If you don’t think you’ve got the time to read this whole book, turn at least to the very end (don’t expect to hear me say that again anytime soon!) and read Yunus’ inspiring lecture he gave when he and his remarkable Grameen Bank together deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Better yet, because it’s that important, let me make it even easier … click HERE for the Nobel lecture.
Now, rightfully inspired, you should finish the rest of this book, and read Yunus’ first book (blog post coming soon as I keep adding backwards), Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, which is actually even better.
Yunus’ own story is truly remarkable. Returning to his native Bangladesh with his American PhD, he soon realized that teaching lofty economic principles and theories to comparatively privileged university students was not going to be how he would spend his life. He could not simply ignore the poverty that surrounded him. He started with a few dollars from his own pocket which he loaned directly to the poorest women in the village just beyond his comfortable university. That tiny effort eventually evolved into Grameen (which means ‘village’) Bank.
Just over three decades later, with Grameen’s phenomenal near-perfect rate of payback, Yunus is defining and improving his own lofty economic principles of micro-financing and micro-credit. Even more importantly, Grameen has helped some 100 million of the world’s poorest and continues to expand its reach in a lauded effort to eradicate world poverty forever. In Yunus’ greatest dreams, he sees poverty belonging only in museums.
“Social business,” Yunus believes, is the best path toward that permanent eradication of world poverty. As an example of his social business model, he follows the creation of Grameen Danone, his joint venture with the French-based yogurt supergiant, which provides healthy yogurt at the lowest prices for the poor, especially children. In a social business, the goal is not profits and dividends, but further outreach and improvement of services and products. Yunus argues that vast numbers of people give their money away, so why not find ways for those generous people to invest in social businesses instead; they would get back their investment, the world would be improved, and the same investment could be further used to grow other social businesses that continue to eradicate poverty. He challenges the next generations – who are hungry to make a difference, he insists – to find new ways to expand and improve social businesses throughout the world.
Yes, Yunus’ hopes and dreams might make you roll an eyeball or two. I fully confess that the cynic in me had a few dismissive moments. But even if we fulfill even a small percentage of Yunus’ big plans, the world will be that much better. As our own miracle-working Development Consultant Francey Younberg often says, “how hard can it be?”