Jacob Lief, Ubuntu Pathways Founder and CEO, said in an announcement today; “I am proud to announce that Ubuntu Pathways has been named as one of the three honorees of the Barry and Marie Lipman Family Prize, an award based at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School. This award is a testament to our powerful global blueprint for transforming lives and our impact in the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In addition to a monetary prize, we will receive a unique opportunity to partner with the University and to strengthen our organization. Our team has been transforming lives for the past 19 years, and we couldn’t do it without a community of supporters like you. Thank you for being part of our vision.”
The Barry Marie Lipman Family Prize is made possible through a generous gift from Barry Lipman and his wife Marie and reflects their own strong commitment to socially responsible organizations and action.
The Prize is administered by the University of Pennsylvania through the Wharton School and engages faculty, staff, and students from across the University.
Now in its seventh year, the Lipman Family Prize received applications from over 100 organizations dedicated to a range of global causes including economic development, education, environmental sustainability, financial services, gender equality, health care, human rights, food security, legal aid, poverty alleviation, and workers rights.
The Lipman Family Prize honoree package includes:
- A $250,000 unrestricted cash award for the winning organization and $50,000 for each of the two other honorees.
- An ongoing partnership with the University dedicated to knowledge sharing and support of the organization. This includes promotion of their work and accomplishments in the Lipman Prize network of
- organizations, Penn faculty and alumni, and social impact funders.
- Access to tuition-free executive education programs at Wharton Executive Education and the Center for Social Impact Strategy, valued at approximately $15,000.
- The exclusive Lipman Nonprofit Leadership Scholarship, given in partnership with the University’s School of Public Policy and Practice, valued at approximately $10,000
All three honorees for the Lipman Family Prize receive the same non-monetary benefits. Together with the University of Pennsylvania, each year’s honorees will help to build new knowledge, resources, and solutions for the social sector.
The three honorees for 2018 – myAgro, Operation Asha and Ubuntu Pathways – were chosen after rigorous evaluation by a committee of faculty, students and staff spanning across the University. Wharton values building relationships with honorees and are passionate about getting to know these change-makers around the world.
Ubuntu Pathways (formerly Ubuntu Education Fund) breaks the cycle of poverty by providing South Africa’s most vulnerable children with what all children deserve––everything, every day. Based out of their state-of-the-art headquarters in Port Elizabeth‘s townships, Ubuntu provides an integrated support system of health, education, and social support, from cradle to career. Ubuntu has redefined mainstream development models by focusing on the depth rather than breadth of their impact on a community of 400,000. Their innovative approach has created a blueprint for community transformation around the world, highlighting the difference between merely touching a life and fundamentally changing it.
Since its inception in 1999, Ubuntu has grown into a thriving community institution in the heart of Port Elizabeth‘s townships as well as a global model for poverty alleviation, garnering recognition from the likes of the World Economic Forum and the Aspen Institute. The Ubuntu Centre, their 24,000 square-feet state-of-the-art health and education facility houses everything children need to thrive: a pediatric clinic, an on-site pharmacy, a community theater, the region’s first early education center, computer labs, a vocational training hub, age-appropriate classrooms, and a counseling wing.
- After just four years of joining Ubuntu, 82% of their clients are on-track toward stable health and employment.
- Every $1 invested in an Ubuntu child yields a real lifetime earnings increase of $8.70.
- In a region where 1 out of 3 pregnant mothers is HIV-positive, 100% of HIV-positive expectant mothers at Ubuntu give birth to healthy, virus-free babies.
- HIV-positive clients at Ubuntu’s clinic adhere to their treatment plans at a rate of 91%, compared to that of 57% in the townships.
- Annually, Ubuntu serves more than 400 clients with life-saving HIV treatment and support and delivers over 12,000 health services and over 2,000 psychosocial interventions.
- Each year, Ubuntu provides up to 400 hours of world-class early education, ensuring 100% of their toddlers graduate prepared for primary school
- Ubuntu’s scholars have an average matric pass rate of 90%, qualifying them to attend university, compared to the 37% pass rate in the Eastern Cape.
- 68% of out-of-school youth secure rewarding employment through Ubuntu’s Job Skills Training program and an opportunity pipeline that includes top corporate recruiting partners in the area.
- 95% of Ubuntu’s staff comes from the communities they serve and 80% of their management positions are filled by African women.
South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries. Abject poverty is pervasive, and a widening gap between the rich and poor permeates society. With over 7 million people living with HIV, the country has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world. In the townships of Port Elizabeth, entrenched disparities amplify even further. These underdeveloped settlements—an enduring reminder of apartheid’s systemic segregation—are home to some of the most impoverished communities in the world. The region has the highest infant mortality rate in South Africa. An estimated 78% of children live in poverty, 40% of students do not graduate from high school, and youth unemployment hovers as high as 80%. Due to the absence of opportunities, families face deep-rooted barriers to healthy and stable lives, but Ubuntu has professionalized a grassroots service delivery model that places communities on a pathway out of poverty. Shifting away from traditional development approaches that focus on one-off interventions, Ubuntu implements an integrated, long-term strategy to sustainably break the cycle of poverty.
The Ubuntu Model, their revolutionary theory of change, encompasses four guiding tenets:
- Cradle to Career: Commit to a lifetime of change
- Impact through Depth: Focus on lives transformed, not lives touched
- For the Community. By the Community: Trust those closest to the problem to create the solution
- Built to Last: Invest in an institution that will stand the test of time.
Jacob Lief’s first big challenge came the day he realized school supplies and computer labs couldn’t produce the meaningful difference he set out to make in the lives of South African children.
When he and a local school teacher, Malizole “Banks” Gwaxula, launched Ubuntu Education Fund in Port Elizabeth in 1999, their goal was to help orphaned and vulnerable children go to university. “Apartheid was over, and everyone could go to school, but these kids were living in shacks. Non-profits like ours were providing computers and cups of soup, and then moving on. How was that going to get people to college?”
Lief and Gwaxula wanted to do something more substantial, so they set up a pilot program with libraries and computer centers in local schools, where kids could come every day. But no matter how many hours the students spent with Ubuntu, they were returning to poverty-stricken, often abusive homes every night. Many had lost one or both parents to HIV, or had parents who were children themselves. To get home, they walked through neighborhoods where they were in constant danger of being mugged, assaulted, and raped.
“It became apparent that grade eight was too late to start,” said Lief. “We realized that we needed to start during the first trimester of pregnancy. We must invest in these children every day of their lives, and that starts by stabilizing their home.”
Lief’s second big challenge was to stop focusing on numbers. Early on, Ubuntu’s wildly successful fundraising efforts were linked to touching the lives of as many children as possible, rather than transforming their lives.
“We were winning awards and raising tons of money, but that money was based on quantity, not quality. It was like drug money. It was killing our souls, and it took us five years to wean ourselves off it,” he explained. “We realized our goal was to raise children, not money. There is no exit plan when it comes to a child’s upbringing. True sustainability comes from investing in a child every day of her life.”
Often challenged as to how Ubuntu can reach more children for less money, Lief points out that we never ask that question about our own children. “Subpar supplies and poor infrastructure is not better than nothing. The promise of resources and education can raise expectations. Providing a poor quality product after raising these expectations can do more harm than good. I would not accept this for my own children, we shouldn’t accept it in the townships of Port Elizabeth. The mind shift is to invest in these kids the same way we invest in our own children. That is the only way we will begin to break the cycle of poverty.”
Based on those early learnings, Ubuntu’s focus has pivoted from providing a little bit of help to a lot of children to providing “everything, every day” to 2000 children from “cradle to career” at their world-class health and education center in the heart of Port Elizabeth. Now called Ubuntu Pathways, the 19-year old organization works with each client individually to provide them with whatever they need to succeed, from school books to mental health counseling to HIV treatment to locks for their doors at home.
“If you need glasses to see the chalkboard, we don’t say, ‘We’re not a vision organization.’ We get you glasses,” Lief explained.
Though Ubuntu no longer focuses on traditional quantitative measures, their quality-based numbers continue to impress. In a community where one in three people is HIV-positive, 100% of expecting HIV-positive mothers in the Ubuntu community give birth to virus-free babies. Within four years of joining Ubuntu, 82% of clients are on track toward stable health and employment. In a region where 80% of youth are unemployed, 68% of Ubuntu graduates secure employment. The organization is currently sending 12 to 15 students to college each year.
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