In 1993, UPLiFT began as a project of InterAide, an international French NGO specializing in the implementation of developmental programs. Paul Hibon, a French InterAide staff, developed the UPLiFT micro credit project in 1993, during the time when the Grameen Bank approach to microfinance was gaining global popularity. A friend from the United Nations Development Program directed him to focus his attention in Navotas, a fish port municipality where the population density is high.
Due to the limitations of group approach with group liability, Mr. Hibon proposed that individual loans was the best approach. InterAide agreed with Mr. Hibon and decided on an approach that offered individual loans and savings combined with self-awareness and business seminars.
During his visits to Navotas, Mr. Hibon met Ms. Dolores Balon, a community leader in San Jose, Navotas working for Pag-aalay ng Puso Foundation (PPF). PPF was a non-governement organization engaged in providing educational assistance to the urban poor of Navotas through scholarships and operations of day-care centers.
In 1994, the same approach was introduced in the City of Caloocan and in the Municipality of Malabon, both areas being adjacent to Navotas. One NGO working in the area was the Theosophical Society. The project officer, Ms. Rekha Nahar, accompanied Paul into the slums where one of the community leaders he met was Ms. Babes Estrada, who was later hired as a loan officer and eventually became a member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of UPLiFT. Ms. Nahar herself became a member of BOT.
With the impending growth, the organization was renamed as InterAide Neighborhood Business Association (IANBA), which was registered in 1994 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a non-stock, non-profit NGO. Following this, a third branch, IANBA-Ususan was established on February 1994.
In 1995, two new branches were established by IANBA in Caloocan. IANBA-Galauran was established in August, while IANBA-Letre was established in November. By the end of the year, the total number of branches had reached five (5).
In 1996, two other branches were established in Manila. IANBA-Smokey Mountain was established in August, while IANBA-Vitas was established in December. These increased the total number of branches to seven (7). Aside from outreach expansion, livelihood skills trainings were introduced to provide partners with practical options of diversifying their business activities. This complimented the self-development and business trainings which IANBA offered alongside microfinance since its inception in 1993.
In 1997, five new branches were established. These are IANBA-Tanong in May, IANBA-North Bay Boulevard in June, IANBA-Catmon in August, IANBA-Bayan-Bayanan in September and IANBA-Balut in November. By this year, IANBA had a total of twelve branches. Also, IANBA began the publication of a monthly magazine, NEGOTIPS, which featured articles on business management, alternative skills as well as stories of successful partners. The magazine was distributed to all partners and other network organizations
In 1998, IANBA absorbed LINK (Layuning Itaguyod ang Nagkakaisang Kabataan), another project by InterAide that offered Access to Company Employment (ACE) assisstance and referral service for vocational (VOCS) for the youth in urban poor communities and then renamed UPLiFT (Urban Program for Livelihood, finance and Training, Inc.)
Under UPLiFT, the first program, Caloocan Program was established together with the opening of six more branches. These branches were Tomana and Batangas in March, Moriones in May, Road-10 and Hermosa in July, and Parola in August. Together with the former IANBA branches, UPLiFT now had a total of eighteen (18) branches. Thus was the evolution of UPLiFT's integrated approach to microfinance - loans and savings, combined with business seminars (Pulongs), livelihood skills trainings and other services (Negotips, ACE and VOCS)
In 1999, successful with the Caloocan Program and with the help of Franck Renaudin of InterAide and Entrepreneurs du Monde, UPLiFT opened two additional programs: The Manila Program with eight (8) branches operating since 1996 and the Quezon City Program with four (4) newly established branches namely Old Balara in January, Luzon in March, Litex in August, and Payatas in November. As of this year, the total number of branches had increased to twenty-two (22).
In 2000, The Quezon City Program continued with its expansion with the establishment of four (4) more branches including Maligaya in March, Bagong Silangan in May, and Sauyo and Agham in September. UPLiFT also started a fourth program in Bulacan with the establishment of four (4) new branches namely, Sapang Palay in March, Minuyan in April and Muzon and Sampol in September. All of these expansions brought the total number of branches to thirty-one (30).
In 2001, Tigbe, the 31st UPLiFT branch, was established in April under the Bulacan Program.
In 2002, the four programs of UPLiFT was able to release a total of 25,404 loans to 15,118 urban poor families, with a repayment rate of 92.5% within thirty days after maturity. The savings accumulated by the borrowers had reached over 21 million pesos, and more than 80% of beneficiaries succeeded in saving at the rate they initially agreed upon.