F E At U r E
F E At U r E 9.2
the role of the corporation in Supporting Local Development
BY MUhAMMAD YUNUS
At SoL’s Global Forum held in Oman last year, Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, joined Roberto Bocca, director of emerging consumer markets at BP Alternative Energy; Lynne Dovey, director of strategic planning at the Ministry of Economic Development in New Zealand; Shaikh Saleh Al-Turki, the chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Omar Shaban, director of operations at Cisco NetVersity to look at the ways in which business can be modeled in order to help the poor. Muhammad Yunus related the story behind Grameen Bank and shared his concept of “social business.” Moderated by social researcher Laurent Marbacher, the panel also explored the idea of what human beings are capable of doing for local development, as well as how systems can enhance these capacities so that they can flourish.
Muhammad Yunus: was not thinking of creating a bank for poor people when the Grameen idea came to me. the idea had to do with the circumstances in which I found myself. I came back to Bangladesh in 1972, when it became an independent country. It was a devastated country, and I came back from the United States to participate in rebuilding the nation. I started teaching economics at chittagong University. As the economy slid down sharply, we had a terrible famine in 1974. I Muhammad Yunus was teaching elegant theories of economics while seeing people dying of hunger outside the classroom. I saw that what I was teaching meant nothing to those who were dying, and I thought that as a human being, I should see if I could be of some use. people were taking loans from loan sharks, and were getting exploited. I went around with a student to make a list of people who were borrowing from loan sharks. When my list was complete, we had 42 names, and the total loan was $27. I was shocked by the smallness of the figure. All I had to do was give $27 to these 42 people so they could return the money to the loan sharks and be free. Another question then came to my mind. If I can make so many people so happy with such a small amount of money, why should I not do more? I wanted to do more. the idea to connect the bank located on the campus with the people who live next door came up. I suggested to the bank manager that he should lend money to the poor people. he said, “No way! A bank cannot lend money to poor people.” our debate went on for several weeks, and then he said, “Why don’t you go to the senior people? I cannot do such a thing. there is no use arguing with me.” So I talked to the senior officials, but everybody told me the same thing. After several months of running around, I offered myself as a guarantor. that is how it all began.
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Whenever I needed some rules in my work, I just looked at how conventional banks operate. once I learned about their procedures, I did the opposite. conventional banks are always looking for people who have lots of money and wealth, in order to lend more and make more money. We reversed that principle. to Grameen, the less you have, the more attractive you are. If you have nothing, you have the highest priority. We also dismissed the whole idea of collateral. We dismissed lawyers. We do not have guarantees. conventional banks focus on men; we focused on women. they look for the rich men; we look for the poor women. conventional banks are owned by rich men, and we reversed that too. Grameen Bank is owned by poor women. What is amazing is that the system works. people pay back. Why do they pay back? Because it makes sense to them. Because for the first time, they are getting an opportunity that they never had. Moderator: omar, would you tell us about your experience? What programs are you working on? Omar Shaban: From cisco’s perspective, you can carry out...
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