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.
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For me, the truly life-changing contributor to the conference came in the person of Emmanuel Faber, co-Chief Operating Officer of Groupe Danone, a French-based multi-national corporation that produces many food and beverage products, such as Evian water, Dannon Yoghurt, and Lu cookies, to name a few of their many brands.
Muhammad Yunnus’ book Banker to the Poor opened my mind to a new type of philanthropy – venture philanthropy – where donations to a Microfinance Institution are loaned out, repaid at an extremely high rate, and then reinvested. The thought that my small donation not only made a significant impact to the loan recipient but also was recycled appealed greatly to my entrepreneurial bent.
At Federated Church, United Church of Christ, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, we brought a biblical parable to life this past fall. We lived out the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. There, a master lends three servants varying amounts of money. Two of them invest their money and double it. One simply buries it and makes nothing.
Aha! Finally! I have been running Social Businesses for many years (though I did not use the term up until now), so it is delightful to have Professor Yunus not only give it a name, but shine a bright light on such a valuable free-market approach to addressing social change!
Muhammad Yunus is blazing another trail in his constant search for new and often unconventional ideas for confronting poverty, head-on. Just as Grameen Bank revolutionized banking with its bottom-up approach, I believe his latest initiative—social business—has the power to transform the way societal problems such as poverty, ill-health and even environmental degradation are addressed.
When he asked for a meeting with Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, Franck Riboud, CEO of Group Danone, a global corporate giant (whose American brand name is Dannon), didn't realize that his concept of doing business was about to change forever. A few hours and a hand shake transformed the hard driving, profit-motivated executive, into an unwavering advocate of 'social businesses'.