Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, has an interesting take on philanthropy. His ideology can be summed up by this: poverty is created because poor people are not given the opportunity to bring themselves out of poverty. However, there is much more to his stance than first meets the eye. In an interview with the NY Times, Yunus brings the issue of control of wealth (as well as a possible solution) to light.
Yunus has been interested in “social businesses”, which he defines as businesses that solve problems, but are not-for-profit. In his mind, some human problems cannot be resolved in the current marketplace. Therefore, they must exist outside of the confines of the system, hence the lack of focus on earnings.
To Yunus, capitalism exists as a mushroom. Within the system, money is drained from the poor and given to the wealthy. However, Yunus does not blame the rich, as they are only following the process of the system. Instead, he focuses on the rapid problem of a handful of people owning more money than the lowest 50% of people combined. Soon, he says, it will be one person.
To combat the issue of the capitalism mushroom, Yunus thinks businesspeople should focus on creating more social businesses. Instead of focusing on how to maximize profit, these businesses would only look to combat their losses and not much more. Yunus believes in the idea of helping others so much that he suggests colleges offer two business M.B.A. degrees: one conventional and one social.
Yunus also believes that the future of bursting the wealth-control bubble is through the youngest generation. He recognizes that a majority of young Americans do not believe in capitalism, after seeing it fail throughout their lifetime. Because of this shift, Yunus thinks schools should incorporate social business strategy into the lessons. During this time, students would be encouraged to identify a problem (such as a village without clean water) and brainstorm a solution. This could be an entire project, where the student maps out the work that needs to be done, as well as a projected solution.
With Americans moving away from die-hard capitalism more and more each day, Yunus believes the social business model could take off within the next few years. Within 10 years, he thinks that social business could take up 1% of the economy, and continue to grow. As people get more involved, he projects that they will want to continue to stay involved, which will only increase the number of people working toward these goals.
If you’re interested in discovering more about the world of social businesses, check out Muhammad Yunus’s book, A World of Three Zeros, where he delves more deeply into all of these ideas.