Sunday, 29 April 2007

Muhammad Yunus

2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus — photo Fruchterman

• Muhammad Yunus has long been a hero of the social entrepreneur community for his work in creating the Grameen Bank, and transforming the micro-credit movement. Now that he has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for this work, Yunus has been virtually canonised by the social entrepreneur movement. Not that he is going to rest up on the conference circuit as a “living saint” — Yunus has now put his hat into the political ring in Bangladesh ... a move which was often commented on in the different workshops at the Forum (with several participants expressing fears that the most prominent hero of the social entrepreneur movement would be tainted by the political involvement).
“Many of the problems in the world remain unresolved because we continue to interpret capitalism too narrowly. In this narrow interpretation we create a one-dimensional human being to play the role of entrepreneur. We insulate him from other dimensions of life, such as, religious, emotional, political dimensions. He is dedicated to one mission in his business life ---- to maximize profit. He is supported by masses of one-dimensional human beings who back him up with their investment money to achieve the same mission... I think things are going wrong not because of "market failure". It is much deeper than that. Let us be brave and admit that it is because of "conceptualisation failure". More specifically, it is the failure to capture the essence of a human being in our theory.” — Dr. Muhammad Yunus
• In his presentation, Yunus described how he had been able to attract private capital to fund a variety of socially driven businesses in Bangladesh. GrameenPhone, a for-profit telecom outfit, is 51% owned by Norway's Telenor (TELN ). It works with the not-for-profit Grameen Telecom to provide bulk airtime for village phones which are built from simple handsets and solar chargers. Funded by loans to individual women, these systems function as pay phones in many rural areas. Nowadays the idea of a “village phone lady” is catching on in other parts of Asia and Africa, with the local entrepreneur providing other associated services using low-cost, high-tech systems.

Another enterprise, Grameen Shakti, sells around 1,500 home solar-panel systems per month throughout rural Bangladesh and is growing 15% a year without subsidies. Yunus is also developing a partnership between Grameen and the French company Danone to make a nutritious and inexpensive baby formula. Next on his list are low-cost eye care and rural hospitals with video-conferencing between villagers and doctors in Dhaka.

— YouTube video of Professor Muhammad Yunus speech to the 2007 Skoll World Forum
Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus (book pub 1999 PublicAffairs)
The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank by David Bornstein (pub Oxford University Press 2005)
— ABC News story on Professor Muhammad Yunus receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (2006)
“Social Business Entrepreneurs Are the Solution” by Dr. Muhammad Yunus published by Grameen Bank
— Previews of Muhammad Yunus DVD created by Ashoka's Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship

Professor Muhammad Yunus speech to the 2007 Skoll World Forum