Philanthropy Action

News & Commentary


Given that stories about the SKS IPO and the Unitus shutdown, how the two are interrelated and what it all means for the social entrepreneurship community are spread across the web, I thought it would be useful to publish a mostly comprehensive guide here. Please suggest anything that I’ve missed in the comments. I’ll add to it as I see new material.

1) AP story on the SKS IPO and the general debate

2) WSJ story on the SKS IPO and the general debate

3) Unitus Announcement from July 2nd

4) “Closure of Popular Poverty-Fighting Charity Raises Big Questions“ by Ben Gose in the Chronicle of Philanthropy

5) Unitus Update (Tactical Philanthropy post on the email sent out by Joseph Grenny of Unitus to answer questions about the shutdown)

6) “Unitus donors seeking answers about switch“ by Clay Holtzmann in the Puget Sound Business Journal

7) “High Profile Donors Asking Questions About Profits That Could Be Coming to Charity Unitus“ by Clay Holtzman at

8) “Unitus-linked investors see return estimate on India firm rise“ by Clay Holtzman in the Puget Sound Business Journal

9) “Unitus fund to cash out on Indian IPO“ a blog post by Clay Holtzman where he links to a number of his sources including a searchable version of the SKS IPO documents and some Unitus annual reports.

10) “SKS IPO Opens Today, Reactions Mixed“ by Arjun Kashyap of Microfinance Insights

11) “Why Every Social Entrepreneur Should be Paying Attention to SKS and Unitus”; my post on the larger issues and questions for the social entrepreneurship community.

12) “Betting on the Poor“, a post from Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, authors of Philanthrocapitalism

13) “Who Inflated the Microcredit Bubbles?“, a post from David Roodman of CGD a few months ago that is a helpful tonic in thinking about how we should assess the flow of commercial capital into microfinance

14) A Unitus/SKS funding flow chart courtesy of Clay Holtzmann

15) “SKS Finance Journey to IPO—An Inside Story“ from Microfinanace Focus, provides some details on the complex series of transactions that carried SKS from a non-profit to a for-profit ready for an IPO. To be honest, I’m not sure I understand some of the transactions.

16) “Rich IPO Brings Controversy to SKS Microfinance“ by Stephanie Strom and Vikas Bajaj in the New York Times.

17) “Further Thoughts on Unitus/SKS“, my follow-up to clarify some points and my thoughts.

18) “Ironies in Yunus Attack on SKS IPO“ by David Roodman, pointing out the problems Grameen has gotten itself into because it hasn’t taken equity investment.

19) “Unitus Advisor Addresses Controversy“ by Geoff Wooley. Wooley is a former board member of Unitus and a current (I believe) board member of SKS and Elevar Equity and an advisor to the board of Unitus.

20) Questions About Unitus Changes by Dave Richards, a Unitus board member on Defeat Poverty. See the comments for questions and responses from Dave.

21) Social Entrepreneurship Success Raises Thorny Questions, my post for Harvard Business Review. See comments for a response from Joseph Grenny and further questions from me.

22) Unitus, We Stand; Divide Us, We Fall by Jonathan Lewis (PDF). A thorough exploration of the story, the questions it raises, and the impact.


I’m just flabbergasted by this development, but in some ways it follows from a string of changes in the industry that resulted when we took the fateful leap into the hubristic belief that we needed to give every poor person a loan to “close the gap” and in order to finance this massive scale-up we needed to access the formal capital markets. That led to a fundamental shift in our key indicators from poverty-allevation to profit, from the health of our borrowers to the health of our assets.

I just posted a blog yesterday called “Profits & Perverse Incentives: the New Face of Microfinance” that catalogues 6 shifts in the practice of microfinance that stemmed from this fundamental change and brought us to where we are today. The SKS IPO is for many a triumph, but for others, like me, a sad look at the end game of microfinance, a final capitulation from being an anti-poverty movement based on a pro-poor innovation to being a market niche in the banking and investment industries based on their rules of the game. Please accept my contribution to your list:

August 03, 2010

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