Muhammad Yunus: A new economic theory of selflessness

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Social biz plenary_GWaly, Yunus
Ghada Waly, Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity, and Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the “father of microfinance,” got into a heated debate about the whole thesis of economic theory. The two distinguished speakers were on the panel for the “Scaling Business Models for Social Impact” plenary at the 18th Microcredit Summit (March 14-17 in Abu Dhabi).

Businesses have the ability to scale, delivering products and services on a global basis by providing for the needs and desires of their customers. But, the business focus on maximizing profits often lead limited attention to social challenges. Nonprofits have shown the ability to address a large variety of social problems, but the need to raise funds from donors often limits their ability to scale to the level of the problems they seek to address. Social businesses combine these two organizational models, using the power of business to solve some of the world’s most pressing social problems.

Minister Waly argued at the end of the session that businesses contribute to the well-being of society and to ending poverty — whether they do CSR or have a social mission or not — simply by creating jobs, paying taxes, and so on.

“Those companies that do not even do CSR [corporate social responsibility] but provide a service that is needed for society. Be it a pharmaceutical company or garment company, if they employ people, pay them fairly, and create jobs, this is good enough and this is very much needed. So you need everything.”

Prof. Yunus countered that human beings are both selfish and selfless, and the business world and economics can be structured to lift up the selfless side of human nature.

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The Capital of Pro-Poor Microfinance

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Muhammad Yunus speaks with other participants at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico

Bangladesh is known as the birthplace of modern microfinance, but many people see that as an old story. What is not as widely known is that Bangladesh continues to be the capital of pro-poor microfinance, a laboratory of innovation and integration focused on reaching clients in poverty and facilitating movement out of poverty.

Here are 4 reasons why Bangladesh still leads the industry:

1. The Yunus Centre Social Business Design Lab
The Yunus Centre holds Social Business Design Labs at least once a month where people present their social business ideas to potential funders (they are live streamed and available online). The funders are various Grameen Social Business Funds, and while some of the presenters are larger social business ideas, most of the Design Lab is dedicated to the ideas of Nobin Udyokta (young entrepreneurs), who are children of Grameen clients.

Each Design Lab presenter gets 5 minutes to present his or her project and 10 minutes to answer questions from the audience. At the end, the audience is broken up into groups and each groups meets with one of the presenters for half an hour to ask more in-depth questions. At the end, the groups report on whether or not they recommend the business for investment.

By the time they get to these presentations, the business owners have all worked closely with their investors in developing their business plans and preparing to answer questions. All of the businesses were recommended for funding.

Grameen phone ladies from 2007

Grameen phone ladies from 2007

What is interesting about this process is the generational evolution it shows in the development of the businesses and the sophistication of the finances. While Grameen Bank clients mostly ran basic livelihood projects with no accounting, these businesses run by their children have accounts, business plans, and investors.

2. UDDIPAN
UDDIPAN (United Development Initiatives for Programmed Actions) works in 37 of the 64 districts in Bangladesh. They serve 450,000 microfinance clients and 2,400,000 beneficiaries.

UDDIPAN’s vision is “To build an environmentally sound society without poverty, free of exploitation, oppression, injustice and discrimination where children, women and men live with dignity and capable to exercise their rights and will have access to and participation in the mainstream socio-economic, political and cultural processes.”

UDDIPAN photo

An UDDIPAN client looks after her cows. Photo credit: UDDIPAN

Uddipan has designed programs and products around the ultra poor, green energy, people with disabilities, and Islamic self-help groups. Here are some examples:

  • After doing a study that found high levels of child malnutrition, Uddipan educated their clients to provide house-to-house training in nutrition.
  • They run a tube well and toilet program with Water.org.
  • They provide primary health care services in 4 of their branches.
  • They have organized 2,400 imams to work for peace and against human trafficking.
  • They advocate on child rights and train their clients to avoid child labor.

3. TMSS
TMSS (Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha) works in 20,000 villages in the country, serving 930,000 clients (800,000 with loans and savings and the rest with only savings). In 84 of their branches, TMSS also operates a clinic staffed by nurses and community doctors.

TMSS’ microfinance unit is called Health, Education and Microfinance (HEM), since all three activities are linked together in the microfinance delivery. HEM is only one part of the 14 domains that TMSS works in. They also run hospitals, medical training schools, other technical training schools, agricultural and fisheries projects, human rights projects and climate and environmental change programs.

All told, TMSS works with 4.7 million women organized in groups. Their motto is “Family development through women’s empowerment.”

4. Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF)
PKSF is a government supported apex funding unit in Bangladesh. In the past, it supported groups like Grameen, BRAC, and ASA, but these groups have graduated from their funding and PKSF is now focusing in the next tier of MFIs. PKSF currently funds about 60 MFIs.

PKSF Chair Qazzi Kholiquzzamn Ahmad has been a critic of microfinance as a stand-alone activity, but a strong proponent of microfinance linked with other human development services.

Key Elements of ENRICH. Source: http://bit.ly/PKSF-AHolisticApproach

Key Elements of ENRICH, which is short for “Enhancing Resources and Increasing Capacities of Poor Households towards Elimination of their Poverty.” Source: http://bit.ly/PKSF-AHolisticApproach

Under his leadership, PKSF has not only implemented agricultural value chain projects, but also the ENRICH program, which supports MFIs to integrate education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, energy and climate change response into their programs. Four years after its inception, “ENRICH is flourishing into a model of sustainable poverty alleviation, continually seeking solutions to ameliorate the poverty situation in Bangladesh,” according to PKSF. Learn more.

In addition, PKSF operates the PRIME program (“Programmed Initiatives for Monga Eradication”), which supports MFIs in their work with the ultra poor by addressing food insecurity and seasonal hunger. DFID has recognized the PRIME program as their most effective poverty alleviation investment.

Yunus Centre fulfills Campaign Commitment by cultivating ‘job-givers’

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The Yunus Centre has worked tirelessly to promote the philosophy of Professor Mohammad Yunus and to alleviate poverty through social entrepreneurship and turning ‘job-seekers’ into ‘job-givers’. The Yunus Centre declared its support for the goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty by announcing a Campaign Commitment at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit held last October 2013 in Manila, Philippines. The Microcredit Summit Campaign recently caught up with the Yunus Centre to learn about the progress they’ve made on their Commitment and the ways they are working towards the end of extreme poverty.


“The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them.” – Professor Mohammad Yunus

Yunus

Professor Mohammad Yunus, winner of Nobel Peace Prize for his work with microfinance and founding of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Image courtesy of Yunus Centre.

Founded in 2006, the Yunus Centre actively promotes and disseminates the philosophy of world-renowned microfinance leader Professor Mohammad Yunus. Professor Yunus believes we can achieve the end of poverty through microfinance and social entrepreneurship.

In October of 2013, the Yunus Centre made the Commitment to support the 100 Million Project through the following actions:

By the end of 2018:

  • Create a global social business sector serving at least 100 million poor, and providing jobs and for at least 10 million households.

In just over one year, by the end of 2014:

  • Help create, finance and expand more than 50 social businesses in at least 20 countries world-wide.
  • Create Social Business Incubator Funds, and other structures, in at least 8 countries: Albania, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, India, Tunisia and Uganda
  • Social businesses in Bangladesh will serve at least 2 million households, and employ at least 20,000 households.
  • Collect and publish relevant social-impact data for all social businesses.

Yunus Centre Campaign Commitment Outlook: Achieving the 2014 Benchmarks   

The Yunus Centre has achieved outstanding progress since announcing its Campaign Commitment in 2013.

The Yunus Centre has met its 2013 benchmark of creating, financing and expanding more than 50 social businesses.

As of May 2014, the Yunus Centre has helped launch more than 100 new social businesses in Bangladesh. Recently the Yunus Centre introduced a new initiative called nobin udyoktas(‘new entrepreneurs’ in Bangladeshi) which is aimed primarily at the children of Grameen Bank borrowers and intends to turn them from ‘job seekers’ into ‘job creators’. Every month the Yunus Centre hosts a social business design lab which is a platform for entrepreneurs to present their social business designs in front of experienced business executives and social activists. Initial successes have helped the Yunus Centre to gain momentum in encouraging youth to make their own destiny through social business ventures. The Centre projects that it will reach 200 new social businesses by the end of 2014.

However work remains to be done. The Yunus Centre committed to create, finance, and expand more than 50 social businesses in 20 countries worldwide. They have achieved remarkable success in Bangladesh, but what about the rest of the world? So far Yunus Social Business (YSB) has launched social businesses in Colombia, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Haiti and Albania.As an example, in Colombia, the Yunus Centre partnered with McCain Foods to launch Campo Vivo, a social business that will benefit farmers living in poverty by aiding them in the production and commercialization of potatoes, carrots and peas. The Yunus Centre has made great progress towards achieving the first goal of its Commitment; nonetheless, expanding social businesses into other countries will remain a priority as they seek to reach their target of 20.

Yunus Centre has achieved its goal of creating Social Business Incubator Funds in eight countries.

Yunus Centre launched Social Business Incubator Funds in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, Albania, Tunisia, Uganda and India since 2013. The goal of these incubator funds is to provide start-up investment for social businesses when traditional banks may not be willing to invest. The funds are designed to be financially sustainable at $13.5 to $20.5 million and can be expected to invest in approximately 6 new social businesses each year. Some of the incubator funds are already providing services to entrepreneurs.

Although the Yunus Centre has made considerable progress towards achieving its Commitment, it has not yet been able to quantify its impact.

In October of 2013, the Yunus Centre boldly committed to helping social businesses serve 2 million households and employ 20,000 households. Because most of the social businesses are start-up enterprises, they are in the process of developing their market and scaling up their operations. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many households the social businesses are currently serving. The number is undoubtedly increasing as new social businesses are generated across Bangladesh. Once the Yunus Centre better determines how many households are being served and employed by social businesses in Bangladesh, it will publish the information on socialbusinesspedia.com. After a social business has been operational for a few years and it becomes feasible to measure its impact, the Yunus Centre publishes all relevant social impact data on Social Business Pedia.

Grameen Veolia

Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd. Image courtesy of Yunus Centre.


Join us in Mexico for the 17th Microcredit Summit this September 3-5. Professor Yunus will be a keynote speaker in addition to moderating workshops on social business and youth employment. http://17microcreditsummit.org/


Turning Social Businesses into a Poverty Elimination Tool 

One example of a social business pioneered by the Yunus Foundation is Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd. Although water supply is abundant in Bangladesh, much of the groundwater is contaminated with arsenic for geological reasons. Grameen Healthcare Services partnered with Veolia Water to provide clean water and distribute it to a vast network of rural villages. The joint venture has been established according to the social business principals advocated by the Yunus Centre.

One example of a social business pioneered by the Yunus Foundation is Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd. Although water supply is abundant in Bangladesh, much of the groundwater is contaminated with arsenic for geological reasons. Grameen Healthcare Services partnered with Veolia Water to provide clean water and distribute it to a vast network of rural villages. The joint venture has been established according to the social business principals advocated by the Yunus Centre.

The Yunus Centre views its Campaign Commitment as an integral part of the achieving its mission and helping lift 100 million families out of extreme poverty. The Commitment contributes in two ways to the goal: 1) new services are being introduced to the next generation of microfinance stakeholders, and 2) the ‘nobin udyokta’ initiative is providing equity financing for social businesses to create a generation of ‘job givers’ instead of ‘job seekers’. Professor Yunus shared his enthusiasm for the progress the Yunus Centre has made towards achieving its Commitment stating, “We are excited about new possible openings, especially social business gaining momentum in many countries. It’s a starting point for a global movement.”

Through these efforts the Yunus Centre is making large contributions to the 100 Million Goal. Standing alongside the Campaign’s coalition of actors who have stated their Campaign Commitment, the Yunus Centre is helping make the end of extreme poverty possible and achievable.


Join Yunus Centre and State your Campaign Commitment

Join Yunus Centre in the global coalition help 100 million families lift themselves out of poverty – state your Campaign Commitment at mycommitment@microcreditsummit.org

Need additional guidance in formulating your own Campaign Commitment? Refer to our Commitment Development Toolkit.

Be social with us on Facebook and Twitter (@MicroCredSummit) using the hashtags #Commit100M and #100MGoal

Learn more about the Microcredit Summit Campaign: http://www.microcreditsummit.org/

Creating Solutions for Social Problems

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“Invest in us and change the world.” That’s what social business is all about. —Muhammad Yunus EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Reflections from the 2013 Summit – Last and third day + Closing Ceremony!

The third and final day of our Summit was just as eventful and exciting as the first two. The day started off with the “Social Business: Creating solutions for social problems” plenary, moderated by Imelda Nicolas, Secretary of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), Philippines. The Panelists included the esteemed Professor Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank; Mr. Nasser Al Khatani, the Executive Director of Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND) based in Saudi Arabia; and Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, Founder & Managing Director, CARD MRI, Philippines. The plenary’s main focus was how can solving social problems lead to sustainable businesses? This plenary highlighted examples on how social investors and MFIs in the Philippines and other countries turned social problems into business opportunities. The panelists then led us through the process of defining a social problem and coming up with creative solutions for addressing that problem through social businesses.

Hear more of Muhammad Yunus’s and the rest of the panelist’s very inspiring speeches HERE:  http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2071894/PartnershipsAgainstPovertySummit2013

After the break, the “From intent to action: Resources to ensure responsible inclusive finance” workshop was given.  Speakers on the panel included Dina Pons, Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) & Investment Manager and Social Performance Management Coordinator, Incofin IM; Gilbert Maramba, Research and Development Department, Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF), Philippines; Yasser Ashfaq, Group Head, Financial Services Group, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Pakistan; and Mila Mercado-Bunker, President, Ahon Sa Hirap, Inc. and Chair of the Microfinance Council of the Philippines. The workshop was organized in partnership with the Responsible Inclusive Finance Working Group and provided a brief overview of responsible inclusive finance, defining the issue and describing the various initiatives and resources available to MFIs. It also provided a step-by-step roadmap for MFIs to improve their responsible inclusive finance practice.

Other workshops during the day included the “partnerships that utilize microfinance for post disaster assistance and post conflict support” workshop mediated by Michael Knaute, Executive Director, Convergences, France; and joined by Maud Savary-Mornet, Regional Manager, East and South East Asia, responsibility; Ben Warren, Kubaru; and Rev. Tambwe wa Tambwe Musangelu, Executive Director, Diku Dilenga RD du Congo . The main questions that were addressed included How Microfinance can serve the needs of such vulnerable populations once disaster strikes?, How these institutions flourish and develop, and also How these disasters affect MFI’s in general?

The day ended with the closing session including recognition’s and Thank you’s …and as Muhammad Yunus concluded by saying  “continue to expand”

MABUHAY…

Reflections from the 2013 Summit: An Interview with the “Father of Microfinance” – Dr. Yunus

The much anticipated talk with Dr. Yunus was the key highlight of the opening session at the Partnerships against Poverty 2013. Dr. Yunus began microfinance in Bangladesh around 37 years back, starting initially as a lender to the poor, then becoming a guarantor to enable the poor to borrow from banks, and then finally setting up an institution to provide access to finance to the poor. Dr Yunus shared that, in his experience, women were better borrowers for credit but the microfinance-women nexus is something he had to try hard to forge. In the beginning, his aim was to service at least 50% women but even getting to 50% was a daunting task- it took Grameen Bank 6 years to achieve this milestone. Today, 97% of Grameen Bank clients are women. Dr Yunus shared that when women borrowed there was a greater impact on household development as compared to when men borrowed money. Moreover, as women were more focused on ensuring that their children develop, they invested much more on their future. Dr. Yunus believes that the success the women borrowers of Grameen Bank have played a major role in the success of Grameen Bank.

Dr. Yunus stressed on the importance of creating entrepreneurs and said that the inability to create entrepreneurs is one of the biggest failings of the conventional financial service providers. He shared that all human beings are entrepreneurs but the role of the MFIs is to help clients unleash that entrepreneur that exists within themselves. Moreover, Dr. Yunus shared the concept of the social businesses, which according to him are non-dividend companies set up to solve human problems using creative capacity to address the problems being addressed. He shared that youth unemployment is a big problem in Bangladesh (as in many other parts of the world) but it can be addressed through social business – he shared the concept of the Youth Entrepreneur Fund which launches the youth into entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur gets an interest free loan which he/she has to return in 3 years. He said the basic difference between a social business and philanthropy is that in the former the money comes back while in the latter money doesn’t come back. Dr Yunus further added that being able to catalyze change is the biggest benefit of social businesses – while making money makes you happy, making others happy makes you ‘superhappy’.

Dr Yunus ended his talk with the message that “we will make it”, he was referring primarily to the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs). He shared with a lot of pride that Bangladesh had actually halved poverty in 2013 (2 years before the deadline for the 1st MGD), and is poised to meet all 8 MGDs by the year 2015. He said that Bangladesh had been deemed a ‘basket case’, but if Bangladesh can do it so can other countries! He urged all delegates to ensure that 2015 ends with meeting the MGDs!

The Legacy of Muhammad Yunus: Changing the Way We Think about Business

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Lea en español (traducido por Google) *** Lisez en français (traduit par Google) Jonathan Morduch hits the nail on the head about what is at the core of the social business paradigm:  that we need to change the assumptions about the … Continue reading

Celebrate with Muhammad Yunus: Participate Virtually in Events around the Gold Medal Ceremony

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On April 17, Congress will honor Professor Muhammad Yunus with the Congressional Gold Medal for his lifelong mission of ending poverty and his innovative microfinance work, including the creation of the Grameen Bank. (See the announcement from Speaker Boehner’s office.) … Continue reading

A Time of Reckoning

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Social business must be about making clients’ lives better. That requires that we know what is happening in our clients’ lives and what holds them back and then designing with their input the products and services that allow them to improve their future. Continue reading