Visionaris – UBS Award for Social Entrepreneurs

The UBS Visionaris Social Entrepreneurship Award was created in 2004 to recognize the work of leading social entrepreneurs in Mexico who are using innovative approaches to solve social problems. The award is organized annually in collaboration with Ashoka, an international NGO that promotes social entrepreneurs globally. A winner and three finalists are selected by an award committee comprised of Mexican philanthropists and the award itself is handed out at a special ceremony attended by more than 150 people. In 2017 AlphaMundi, a new partner joined the Visionaris initiative. AlphaMundi Group Ltd is a Swiss consulting firm specialized in impact investing which was founded in 2008.

Through Visionaris, social entrepreneurs acquire four types of capital, the combination of which can act as catalysts for their social change activities:

  • Financial capital: Visionaris grants USD 25,000 to the winner and USD 5,000 to each of the three finalists. The funds have been used for projects which have been strategic for the future of these organizations.
  • Social capital: The award ceremony gives finalists the opportunity to meet potential donors and share experiences and best practices with their peers, as well as experts. The media also publishes information regarding their initiatives.
  • Symbolic capital: Visionaris recognizes the work carried out by social entrepreneurs and motivates them to continue with their social change efforts.
  • Intellectual capital: Prior to the meeting of the selection committee, finalists are trained on project assessment, effective fundraising and tips on how to best present their initiatives. The winner will receive a pro bono consulting service provided by one of the leading global consulting firms. The thematic of the service will be according to the area of ​​opportunity identified by the entrepreneur and the company.

From left to right, Visionaris 2017 winners Edgar Martínez of Biodent and Peter Bloom of Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias and finalists Juan José Consejo of INSO and Mary Delano of México Tierra de Amaranto

Each year the Visionaris winner is selected by an award committee consisting of clients and prospects and two UBS executives. The award ceremony was held in Mexico City and attended by 150 philanthropists and members of civil society in Mexico.

With 14 events in Mexico so far, Visionaris has become a fundamental part of the country’s philanthropic community. Philanthropists interested in backing innovative approaches to solving social problems see Visionaris as a pillar on which they can build their philanthropic practice. When one Mexican philanthropist was asked about his participation in the Visionaris award committee he said, "It was an honor to be a part of this jury. All the projects were excellent and I would like to thank UBS and Ashoka for giving me the opportunity to learn about these social change initiatives."

2017 UBS Visionaris Social Entrepreneurship Award winners and finalists

In 2017 we have the exceptional situation of two Visionaris winners because of a tie in the votes of the jury.

Winner 1: Peter Bloom
Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias


Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias (TIC AC) is a non governmental organization that provides access to mobile phone service for communities that don't have access because the big cel phone companies consider it too expensive to connect them because they are too remote. This is the case for 50,000 communities in Mexico mostly in indigenous areas. TIC AC is structured in a way that the communities themselves participate and manage the cel phone service directly after having received training and the average cost is only 40 pesos (2.15 USD) a month. Currently the service is operating in 20 remote communities in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. TIC AC was also able to receive from the Mexican government the first ever concession to operate and administrate indigenous telecommunication and radiodifusion networks in Mexico, in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Puebla and Guerrero.

Winner 2: Edgar Martínez
Biodent – Sonrisas sin Fronteras


Biodent / Sonrisas sin Fronteras is an organization that provides education on dental care to children at the base of the pyramid in kindergardens and primary schools in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. They also created the Biodent dental clinics where people can get cheap dental care with the most sophisticated laser technology without annoying sounds and without anaestesia. Dental health is a national health problem in Mexico as most of the population can not afford to go to the private dentists and government service is totally inadequate.

Finalist: Juan José Consejo
Instituto de la Naturaleza y la Sociedad de Oaxaca, A.C. (INSO)


INSO accompanies communities in Oaxaca in initiatives of nature conservancy and social well-being through the promotion of multi-sector alliances and sustainable techniques mostly in the field of the adequate management of water resources, supply and use. They combine traditional indigenous techniques and knowledge with modern sustainable techniques. They have a center to educate in these techniques and promote making cities green again and avoid deforestation and desertification.

Finalist: Mary Delano
México Tierra de Amaranto, A.C.


México Tierra de Amaranto uses the amaranth grain as a strategy to improve nutrition, health and living conditions in rural communities. They create synergies with all sectors of society to put amaranth again on the table in Mexico, which was a sacred grain of the Aztecs and has fallen in disuse. If you consume amaranth, it regulates your glucose and plasma cholesterol, ensures excellent nutrition and can be considered in the treatment of obesity. They have taken the culture of sowing and self-consumption of amaranth in backyards to 150 communities. They have installed in the homes of 190 families cisterns of 12,000 liters that now capture rainwater in 22 communities. México Tierra de Amaranto installed 15 micro greenhouses in 2 communities. 70 children and 25 diabetic women are in a test program with a diet rich in amaranth that are showing results with improvement in glucose index, immune system, height and weight. They employ 29 active promoters with an average income of 1,550 pesos a month.

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