Banker to the Poor Goes Beyond Microlending
Monday, January 21, 2008
Muhammad Yunus, who won a Nobel prize for inspiring a global microfinance movement, is now pioneering an idea he calls “social business” as a way to fight poverty.
In a new book, “Creating a World Without Poverty” (PublicAffairs, $26), the Bangladeshi economist describes social businesses as those dedicated to social causes rather than profit.
Nicknamed the “banker to the poor,” Yunus started his movement 30 years ago with a $27 loan to women in Chittagong, Bangladesh. It has mushroomed and delivered millions of tiny loans to poor people who do not have access to mainstream banking.
Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 jointly with Grameen Bank, the microcredit organization he founded, he has committed his portion of the $1 million prize money to developing social businesses and is trying to change the way the world views helping the poor.
To Yunus, people in the rich world are too fatalistic about resolving poverty, viewing it as a problem so big and so complicated that many just give up.
With a little fresh thinking, programs can be developed that both support and make use of the creative gifts of the poor, he writes. Here, social business can play an important role especially in a world where so-called socially responsible investing has become a buzz word.
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