Professor Muhammad Yunus announced this week the launch of another social business, a joint venture between Grameen Bank and Veolia Water designed to bring drinking water to the poorest people of Bangladesh. Grameen-Veolia Water will supply clean water to more than 100,000 Bangladeshi and expand throughout Bangladesh. Bangladesh is already benefiting from social business ventures previously initiated by Professor Yunus that have been built around producing low-cost nutritious food for children and health care services, all while promoting the local economy and providing real employment opportunities. These ventures are proving that social business can be a revolutionary approach to affect social change.
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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.
Danone and Grameen are, in fact, changing the game of business. They have created a profit-making enterprise where societal contribution is more important than maximizing profit (a “social business”), and opened the door for other new inventions that move us towards a world without poverty.
What could happen in the world of profit-making business if societal contribution became at least the equal of mazimizing profit in boardrooms throughout the world?
Grameen Danone – the world’s first “social business” as conceived and presented by Dr. Yunus in his new book – is a brilliant invention. What Grameen and Danone have done with great courage and insight is open the door to a new future – and to a new whole landscape of possibility for creating a world without poverty. And perhaps much more.
Given this first landmark step, what else might now be possible?
For instance, what could happen in the world of profit-making business if “global viability” became the equal of “maximizing profit” in the boardroom?
The social business panels included topics ranging from eyeglasses to fashion to footwear.
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
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.
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.