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A hand up, not a hand out

Alleviating poverty through investment in innovative businesses


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The first-ever Untours Ungala

Posted on Oct 14 by

On October 3rd, Untours — the foundation and business together — hosted the first-ever Ungala, in celebration of 40 years of Untours and 23 years of the foundation. We brought together staff, board members, Untourists and donors, investees and community partners into a board member’s home for a cozy evening of socializing. We’ve always been about blurring the lines between business and philanthropy (a word Hal disliked), but bringing all these folks together was perhaps the first time we had literally mixed it ALL up in person. And what an evening! We had long-time board members such as Alix Rabin and Mary LeFever chatting with our newest investees from ROAR and The GREEN Program. Hal’s first employee, Fran Douglas, had dinner with B Corporation co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert. We enjoyed hearing travel stories from longtime Untourists and donors the MacDonalds as well as the latest developments from Morgan at MyMilkcrate. Listen to Jay Gilbert’s moving words about Hal:   We honored the longtime service of Mary LeFever, who will be stepping down from the board, with a gift basket from Equal Exchange. We like...


Remembering Norma Taussig

Posted on Jul 23 by

Norma Lee Black Taussig, our dear friend and co-founder of the foundation, died yesterday at 92. I think Norma would have said she wasn’t 92 years “young,” but 92 years “old.” She lived through much hardship including the death of her beloved brother when she was young to living with the effects of a serious stroke in the last chapter of her life. She felt and claimed every one of those four score and a dozen years. Whether Norma came hard wired with compassion or whether her challenges in life made her more empathetic, I don’t know. But Norma always thought about the other person, was extremely generous with what she had, and walked the talk by living frugally — always. Norma must have learned at an early age how to take up no emotional space. She could disappear into a room of people. You could almost forget she was there until she piped up with an opinion. Everyone listened when Norma spoke. She didn’t mince words, so you wanted to get each and every one of them. We...


An “Ace” Company

Posted on Jul 22 by

The photograph above is a section of the foundation’s bookshelf, a historic tour in itself. For ten years, our foundation had a British connection through our loan to Belu, a water bottling company that modeled itself after Untours by giving its profits away. Hal couldn’t resist such a flattering business pitch: “We want to be just like you!” Read a neat article about CEO Karen Lynch here. Belu went on to wow us  with its “Water on Tap” campaign inspiring Londoners to drink tap water and to stop buying bottled water. What other water bottling company would do that?! We are delighted to report that Belu has taken off and gives its profits to clean water projects through WaterAid. We are proud to have been a founding investor. Belu is “blinding” — which in UK-speak means excellent, great, or superb. Look for Belu water on your London Untour! “Water is the driving force of all nature.” Leonardo da Vinci...


Ecozoom update

Posted on May 24 by

We had a great conference call with Ecozoom not long ago. Ecozoom produces beautifully designed low-emission and low-fuel cookstoves. They are available for sale as camp cookstoves in the US, but are distributed throughout the world to replace traditional stoves which require a great deal of fuel and also produce dangerous amounts of pollution, especially for those who are doing the cooking — women. They’ve had a very successful partnership with DelAgua Health in Rwanda, distributing approximately 700,000 clean cookstoves to people in need. This program will be wrapping up soon. Ecozoom is growing their own direct distribution markets in urban centers of Kenya, and has also recently launched a new, updated clean...


How business in Haiti is tackling poverty

Posted on Apr 20 by

This nifty radio piece investigates how a new business model is trying to help people in Haiti. While they don’t exactly quote Hal’s phrase “A hand up, not a handout,” there is a similar mindset — that business might have some answers to problems that charity alone can’t solve. (Just for full disclosure, we have no investment in this...


Green businesses hatching everywhere!

Posted on Mar 10 by

T​here’s a new crop of business incubators and ​​​shared work spaces ​around the US ​that are housing some of our current and potential loan recipients,​ among others​. Myself and Jon Blum, our fantastic pro bono consultant, just visited on​e​ such space, The Pipeline,​ in Philadelphia. The view from one of its meeting rooms is Philadelphia City Hall with its beautiful French architecture; this structure remains the world’s tallest masonry building. The Pipeline is full of sustainable design, including the incredible reclaimed wood panel where we got our picture taken. At the Pipeline, we met with Melissa Lee of The Green Program, an innovative travel company co-founded by Melissa 6 years ago when she just 19. The Green Program creates and manages environmental study abroad programs for college students — to date there are programs in Iceland, Peru and — yes! — Philadelphia. (You did know that Philadelphia is chock-full of incredible sustainanable green programs on the city level?) The students deepen their knowledge, put it into action, make connections beyond their school, all in a very “real world” setting. The Green Program is...