Upaya Presents at Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2014


On March 30th Upaya board member Caroline Vance presented the organization’s work at the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2014 on a panel titled “Sustainable Businesses to Empower the Poor.”

Joining Caroline on the panel were leaders from across the social enterprise space including Jaipur Rugs Inc. President Asha Chaudhary, One Acre Fund USA Managing Director Matthew Forti, and Tugende Co-Founder and CEO Michael Wilkerson. The session was moderated by the Clinton Global Initiative’s Head of Market-Based Approaches Bulbul Gupta.

“The panel went great, and the standing room only audience was really engaged,” said Upaya Board Member Caroline Vance. “People were really into Upaya's model, and it was such a joy for me to tell the story,” said Vance.

Attended by Harvard students and faculty, the conference bills itself as “one of the world’s leading forums to explore the intersection of business and social impact.” Entirely student-run, the conference was jointly hosted by students from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The theme for the 15th Anniversary of the Social Enterprise Conference was “Reflecting on the Past, Shaping the Future.”


Upaya board member Caroline Vance (left) presents on March 30th at the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2014

Upaya's Sreejith Nedumpully Joined By Several LiftUP Project Partners at 3rd Annual Action for India Forum


This January Upaya's Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully travelled to Delhi to participate in the 3rd Annual Action for India forum. The two-day, invitation-only national conference brought together 100 leading social innovators with an equal number of donors, technology leaders, impact investors, and senior government officials.

At the event Sreejith was joined by many of Upaya's LiftUP Project partners including Dr. Ravi Chandra of Eco Kargha, Swapnil Chaturvedi of Samagra, and Ajaya Mohapatra of Justrojgar.

"The forum was a wonderful opportunity for Upaya to meet the best of India's emerging and established social entrepreneurs, and to introduce our current LiftUP Project partners to the country's leading supporters of social innovation," said Nedumpully.

This year's forum was headlined by leaders from across the spectrum of Indian innovation and industry including Mr. Sam Pitroda, Mr. Desh Deshpande, and Mr. R Chandrasekaran.

Upaya Joins Grassroots Business Fund, Lumana at SOCAP13

Bringing the exploration of the Pioneer Gap to one of the nation's largest social enterprise gatherings, Upaya Board Chair Kate Cochran presented alongside Grassroots Business Fund COO Robert Webster and Lumana Village Ventures co-founder Sammie Rayner at the Social Capital Markets 2013 (SOCAP13) conference in San Francisco. 

Moderated by Managing Editor Scott Anderson, the panel explored the challenges impact investors face in supporting entrepreneurs in the startup phase and how different organizations  - Upaya included - have developed creative models for filling the void.


(L to R) Scott Anderson, Kate Cochran, Robert Webster, and Sammie Rayner discuss enterprise support in the Pioneer Gap at SOCAP13.

"It is exciting to see how much interest there is in nurturing early stage social enterprises, as well as the acknowledgement that this stage of investment is best served by philanthropic capital--from foundations, the public sector, and individuals," said Cochran. "Although our panel included people working at different points in the continuum--some providing returns and some not--we all agreed that priming the pump with "public good" money is the best way to build a thriving ecosystem for impact investing," she said.


The SOCAP13 audience posed questions to the panelists about the opportunities and challenges of supporting early-stage businesses.

Upaya Well Represented at the First Indiaspora Forum in New York

Upaya's Sachi Shenoy and Sonny Garg were two of the 100 Indian and Indian American leaders who gathered September 14-16, 2012 outside New York City for the first annual Indiaspora Forum. The event was designed to facilitate discussion of the critical issues that impact the global Indian community and lay the groundwork for actionable solutions.

Indiaspora's Forum establishes an epicenter for the diverse array of Indian American perspectives. Representatives from all constituencies of the community – from technologists to activists, sage academics to "Rising Stars" – engaged in a mix of strategic discussion and candid conversation over the course of the intimate, three-day forum.

For more information about the event, please visit

Sriram Gutta Shares Experiences, Insights at Acara Summer Institute


On June 20th, Upaya's Director of Business Development Sriram Gutta spoke with participants in the Acara Summer Institute about many of the operational challenges young entrepreneurs face in launching a new social venture. Drawing on his work with Upaya, as well as his role as a co-founder of Mobile Medics (now part of the Piramal Foundation), Gutta emphasized the importance of pilot testing a concept with pre-defined success metrics in place.

“No matter how experienced they are, every entrepreneur needs to go through a period of experimentation and refinement before they can think about scale,” said Gutta, “and before a pilot is launched, the team needs to establish a common understanding of how success will be measured.”

“Young entrepreneurs often make assumptions about how their model will work without ever testing those assumptions,” he said.

Over the course of the intensive nine-day program, participants from two US and five Indian universities are brought together for working sessions, workshops, panel discussions and presentations of their models. Participants include a wide variety of entrepreneurs focused on issues such as clean water, sanitation, energy, public health, and food and agriculture.

The Summer Institute is organized by Acara, a program of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE). The Acara Institute was founded by experienced corporate and university professionals in 2009 and has since become a formal program of IonE. Acara's mission is to provide the infrastructure, education and awareness to find sustainable solutions, and then to assist in implementation where possible.


Upaya Presents at the Social Venture Network 2012 Annual Gathering

Upaya Executive Director Sachi Shenoy presented on Building Markets & New Solutions to Fight Poverty at the Social Venture Network 2012 Annual Gathering on April 20th.

The interactive session explored "innovative  and high-impact approaches to alleviating poverty, building markets and creating lasting economic justice solutions," giving Sachi an opportunity to discuss Upaya's evolution and the approach of the LiftUP Project with SVN members from across the United States.

Upaya Social Ventures's Executive Director Sachi Shenoy presenting at the Social Venture Network 2012 Annual Gathering
Upaya Social Ventures's Executive Director Sachi Shenoy presenting at the Social Venture Network 2012 Annual Gathering

"I was really impressed with how engaged everyone was and how many organizations in the audience had thought of these issues -- such as investing in small, grassroots business -- at a deep level," said Sachi after the session, noting that almost half the session was a good debate among participants. "I was especially excited by the number of attendees who were interested in social metrics, and feel like a lot of good ideas were exchanged," she noted.