Muhammad Yunus once has been asked what his greatest challenge was so far and he answered as followed: “My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see.“
We are used to see and value our environment according to performance, achievements and status. We judge and reward. That’s how our society works. Our economic system taught us, that the world is a zero-sum game. Hence we think that having people who possess everything, comes naturally with the fact that some don’t have anything. Poverty is a natural symptom of capitalism.
But is this really fair? Is this the way we wanna play the game? Most definitely, not! Bill Clinton stated once in an interview, that the more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions. That is, win–win solutions instead of win–lose solutions! Furthermore as our interdependence increases, on the whole, we do better when other people do better as well — so we have to find ways that we can all win, we have to accommodate each other and work together as a society. The loss of one is the loss of all.
Riots and demonstrations of the civil society are a natural reflex of an unjust distribution of goods and chances, injustice and lack of equality. The majority is struggling and life doesn’t come easy upon them. This is the right moment for great minds with a big heart to get creative. Muhammad Yunus did.
Grameen Bank as Bank for the Poor
In 1974 Bangladesh was suffering from a terrible famine. People were dying of hunger and Yunus felt helpless. At this time Yunus was an economics teacher at the University. Teaching about economic theories and graphs in classroom but seeing the ineffectiveness of the perfect models outside of it, made him wanna change something. Being an economist he decided to start looking for a solution instead. So he visited a village nearby and talked to the people. He listened to them and asked what the their biggest problems are. They had taken loans from moneylenders which were just impossible to be paid back and forces the people into a slavery like position.
So, Yunus did the math. In total he needed to give a small loan of US$ 27.00 to a group of 42 families so that they could buy themselves free and create small items for sale without the burdens of predatory lending. Yunus believed that making such loans available to a wide population would have a positive impact on the rampant rural poverty in Bangladesh. And he was right. The idea of Grameen Bank and microcredit was born and a movement started. The organization and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize n 2006, the organization’s Low-cost Housing Program won a World Habitat Award in 1998.
A number of organisations with which Yunus is involved actively, promote and incubate the idea of social businesses. Basic distinction between social business and conventional business (money-making business) is that the social business is totally de-linked from the very idea of making personal profit. In Yunus’ definition, a social business is a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today. It is distinct from a non-profit because the business should seek to generate a modest profit but this will be used to expand the company’s reach, improve the product or service or in other ways to subsidise the social mission. The concept of the individual as being solely focused on profit maximizing ignores other aspects and values of life. So Social Business follows 7 Principles.
Poverty all over the world
Current world news are reflecting the failures and side-effects of capitalism as an economic system. In the book, Grameen Social Business Model: A Manifesto for Proletariat Revolution, Rashidul Bari shows how social business has gone from being theory to become an inspiring practice adopted by leading universities (e.g., Glasgow), entrepreneurs (e.g., Franck Riboud) and corporations (e.g., Danone) across the globe. Social Business is a sustainable business model that is a win-win for all players in the game and it gives individuals a chance, hope and a helping hand. People all over the world suffer from poverty. European countries are no save zone against being poor. Therefore the idea of microcredit and social business could be implemented in Europe as well, helping to boost the economy, stabilize the market, create new jobs and giving people a chance to create and start their own business.