Friday, January 25, 2008

Muhammad Yunus

I saw Muhammad Yunus speak at the Philadelphia Free Library today.

Mr. Yunus is the father of micro-finance, or micro-lending. He started the Grameen Bank, a bank wholly devoted to lending to the poor. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and is one of the reason why I am wanting to go into the field of economic development. I even mentioned him in my entrance essay to Eastern.

For me he is inspirational because he saw a problem, used creative means to solve it, and didn't allow the "conventions" of the world to tell him it wouldn't work. His model of micro-lending has spread like wildfire and because of it we now have institutions like Kiva which specialize in this type of lending as well.

Today Mr. Yunus spoke for about an hour on the topic of his new book. The main theme that I took away from his presentation was the idea of what he calls Social Business. He criticizes current business practices for seeking to maximize profits, and sees the limits that charity and non-profit organizations have, and therefore believes there is a large gap between those two arenas for a third way. Social Business.

He suggests people should go into for profit business with the full intention to solve a social issue, but not simply conduct charity work. If you reinvest all profit and continue to allow that social mission to drive the organization he truly believes poverty will be fought at a more rapid rate.

I'll admit... I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker. I have never been in this field to go into business and make profits, but I can see the value in using the business world to affect change in the lives of the poor. The Grameen Bank is a perfect example.

I hope to blog more the next few days as I reflect on Mr. Yunus' speech.

1 comment:

Krista said...

Sweet! Thanks for elaborating. We briefly heard mention of this on NPR the other day, but it didn't really sink in.