Challenging the Vision: Grameen Bank
Grameen Bank, founded in 1974 by Peace Nobel Prize 2006 winner Mohammad Yunus, has been heralded as an effective way in which business can help eradicate poverty by challenging established beliefs and assumptions in the lending process to people without resources. Mr. Yunus's vision has been groundbreaking in terms of providing a link between usual business approaches and procedures and international development-related work. He has succeeded on creating a quite compelling vision for the whole Grameen Group by reinstating what should be fundamental in every business transaction conducted globally: the human being. Additionally, he has recognized the importance of credit in breaking the poverty cycle. However, it should be taken into account that even the most compelling "stories" that drive organizations, such as the one behind Grameen Bank, require challenging and loyal opposition to remain vital and updated . An increasingly uncertain and complex business environment forces companies to revise the vision and story behind the organization to adapt quickly to the changes that surround it. The following paper reviews Mr. Yunus's leadership "story" from three points of view (community involvement, globalization, and complexity) and incorporates key assumptions from these sets of perspectives to conclude on a new and revised vision for Grameen.
Mohammad Yunus's Leadership "Story"
Grameen Bank's history
To understand better the mission and vision of the company and how to challenge it (if necessary), it is necessary to understand the background of the company since its foundation. Hence, the following lines will summarize the key points of the Bank's history. Grameen Bank ("The Bank of the Village") was born on 1974, after Mr Yunus's realization regarding the need for microcredits in Bangladesh villages and the difference this credits could make in poor people's lives. At the time, banks were not eager to lend money to poor people, since they were afraid of the risks this represented. Thus, Mr. Yunus acted as a guarantor between banks and poor people, assuming all the risk of the loan. Contrary to banks' expectations, poor people paid the loan in full, even without collateral. After that, Grameen expanded its activities to several segments of the Bangladeshi society. Its first target was poor women, one of the least empowered groups of the country. According to the Bank's website , "the assumption is that if individual borrowers are given access to credit, they will be able to identify and engage in viable income-generating activities - simple processing such as paddy husking, lime-making, manufacturing such as pottery, weaving, and garment sewing, storage and marketing and transport services". Changing established premises gave good results: women turned out to be not only reliable borrowers, but also astute entrepreneurs. Mr. Yunus took into account from the beginning that education will be a definite factor to break the poverty cycle. Hence, Grameen insisted on giving a full education to the children of its borrowers. It has helped almost 100% of the children to be literate and it has even provided scholarships for those pursuing higher education, such as students in engineering or medicine schools. Furthermore, Mr. Yunus clearly recognized the positive relationship between increasing access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and improving livelihoods of people. Thus, in the late 1990's, Grameen Phone was born taking advantage of the liberalization of the mobile telecommunications in Bangladesh. Bringing a telephone through the "telephone ladies" to impoverished villages has had a particular impact on the transfer of remittances from family members overseas, which accounted for more than 50% of the average household income . The program has also contributed to break the isolation of these villages, by increasing communication between...
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