The GiveWell Blog


Unitus today released a rather sudden announcement that it will be releasing its staff and “shift[ing] its resources and activities to areas of maximum socio-economic impact for underserved people throughout the world that have yet to attain either scale or commercial viability.”

I agree with Sean Stannard-Stockton that while the announcement presents the closing as a simple strategic change in direction (due to success, rather than failure), its suddenness is odd and raises many questions.

We have always found Unitus to be an opaque organization. It is one of several large U.S. microfinance organizations whose value-added is unclear.

We urge Unitus to provide more information than is in its press release.

If the “change of direction” is in response to failures and/or disappointments, we urge Unitus to be clear on this point and to share as much information as possible about what has happened so that others can learn from its experience.

If the “change of direction” is, as the press release implies, a big-picture strategic change brought about by less need for its activities, we have the following questions:

  • What, specifically, will Unitus be focusing on from here?
  • Why does its new focus require a complete change in personnel?

  • Why has the announcement been made so suddenly? Recent newsletters and press releases seem to imply that there are substantial unexploited opportunities for the work Unitus is doing; did these give the wrong impression? What has changed?

Coming on the heels of the LAPO controversy and our recent post about USAID’s “failure” to target the poorest, we see this event as yet another reason to be wary of the appealing stories associated with microfinance.