We are committed to supporting the local communities in which we work: Dhun Davar, UBS


Dhun Davar, Interview with UBS Optimus Foundation Global Head of Social Finance and India Head of UBS Optimus Foundation and Philanthropy Services Rusen Kumar, India CSR. She shared how UBS Optimus Foundation India aims for India. She says, “We are committed to supporting the local communities in which we work. Our goal is to leverage philanthropic capital to catalyze public and private finance towards development results aligned with the SDGs. Text of the interview:

1. How is UBS mobilizing the Optimus Foundation presence in India?

UBS Optimus Foundation India aims to bring together philanthropists, businesses and civil society organizations to address education quality, health, economic growth, inequality and environmental issues. We believe that a collaborative approach will create an ecosystem that will benefit the most vulnerable groups. We intend to be recognized as an innovator, thought leader and collaborator of choice for impactful philanthropy and sustainable business practices.

All philanthropists want their giving to have maximum impact, and we’ve learned that a focus on evidence, scale, and innovative funding can achieve this.

How will Optimus Foundation use philanthropy as a catalyst in India?

In India, almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line with health, environmental and educational problems. Current philanthropy will only meet 3% of India’s needs to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Additionally, there is a lack of alignment on “what does success look like when ‘a philanthropic donation is made’. Funding is often provided for short-term projects that do not address systemic challenges with the time and rigor needed to address them and bring about lasting change. There is a mismatch between geographical allocation and needs and a weak correlation between expenditure and results. We want to apply our global experience and local knowledge to transform the approach to philanthropy.

Our three-pronged approach unleashes the catalytic effect of philanthropy. The Optimus Foundation in India helps like-minded philanthropists and businesses build a philanthropic legacy. They can leverage the expertise of our global and local team to innovate and create “business for good” models and develop tailored programs. We offer our consulting services through philanthropy workshops, contributions on high-impact models, exchanges of good practices.

We layer this on top of our integrated philanthropic approach where we bring together the skills and networks of businesses and employees who are addressing capacity challenges in the nonprofit sector. This pooling of funds and skills allows for a longer-term commitment to complex issues.

How does Optimus Foundation plan to partner with major NGO partners in India?

Over the years, Optimus Foundation has built a strong base in India and is already working with some of the most credible and reputable NGO partners in India.

We are keen to nurture our portfolio of grantees who are long-time partners of the Optimus Foundation’s global network as well as local grassroots organizations. We are open to promising models that are worth piloting and incubating. We hope to learn together and support our partners in scaling these innovations so that we can have a lasting impact.

How will Optimus Foundation create opportunities and improvements for India through India Chapter?

We hope that our efforts will bring about lasting improvement in India in sectors such as health, education and environment and enable Indians to earn a living on a large scale.

We also aim to create better lives for young people and children in partnership with other like-minded organizations and philanthropists where there is momentum on evidence-based philanthropy and a culture of giving back. We aim to leverage technology to bridge the divide and improve access to information. Additionally, we hope to share the learnings and experiences of running impactful employee volunteer programs that not only provide employees with an appropriate way to donate their time and skills for social good, but help expand philanthropic contribution. .

How has Optimus Foundation supported multiple sectors in India since 2002?

Sustainability and social impact have long been part of our corporate culture. Since 2002, Optimus Foundation has provided INR 350 crore (USD 47 million) for programs in India. This has increased steadily over the years, increasing significantly over the past five years. Our total funding in 2020 is more than 6 times that of 2015.

Grants span several sectors, but the majority are in education, with an increasing focus on health and child protection. These programs have benefited 4.0 million children and nearly 240,000 professionals have been trained in various sectors since 2015.

What activities have been planned since the incorporation of Optimus Foundation in India?

Our first goal was to extend all support in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with clients and employees, UBS has committed more than $4.2 million to counter the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic in India through the UBS Optimus Foundation. Our response plan focused on immediate relief, recovery and long-term resilience building in healthcare and education.

Some of the key programs supported by the Optimus Foundation in India are accelerating vaccinations for vulnerable people; strengthen the capacity of health workers to improve the use of vaccines; improve the socio-emotional well-being and learning outcomes of children and young people in marginalized areas.

Optimus Foundation also brings to life the organization’s goal of connecting people for a better world by providing multiple volunteering opportunities for UBS India employees where they contribute to a cause to which they are strongly connected. In 2021, our employees have already contributed 7000 hours with 90% volunteering in skills activities and 100% virtually. In consultation with our partners, many innovations have been added to amplify the power of remote volunteering.

We recently wrapped up the UBS India CSR Day and APAC Regional Volunteering Experience which offered a web of volunteering opportunities for UBS employees. All initiatives centered on the central theme of ’empowerment’ and were carefully organized according to the requirements of our NGO partners. Our employees have helped create digital toolkits for teachers, addressed technology challenges faced by people with disabilities, provided career advice for young people, and created a digital library of storybooks to reduce learning gaps for children in need. We are grateful to our NGO partners for giving us these opportunities where we can make a difference.

What are the Optimus Foundation 6-12 month plans for India?

Over the next 6-12 months, Optimus Foundation will continue to build on programs initiated in India and will also identify other unique models and partnerships where financial support will expand access to quality education and economic growth. which will help to reduce inequalities.

Through our philanthropy advisory services, we will collaborate with other philanthropists and foundations seeking to contribute to a thematic area of ​​common strategic interest.

What is the purpose behind the expansion of social sector involvement and social finance in India for the next 20 years?

We are committed to supporting the local communities in which we work. Our goal is to leverage philanthropic capital to catalyze public and private finance towards development results aligned with the SDGs.

Although social finance may not be suitable for all social or environmental programs, the right interventions can help multiply the impact of philanthropic giving. UBS Optimus Foundation is a pioneer in investing in successful models and actively develops and pilots social finance instruments globally. The Quality Education Development Impact Bond launched in India from 2018 to 2022 is the world’s largest education impact bond to date. The initiative has already benefited 100,000 children, with a program target of 200,000. The unprecedented scale of the challenge to achieve the SDGs calls for a broader commitment of capital and collaboration within philanthropy and the investment community.

About the Author

Rusen Kumar is the Founder and CEO of India CSR – The CSR Informer of India. He writes regularly on CSR, sustainability and environmental affairs. He brings an understanding of governance, leadership development, social development, human development and strategic direction while serving on boards of directors. His leadership achievements in social enterprise, planning and governance range from viable accomplishments in knowledge forum initiatives to advancing corporate social responsibility issues in India. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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