very serious group of organizations and people with the shared aim to improve education in India. This landmark financial instrument applies an entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy and is likely to change the lives of over 300,000 children in India by driving up standards in literacy and numeracy. If the potential of this type of funding is unleashed, it could improve the lives of generations to come too. This Government strives to see the best possible outcomes for the money invested. Every rupee to be spent in this DIB aligns with one goal: improving the quality of education. This type of outcome-based funding is fundamental for driving quality and improving learning outcomes in the education sector. Very good luck and I look forward to seeing the successes of this in the years to come.

Shri Arun Jaitley, Honourable Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Government of India

Building on a successful pilot

The Education DIB Fund builds on the experience and success of the world's first Education DIB, which was launched in 2015 with the support of UBS Optimus Foundation.

It was set up to provide, and improve, education in rural India by increasing the enrolment rate of girls and improving learning outcomes for girls and boys in the district of Bhilwara in rural Rajasthan.

The target population was about 18,000 children, in 166 government schools. The enrolment of out-of-school girls into government primary schools, as well as learning outcomes across girls and boys in Grades 3-5 were measured over the 3 years of implementation from 2015 to 2018.

It achieved 116% of the enrollment target and 160% of the learning target in its final year.


Illness is universal. Healthcare is not.

A partnership to ensure a health worker for everyone, everywhere, every day

Did you know that one billion people globally don't have access to the basic healthcare we all take for granted, that annually more than six million children die due to a lack of basic health solutions that cost less than a cup of coffee, or that children still die at 20 times greater rates in remote and underserved areas in Bangladesh, Liberia and Uganda than in Switzerland, the UK, the US or Hong Kong? This is unacceptable and together we can change this.

Experience remote Liberia

The problem

In Liberia, 29% of people live more than one hour's walk (or 5 km) from a health facility. Insufficient attention has been paid to improving the performance of community health workers (CHW). Though more than 100,000 CHWs have been deployed globally, few formal, real-time monitoring and evaluations have been conducted to see how CHWs can best be used to save lives.

The partner

Last Mile Health (LMH) was founded in 2007 to bring a health worker to every Liberian who lives too far from the nearest health center. LMH has 180 employees, of whom over 90% are African. Focusing implementation primarily in remote villages that are often deemed inaccessible by other agencies, LMH trains community members to become professionalized CHWs, manages and supports them, and makes sure they have the supplies they need.

These talented men and women are deployed in their own villages to recognize and treat diseases like malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia in children, and offer antenatal care and support to pregnant women.

Last Mile Health clinical supervisor Doris talks about her job


Maternal and newborn health

the world’s first health development impact bond

While India has seen a significant reduction in maternal and newborn mortality rates over the past 25 years, the rates are still high by global standards.

Maternal mortality

244 per 100,000 live births

Newborn mortality

47 per 1,000 live births

Maternal mortality and newborn mortality rates are

47% and 14%
above national average respectively


An estimated

babies die every year in Rajasthan


The new UBS Optimus Foundation Maternal and Newborn Health DIB is focused on improving healthcare in Rajasthan, which has one of the highest mortality rates for mothers and babies of any state in India. It'll support government efforts to reduce such deaths by improving access to, and the quality of care in, up to 440 private facilities. It's expected up to 600,000 pregnant women will be reached with improved care saving thousands of lives.

The partners

For the Utkrisht bond, the upfront funder, UBS Optimus Foundation, provides the initial working capital so the implementing partners – PSI and HLFPPT – can begin their work with the private facilities in Rajasthan. In a further innovation all implementation partners are also co-investors, between the three of them contributing more than 20% of the capital requirement. All parties will be treated equally, fully aligning the risks and rewards.

The outcome payers – USAID and MSD for Mothers – will pay back the investor the original amount invested, plus additional returns if predetermined targets are met. Any return will be reinvested into further impactful development programs. Progress will be assessed regularly by independent verifier Mathematica throughout the three-year program.

The impact bond was designed by Palladium, who will also act as the implementation manager throughout the three-year term.

We look forward to working with the Maternal and Newborn Health Development Impact Bond team and the private health facilities to enhance quality and develop the flexibility and the trust to allow services to be provided outside the public sector. In this way, impact bonds and their emphasis on results will benefit the public sector – and, of course, new mothers and their children.

Naveen Jain, Secretary for Rajasthan Ministry of Health and Mission Director of the National Health Mission