Sure, the Barry & Marie Lipman Family Prize is a joint initiative between the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School. But in two fast years, the program has become a showpiece for the Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII).

“We like to say social impact is in our DNA,” said Katherine Klein, vice dean of the initiative and the Edward H. Bowman Professor of Management, speaking at the award dinner in late April.

To Klein, the Lipman Family Prize is proof.

Marie and Barry Lipman

Marie and Barry Lipman, W’70

All good things do not come without effort. Sitting on this year’s prize committee reminded Klein of one of her mentor’s sayings; it was a “happy headache.” All of the choices were worthy: d.light Designs, Microclinic International and READ Global.

Barry Lipman, W’70, whose “joy of volunteering,” as he described it, led to the creation of this unique prize, agreed that this year, as with last year, choosing a winner was not easy.

(Find out more about all three Lipman Prize Finalists in my previous blog, “Identifying Three Sustainable Solutions to Global Causes.”)

The Lipman Family Prize Committee looks for organizations already gaining attention for their innovative and effective models and focused missions. Not only do these organizations have a track record of success, their programs are sustainable and transferable.

As Umi Howard, director of the Lipman Prize, put it, this year’s three Lipman Prize Finalists for 2013 “don’t just put a Band-Aid on people’s lives.” They are aiming to solve a social ill at its root.

In the case of finalist—and ultimate winner—READ Global, it develops community-owned, self-sustaining libraries, according to its executive director, Tina Sciabica.

“Libraries actually have the power to transform the world,” she told the dinner attendees.

Sciabica received the award in honor of the READ Global workers on the ground, for whom the prize “will truly change everything.”

She added that the “coolest thing” about the program is that all finalists had the chance to meet and plan future collaborations with each other.

“I’m really eager to figure out ways for us to work together,” she said.

As winner of the Lipman Family Prize, READ Global received a cash award of $100,000. All three finalists also receive free Wharton Executive Education coursework and access to Penn’s extensive research and network of schools and centers.

Editor’s note: Watch Knowledge@Wharton’s video interview with READ Global’s Tina Sciabica below: