The following is a summary of a report to the Board of Directors of Grameen Foundation regarding social business viability by Khalid Shams, Former Deputy Managing Director, Grameen Bank.
Grameen’s Social Business Initiatives
Grameen Bank has been experimenting with new social business ventures since the early ‘90s. It has effectively used the microfinance platform for launching several social enterprises. Some of these were ‘for-profit’, while others were ‘not-for-profit’ entities, but each had a distinct corporate mandate for social development. Grameen Bank itself would be an example of such a social business enterprise, which provided microfinance related services to the designated rural poor and the bank is also owned solely by the borrowers themselves. Some of the social enterprises were created in direct response to the demand of GB borrowers i.e. the Sixteen Decisions of the bank, as well as the rural poor, for essential services needed for development of health, education, nutrition, and alleviation of poverty.
Some of the enterprises were concerned with extension of new technologies that could directly raise the income and productivity of the poor trapped in such traditional sectors like agriculture, fisheries, rural industry. New ventures were also launched for development of information and communication based technologies.
More recently, Professor Yunus has taken the initiative of setting up “social businesses” that aim to provide nutrition and health services to a targeted client. In these new ventures, after the initial capital costs have been fully recouped, the investors agreed to take only nominal dividends, plowing back all profits for further expansion of the social business. Grameen-Danone Foods Ltd, and the newly formed Grameen Eye Hospitals are the latest examples of more rigorously designed social business models.