Microfinanancier, legend – the “banker to the poor” – Nobel Laureate, receiver of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, pioneer of social enterprise – the Chittagong-born Professor Mohammad Yunus spoke at Salford University on Sat 13th May. The visit was most timely, coinciding with the University Business School’s 25th Anniversary and the opening of a new Social Business Centre. Prof. Yunus also received an honorary Doctorate for The University of Salford during his visit. ( jump to pictures below )
The subject of day was the importance of social ventures and their departure from the purely profit-driven nature of the stereotypical business. A re-tuned business model for the 21st Century post financial crisis world perhaps. But the Yunus was not here to bash capitalism, but to provide a community oriented variation, not unlike the co-operative movement started in the 19th Century. As Prof Yunas put it, “Capitalism is about choice, but its sending on one leg. I’m putting down the other leg.”
A serial business-builder Prof. Yunus uses business to solve problems. It all started seeing loan-sharks preying on poor villages and trying to find a way to get them loans so they could work their way out of poverty. He struggled to convince the banks even offering personal guarantees for loans, finally deciding tio forget the banks and create one of his own. That was Grameen Bank – Village Bank built on the concept of micro-finance. It worked. Grameen now has 8 ½ Million borrowers and, like the co-op they are all shareholders, not just borrowers but savers too, profit going back to the borrowers. All this was achieved with no money from the world bank or anyone else.
Grameen Bank is not just for Bangladesh, but has gone international with 6 branches in New York city – and all the borrowers women with a typical loan being $1600, now expanding all over the US.
Grameen will soon be opening it’s first branch in Glasgow. While Prof. Yunus is no longer with Grameen Bank, being ousted from his post in March 2011 for possibly political reasons has 60 social businesses behind him and is a huge influence worldwide as evidenced by his list of honours. In addition to the ear of presidents and prime ministers has also appeared on topical influential TV shows The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher and even The Simpsons. He is one of the most followed on Google+ with over 1.7 million followers.