Lief's own journey led him to work at a school in South Africa. He soon learned that whilst donors were contributing generously in the townships, they were looking for targets—numbers of people fed or watered—rather than considering the true, complex needs of the person.

Lief has spent nearly twenty years working with young pregnant girls in the poorest townships. His aim is to support their children from 'cradle to career', so that they may enjoy every chance of succeeding. It is an expensive effort and his approach—which includes building an exceptional campus to rival the best silicon valley has to offer, and investing heavily in his team of teachers, doctors and psychologists—has prevented him from accepting millions of dollars in funding. “If it is good enough for kids in the US why shouldn't it be good enough for kids in South Africa?”


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About I Am Because You Are

In 1998, Jacob Lief, a 21-year-old American university student, met school teacher Malizole “Banks” Gwaxula in a township tavern in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After bonding over beers and a shared passion for education, Gwaxula invited Lief to live with him in the township. Initially separated by race, nationality, and age, their fortuitous meeting and the spirit of Ubuntu cast aside social barriers and inspired the two men to embark on an unexpectedly profound journey together. I Am Because You Are offers an unflinching portrayal of the rewards and challenges of the nonprofit world while setting forth a bold vision for a new model of development.

About the Ubuntu Education Fund​

Ubuntu Education Fund is a non-profit organisation that provides world-class health and educational support to the orphaned and vulnerable children of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Ubuntu’s mission is simple, all-encompassing, yet radical: to help raise township children from cradle to career, providing them with what all children need—everything. 

Nuancing traditional development models, Ubuntu redefined the theory of “going to scale”; rather than expanding geographically, they focus on the depth rather than breadth of their programs within a community of 400,000 people. Ubuntu's programmes form an integrated system of medical, health, educational and social services, ensuring that a child who is either orphaned or vulnerable could, after several years, succeed in the world of higher education and employment. Ubuntu's child-centred approach highlights the difference between merely touching a child's life versus fundamentally changing it.​

About the Speakers

Jacob Lief is the Founder and CEO of Ubuntu Education Fund, a non-profit organisation that provides comprehensive services to vulnerable children living in the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa from cradle to career. After visiting South Africa to observe the country’s historic elections, he returned to the Eastern Cape to co-found Ubuntu in 1999. He has since developed the organisation, which began in a broom closet, into a world-class institution that supports more than 2,000 children on its pathway out of poverty. Overseeing 70 employees across three continents, Jacob has grown Ubuntu into an internationally-recognised model for community development. In 2009, Jacob was selected as an Aspen Institute Global Fellow and, in 2010, he was recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. In 2012, he became a member of the Clinton Global Initiative Advisory Committee. Later that year, Jacob was named one of the world’s 101 most innovative visionaries at the Decide Now Act Summit. He is a Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania and also received his Bachelor of Arts degree from there. Find out more here.

Matthew Bishop is an award winning journalist and serial social entrepreneur. He has written for The Economist for more than 20 years and is the author of several influential books, including Philanthrocapitalism: How GivingCan Save the World, written with Michael Green. This described the new movement that brings together the business and social sectors to solve some of the world's most pressing problems, and has been described as "terrific" by The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and as "an important book" by Bill Clinton. Honoured as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Bishop is a co-founder of the Social Progress Index and of the #givingtuesday campaign. He is a member of the G8 taskforce on social impact investing. He is on Twitter as @mattbish.