Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, and civil society leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 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. In 2006, Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below”. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said that “lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty” and that “across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development”. Yunus has received several other national and international honours. He received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
Professor Yunus discussed microcredit, the process and some of the key challenges. He also spoke about the origin of the term social enterprise, and how the system can be changed, whilst touching on the subject of artificial intelligence.
We were invited, (back in 2007), to start a microcredit program in the United States. Until then, they believed it was impossible to do microcredit in the United States because they had tried and every time they had failed. And you can try a 1000 times more and you still fail, and I kept on saying that it can be done. “So why are we failing?” [they asked.] “For a very simple reason; you don’t know how to do it, so do not blame the people for it,” [I responded.] Of course, this didn’t make them very happy, so they challenged me to do it. “You find the money, and I will do it,” [I said.]
So I sent someone from Bangladesh to New York to set up a branch. He [the Bangladeshi worker] was shocked, [saying], “I have never been to the US, I don’t know anything about the US.” [I replied], “but I am not sending you the US because you are an expert on the US. I am sending you there because you are an expert on Bangladesh. So forget about the US.” And I gave him a bit of advice before he left, “always remember when you start this; don’t listen to anybody! They will give you so much advice on why it can not be done ‘this is not Bangladesh’, ‘you can’t do this’ etc. Just do exactly what you are doing in Bangladesh.” And that helped him a lot. Now we have seven branches in New York, and other cities in the US too. 400,000 women, (we do not give loans to any men), are borrowers and the most beautiful [thing is], the highest loan, is $1500. You’d be amazed how these women are with their $1500 dollars, and how lucky they consider themselves when they got their first loan.