More than 30 years ago, Muhammad Yunus, Ph.D., made a $27 investment that has since netted more than $6 billion — not for himself but for entrepreneurs in his native Bangladesh and around the world too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.
His bold move – extending small loans to people without money or collateral – helped spawn a micro-credit movement in the developing countries that has since spread globally and earned him recognition worldwide as the “Father of Micro-credit.”
As micro-credit has become an increasingly powerful tool in the fight against world poverty, the Bangladeshi bestselling author and Nobel Prize laureate is touting yet another innovative concept in his recently published book “Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs.”
Dr. Yunus will be in town Friday, Aug. 27, for a lecture and book signing in honor of the completion of the first phase of renovation of the Atlanta University Center’s Robert W. Woodruff Library. “An Afternoon with Dr. Muhammad Yunus,” scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the library’s exhibition hall, will be a follow up to a 2:30 p.m. ribbon cutting and celebration set for Thursday, Aug. 26. The library is located at 111 James P. Brawley Dr. S.W.
The Woodruff Library and the historically black colleges and universities of the Atlanta University Center – Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, the Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College, are sponsoring the two-day celebration.
Event organizers consider the visit by the pioneering economist and banker an example of the caliber of expanded programming they plan to host at the library going forward.
“We are honored to welcome this world renowned scholar and economist to the Atlanta University Center,” said Loretta Parham, CEO and library director. “As a collaborative resource of the AUC, the Woodruff Library is pleased to host thought-provoking programming of this caliber for the benefit of students, faculty, and staff.”
“Building Social Business,” which will be included among the many volumes on the library’s renovated shelves, continues the conversation about the global benefits of replacing financial profits with the dividends that come from doing good. Billed as a “social business manual,” it is a follow up to the best sellers “Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the battle against world poverty” and “Creating a World Without Poverty.”
Yunus’ latest work expands his argument that social business is a practical complement to capitalism that deserves increased use around the world for the good all. This innovative business model puts emphasis on addressing social problems not maximizing profits. Investors get back only the money they contribute but can reap even more in non-financial rewards.
The micro-credit guru considers finding ways to assist the 47 million uninsured in the United States as much of a challenge and opportunity for this brand of enterprise as supplying vaccinations for diseases that only affect the poor in developing countries.
“Health care is a big problem,” Dr. Yunus said in remarks to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in 2008. “This can be an excellent social business, [but] profit maximizing companies won’t go to this because they won’t get that kind of brilliant profit out of it so they go someplace else.”
Micro-credit’s enormous impact is indisputable. Grameen Bank, a financial institution he founded in 1983 that now has more than 7 million borrowers, is widely credited with helping the poor become self-sufficient and women start businesses in unprecedented numbers in the developing world.
Yunus’ work continues to draw accolades, the latest coming from the Bonn, Germany based SolarWorld AG. The world’s largest solar panel manufacturer is set to present him and his Grameen Bank with its SolarWorld Einstein Award in September.
Micro-loans have helped bring solar energy to rural Bangladesh. Frank Asbeck, SolarWorld CEO, praised Yunus as a “radically new thinker in economics and banking.”
“He has recognized the potential of the poorest of this world to manage a decent living on the basis of a small starting credit, a lot of creativity, and the sun as a source of energy,” Asbeck said.
Additional honors for Yunus include the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for economic and social development, and 26 honorary doctorate degrees.
Constructed in 1982, the Robert W. Woodruff Library serves the Atlanta University Center’s member schools—Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College. With a combined enrollment of 10,000, these colleges and universities constitute the world’s largest consortium of historically black institutions of higher education. For more information on the AUC Woodruff Library, it’s programs, services, and resources, email askref(at)auctr(dot)edu or call 404-978-2067.