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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.

On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.

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03/31/2008 by

The social business panels included topics ranging from eyeglasses to fashion to footwear.

Cooffee Coop

The Coffee Coop combines fair trade coffee from Honduras with a fund raiser for middle school students. The team wanted to support sustainable farming and teach students about micro-enterprise

Local LabelsLocal Labels markets Colorado-made products to Coloradans to support local small businesses and reduce the environmental impact of shipping goods across the globe.

Carrie Magnuson described how Scojo trains micro-entrepreneurs how to test eyesight and sell eyeglasses to the poor in remote villages. While eyeglasses are taken for granted in the West, they are missing in developing countries: an estimated 700 million people worldwide need eyeglasses. Scojo is partnering with BRAC in Bangladesh to expand their current operations using micro-franchises.

03/24/2008 by

The Social Business and Microeconomic Opportunities for Youth Conference inspired and motivated me. I learned from Muhammad Yunus and John Hatch as they described how microfinance has helped over 133 million households. Listening to stories about the over billion people who still live on $1 per day challenged me to join the fight against global poverty.

My favorite story was Yunus’s description of meeting with an illiterate woman (Grameen Bank borrower) proudly standing with her doctor daughter (Grameen Bank scholarship recipient). While he was thrilled to see the educational level go from illiteracy to medical school in one generation, he was saddened that the mother could have been a doctor too if she had the resources to attend school. Through microfinance and social business, we can use financial capital to help people improve their health and education resulting in expanded human capital.

Bob Sample’s posts did a great job highlighting several key speakers and panelists, so this article will cover the youth entrepreneurs, social entrepreneur panel and breakout sessions.

There was an impressive number of youth in the audience. When John Hatch asked audience members who were 30 or younger to stand, I was among the approximately 20% of the audience who stood. A reception allowed finalists for the Social Business Plan Competition to show their products to conference attendees.

03/21/2008 by

For me, the truly life-changing contributor to the conference came in the person of Emmanuel Faber, co-Chief Operating Officer of Groupe Danone, a French-based multi-national corporation that produces many food and beverage products, such as Evian water, Dannon Yoghurt, and Lu cookies, to name a few of their many brands. Danone is one of the top 100 largest corporations in the world, with 100,000 employees in 40 countries.

About two years ago, Danone entered into a partnership with the Grameen Bank to form the Grameen Danone Foods company. The company has created a new form of small-scale factory in a village in Bangladesh, set up a process for buying milk and hiring all staff on the local market, and designed a new highly fortified yoghurt product aimed at providing 30% of the daily nutrition requirements of impoverished Bangladeshi children. The new company also implemented an innovative marketing strategy using Grameen borrowers as the sales force. Another breakthrough was the establishment of a new financing company in France called the Danone Communities Fund to attract investment capital through the French stock market for this project and other Social Business projects.

Emmanuel Faber is the man who organized the international project to design, build, and finance the Grameen Danone factory, as well as to design and develop its tasty and nutritious yoghurt product. He also personally designed and achieved rapid regulatory approval for the Danone Communities Fund financing vehicle.

03/17/2008 by

Bob Sample

The Social Business and Microeconomic Opportunities for Youth Conference was an amazing success. Some are calling it a life-changing event!
“This has been the best conference on microcredit I have been to in 18 years. It’s a truly historic conference that will be a great accelerator of the movement to end poverty!” - John Hatch, Founder of FINCA

I was privileged to be one of the organizers of this remarkable event - one of the “Friends of Microcredit”, an informal group of eight individuals representing organizations involved with microcredit in Colorado or elsewhere in the world. For about four months of breakdowns and breakthroughs, we produced a 2 1/2 day major national conference - the first in the world on Muhammad Yunus’ idea of Social Business as introduced in his landmark new book, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism.

Over 500 people travelled from all over the U.S to attend the conference, and over 50 speakers contributed their wisdom, the Governor and First Lady of Colorado and the Mayor of Denver participated. We got some great press.

I am attaching the flyer from the conference, a brilliant paper by John Hatch, and a copy of last Friday's major article on the front page of the business section of the Denver Post.

At the conference, Muhammad Yunus brilliantly put forth the case for a new version of capitalism that recognizes the complexity of human motivation, not just monetary motivation. He is calling this new form "Social Business" - a non-gain, non-loss for-profit business where profits are recycled in the business and the primary purpose is to do good in the world.

03/10/2008 by

Muhammad Yunnus’ book Banker to the Poor opened my mind to a new type of philanthropy – venture philanthropy – where donations to a Microfinance Institution are loaned out, repaid at an extremely high rate, and then reinvested. The thought that my small donation not only made a significant impact to the loan recipient but also was recycled appealed greatly to my entrepreneurial bent. After all, I wanted my hard-earned cash to be well-spent.

Now the Nobel Laureate has written a new book – Creating a World Without Poverty – which I hope will open the minds of business people around the world as his first book had done for me.

In the United States particularly, we have come to assume that a business’ mission must be to “maximize shareholder value”. Yunus defines these as PMBs, or Profit-Maximizing Businesses. In his new book, he shows us there can be another way, “Social Businesses” which are “cause-driven” instead of profit-driven.

This concept may be seen as radical, or even heretical, because it conflicts with our US point-of-view favoring free market capitalism. In a Stanford VTSS (Values, Technology, Science and Society) class, I learned that changing society’s values is perhaps the hardest and slowest thing of all, often lagging science and technology advancements by 10 or more years. We cling to our values and customs, not necessarily because they are right or the best, but because we are afraid of change; we are comfortable with the status quo.

However, in China, this concept of Social Business is not so radical because the relics of the Communist infrastructure, the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), are similar in result, though not in purpose. In other words, SOEs were not created for a socially-minded cause, but they were one of the last social safety nets, the “iron rice bowl.” But due to foreign competitive pressures from China joining the WTO (World Trade Organization), these inefficient dinosaurs are being dismantled and/or restructured, causing millions of workers to be laid off. Currently, China has an estimated 220-300 million people under the poverty line. The poor people are a powerful destabilizing force, and thus the Chinese government strongly supports, and sometimes even demands, businesses to accept social responsibility.

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