I was lucky enough to meet Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize, Co-president of the HEC Paris Social Business /Enterprise and Poverty Chair as he was invited on HEC campus.
#SASI #campus #yunussocialbusiness
Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, is known for being a pioneer in the field of microcredits and social business, having had this model replicated across multiple countries and institutions. As a volunteer in the Microcredit Program, I read his different books such as, Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, and Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, in order to learn more about how Yunus thought we could use business to solve social issues. Wanting to use my business background for more than just financial returns, I explored microcredits and social business through Techo and the role of regular multinational companies in addressing social problems by becoming part of socially committed companies –Techo is an NGO in various countries across Latin America that seeks to overcome poverty in slums through “collaborative work of families living in extreme poverty with youth volunteers”.
On the 9th of November, on the occasion of HEC Paris’ launch of its movement, Social x Business Impact, Daniel Park, a fellow student in the SASI program, and I we were able to have a direct interview with Prof. Yunus, whose books and theories have been in my head for some years. Having had experience on the field, I had many questions for him.
- Volunteering & Sustainability
Much of the success of the business empowered by Microcredits, especially those run by NGOs, relied on the commitment of the volunteers. Without the loans, these businesses would not exist, but without the volunteer’s will to help business development, these would be difficult to sustain and grow. Most of the women entrepreneurs I met as a volunteer in the Microcredit Program did not have past experience or studies in business. Their underprivileged living conditions influenced their priorities and dedicating enough time to their new business was, sometimes, difficult. Volunteers would help and guide them through the first months or years of it. Still, the efforts of volunteers many times got frustrated for lack of commitment from the beneficiary. As in most NGOs, being a volunteer also means that there might me more “lack” of commitment, and it was not unusual for many to skipped the weekly meetings for personal reasons. I would constantly ask myself: how sustainable are these efforts?
To this, Prof. Yunus answered: “you have to find a way where it is not dependent on volunteers, because something which doesn’t work for you, you cannot rely your system on that element… Get rid of it”. Even though this is the ideal, in day-to-day practice I do not see this easily happening!