Attila von Unruh

Ashoka Fellow
Berlin, Germany
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Attila von Unruh was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Officially filing for insolvency severely restricts a person’s earning capacity for a period of six years, but effects go far beyond that: Many insolvents live in secrecy and personal isolation, and thus experience severe disadvantages in their job search or when banks refuse to open accounts for them. It is this lack of opportunity and changed life trajectory that constitutes the deeper tragedy of insolvency. Attila recognizes that the stigma can only be removed if one works with people before, during, and after their experience in bankruptcy. Approached this way, insolvency can become an opportunity for citizens, rather than a source of shame and stigma.

It was when Attila personally experienced bankruptcy that he recognized the lack of an effective support system. He realized that insolvency should be a tool to bring about future opportunity, in particular, for the many micro-entrepreneurs who are the hardest hit. Attila began Insolvents Anonymous (IA) as a self-help group in Cologne. IA provides insolvent individuals with the infrastructure and network needed to prevent future instances of personal bankruptcy. IA also builds a community of support for insolvent individuals at all points in their insolvency experience, operating under the principle that those experiencing insolvency themselves can reverse the vicious circle of shame and isolation.

IA has impacted 5,000 insolvent individuals and is fostering an entrepreneurial culture that removes the isolation of insolvency, replacing it with self-reinforcing peer connections and support for insolvent peoples’ futures.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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