Yes everyone is an entrepreneur! a problem solver! The entrepreneurship concept can be applied beyond the definition of profit maximization.
Yunus is credited with pioneering social entrepreneurship and advocates for greater social imagination in solving problems in society. His experience with social entrepreneurship all started while working at the Chittagong university as head of the economics department when the 1974 famine changed his perspective forever. He said to himself – “Here you are teaching economic theories to students while people are dying in villages of hunger. Soon I realized that economics is a useless subject.”
I had some savings from the US, which I started lending to the farmers I knew, but that was not enough,” he adds. He visited the bank in his University’s campus seeking help and support. The bankers, however, refused to loan money to farmers as they were not ‘credit worthy’. After three months of constant perusal, the bank agreed to give a loan to the farmers with Prof Yunus as the guarantor. “The bank wanted to get rid of us, and gave us the loan, assuming we’ll never come back, but we did. They thought our efforts will collapse and we’ll never pay back. This lack of sincerity agitated me” he recalls.
Fed up of the way banking works, they started Grameen bank and started providing credit and banking services to the poor living in Jobra and other nearby villages. This expanded to more districts, and they were declared an official bank by the Bangladeshi government in 1983. Currently, Grameen Bank has nine million borrowers. Ninety-seven percent of these are women. “We wanted to enforce that at least 50 percent of our borrowers were women since women handle money in a much better way. Soon we realized to focus only on women. My female students who once helped reach out to rural women are today senior staff members in the bank,” Prof Yunus adds. Grameen Bank does everything standard banks don’t do. It focuses on lending to rural poor women and helps them become entrepreneurs. Prof Yunus adds, “Our bank believes in going to the people and working with them. Even today, we are the only bank in the world with no lawyers and no presence in cities.”
Grameen bank and Yunus have been widely recognized for their pioneering work in microfinance. Both have gone on to win many accolades including the Noble Peace Prize in 2006. Concerning entrepreneurship and social transformation, Yunus says – “we have not created an ecosystem for being an entrepreneur. If I come out of the school, and look to start the opportunity of being an entrepreneur there’s no financial system which backs me up. The financial system is built for somebody’s who has assets and wealth and everything. They’re serving them so that they can hire other people. Looking through his work, our thinking as individuals and society can improve to accommodate more of the following:
Jobs is an old fashion idea: . . . that should have ended with the last century. You see yourself as a problem solver. You don’t accept a job to limit yourself as a tiny little thing. You are bigger than the job you hold and can be of greater positive influence to yourself and those around you.
Human beings were not created to make money: . . . we were created to make ourselves happy and to make other people happy. Business doesn’t always have to be money centered. Human life is about creativity.
Don’t feel you need to be very smart to do something: . .don’t get too scared to do something. “All the banks kept telling me poor people are not credit worthy, but doing things the opposite way is not always a bad thing”.
Redesigning the education & social system is very important: . . . to give room for more creative output from people. You get an education to the extent you require it in practice, not for the certificate. The certificate is an entry requirement for something.
Imagination is the real power. We should task our imagination for the solution in our lives and in society at large. We need to be writing more social fiction, just the way we write science fiction. Things we term fictions are the driving force, they get real and it makes things happen.
“Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation, and despair.”
― Muhammad Yunus,
Who is Muhammed Yunus?
- Born in 1940, Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, and civil society leader.
- Growing up in Bangladesh, he studied at Chittagong College and Dhaka University.
- In 1965 he received a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States and in 1971 he obtained his PhD in economics from the Vanderbilt University Graduate Program in Economic Development.
- He founded Grameen Bank in 1983 based on his work at University of Chittagong, to design a credit delivery system to provide banking services to the rural poor.
- Following the pioneering success of the Grameen Bank, Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Grameen Bank, for their efforts to create economic and social development.
- He received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010