Muhammad Yunus
Try to buy a house without a mortgage loan or start a business without a business loan. For most of the world’s population, even in developed countries, these tasked are difficult. In the developing world, where financial services are virtually nonexistent for millions of the poor, opportunity is a myth and breaking an endless cycle of poverty seems hopeless.

Bangladesh celebrated one of its own as Muhammed Yunus turned 75 years old on June 28th. Often thought of as the pioneer of the modern micro finance concept, Muhammed Yunus has, for decades, been an advocate for social business practices and alleviating global poverty.

Mohammed Yunus was born in Bangladesh India and is a social entrepreneur, banker, economist and civil society leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for founding the Grameen Bank.

The Grameen Bank is a microfinance organization and community development bank founded in Bangladesh that makes small loans known as micro-credit or “grameencredit”, without collateral requirements to impoverished entrepreneurs.

The Oxford dictionary defines micro-finance or micro-credit as the lending of small amounts of money at low interest to new businesses in the developing world.

During his tenure as a professor of economics at Chittagong University in the 1970s, Muhammed began experimenting with providing small loans to women in the tiny village of Jobra. Today, the World Bank estimates approximately 160 million people in developing nations are using micro-finance.

Yunus Social Business, an organization co-founded and chaired by Muhammed Yunus, calls itself a company created with the sole purpose of solving a social problem in a financially self-sustainable way.

Muhammed Yunus, with the success of the Grameen Bank and his concept of social business, among many other accomplishments, has won 112 international awards, received 55 doctorate degrees from 20 universities, was ranked by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 public intellectuals of the world and has authored internationally acclaimed books, published and translated into numerous languages.

Today Muhammed Yunus, as he reaches age 75, is celebrated all over the world and is still very much involved in the mission to fight global poverty. Recently, Yunus Social Business (YSB) launched its first social business accelerator in Uganda, a land locked country in East Africa, haunted by conflicts resulting in millions of deaths and plagued with child slavery. With the implementation of the program, Yunus Social Business hopes to address social and environmental problems in Uganda in a financially sustainable manner by promoting and empowering social businesses through the provision of business development services, impact investment funds and related technical support.

Uganda, an impoverished nation and an area of operation for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, could benefit from the Yunus Social Business model and possibly emerge from a society torn by war.

Through the implementation of micro-finance and the ideology of social business, societies around the world, mired for centuries in poverty could become self-sustainable and thanks, in part to Muhammed Yunus, more could lead rich fulfilling lives.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: Kiva, Prothom-Alo, World Bank, Yunus Social Business 1, Yunus Social Business 2
Photo: Huffington Post

Nonprofit organizations and philanthropists continue to look for innovative ideas that will bring the world closer to ending world poverty. Although donations and direct contributions provide immediate help to those suffering in developing countries, social businesses have become a popular way to help the poor. Introduced by Muhammad Yunus in 2006, social businesses provide individuals in poor countries with work, or focus on distributing food or clothing.

Social business is a cause-driven business that allows investors to receive the same amount of money they had initially invested. All other profits are reinvested into the business to cover any costs. “At the same time, it can achieve the social objective, such as, healthcare for the poor, housing for the poor, financial services for the poor, nutrition for malnourished children, providing safe drinking water, introducing renewable energy, etc. in a business way,” according to Yunus Centre.

Many companies have adopted social businesses to contribute to alleviating global poverty. Muhammad Yunus’ first business is Grameen Danone, a yogurt distributed in Bangladesh, that helps to prevent malnutrition for children. “The 10-year plan is to establish 50+ plants, create several hundred distribution jobs and self-degradable packaging,” says Yunus. Grameen has grown to develop technologies that help farmers grow crops more effectively.

Agricultural technologies include mrittikā, a soil testing software that helps farmers choose better fertilizer. Ankur is a similar software that focuses on seed selection. Healthcare software shumātā helps pregnant women follow up on personal care, and dolnā helps with vaccinations for children. These programs are examples of social businesses focused on helping the world’s poor in a new innovative way.

Other than Yunus’ programs, many companies are investing in social businesses to make a difference in the lives of the world’s poor. Popular social businesses include clothing lines based in developing countries that help to create jobs for people in rural areas. Hand Up Not Handouts is a company that works with artisans in Rwanda to create hand crafted jewelry, providing work for women to provide for their families.

As more social businesses grow, there are more opportunities available for people in developing countries. “Social businesses have created hopes for eliminating poverty from the world by generating employment,” according to the Daily Star. It is easy for organizations to donate money to the world’s poor; however, creating businesses creates jobs to provide dignity to those who may otherwise be hopeless.

Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: Yunus, Social Business, The Daily Star
Photo: PhilStar