Social Business

Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, and civil society leader who was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2006 for founding the Grameen bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

All the following are excerpts from a talk he gave at Caixa Forum in Barcelona.

Financial Services are Oxygen
Financial services are like oxygen. we need it to breathe, without it we collapse. The absence of financial oxygen makes people collapse, makes people dysfunction, and we call them poor people. The moment they are connected to financial services, they become alive, they become active, they become creative. that is the story of microcredit.

Social Businesses
The actual financial system is the root of many of the problems that we have created for ourselves.
It's a tricky time to be in. We are in a situation where the whole world is going up in flames: socially, economically and politically. It is rooted in the very concept of the capitalist system.
You can not pass a law to change it, it's not a matter of governmental action. It's a machine that sucks up wealth and sends it out to the sky to a very few people, that's all. It's a one way and a continuously one-way process. Can we make it a two-way process? What comes up, comes down, a circular process, can we do that? Can we do a one-way process, that all the wealth that is accumulated comes down and is shared? Can we do that? Of course, we can do that! For the simple reason that a human can do anything they want if they pay attention. It happens because we don't pay attention.
We created this system, we can un-create it, make it disappear, it's possible.

If you are poor, you are poor in debt, very easy, very common. And so what can we do about it? There is the charity way; give money, but I wanted to do it in a different way, in a business way, money comes, works, and comes back down. So every time I see a problem, I create a business to solve it. So I created many different businesses: very common. What was uncommon, is that I never wanted to make any money out of it. [People say], "but it’s very strange, it is a business, you should make money!" I do this because I want to create a business solely focused on solving the problem… then comes the money. If I create a business to make money, I would look at the things where I can make money, and I am not solving people’s problems.
I feel that businesses should focus on the problem, so that problem gets solved, but money comes in. So these are the kind of businesses that I have created over the years. And I started calling them: Social Businesses. A non-dividend company to solve people’s problems. Then people say, "this is not a business, you are just confusing people." I say, “no, I am not confusing people, I am just creating a different kind of business, that's all.” And then I realised why this is controversial, and it's because [of] our economic system.
We have trained our life, and minds to believe that all people are driven by self-interest. that is the core of our economic system; human beings are driven by selfishness. We are trained as selfish people, so we became selfish people.
In the whole world, the capitalist system has put glasses on us with dollar signs or euros, [so] we just see euros everywhere. We have lost our own eyes. I say, “no, a human is not all selfishness.” It’s a combination of selfishness and selflessness. Both sides exist at the same time. And for each, you have to create a business. You can do both selfish businesses, (all for me), or selfless business, (all for the others and nothing for me). It's up to which one you want; one, or both.
[With] bi-focal glasses, you will see the dollar sign, but you will have a people layer, that sees people that we didn't see before.
Suppose [that in] the whole world, (just for imagination), all that exists is social businesses. Two things would happen. One, more of the world problems would be solved by the business itself. At the same time, less and less wealth will be centralised because the profit doesn't go anywhere. It's of benefit to the business itself. And it’s very important to do that because if you keep on going on the same road, you will lead to the same destination. If you want to go to a new destination, you need to build new roads.
Did you see, what I have done, is build a new road, to help you to get to this new destination. Jump ship.

Credit, a fundamental human right?
Credit is the last hope left to those faced with absolute poverty. That is why Muhammad Yunus believes that the right to credit should be recognised as a fundamental human right. It is this struggle and the unique and extraordinary methods he invented to combat human despair that Muhammad Yunus recounts here with humility and conviction. It is also the view of a man familiar with both Eastern and Western cultures on the failures and potential for good of industrial countries. It is an appeal for action: we must concentrate on promoting the will to survive and the courage to build in the first and most essential element of the economic cycle man.