"A world without Poverty is Possible." -- Muhammad Yunus
This week, heads of state gather in New York for the UN General Assembly, and the CEOs of major companies, wealthy people from across the globe, philanthropists, and others who are looking for new and more efficient ways to do some good, gather at the Clinton Global Initiative. They gather at dinners, cocktails, in board rooms across Manhattan to discuss how they can play a role, reaching out to those working in the field with the poorest of the poor, such as Muhammad Yunus, representatives of NGOs, and, more recently, of funds that look towards doing good while doing good business.
This idea, that we can finance social businesses, based on a sustainable business model, is in fact an offshoot of what the Grameen Bank founder created first with Grameen Phone and then later with companies such as Danone and others, to create jobs, and now even train people in the most remote villages to provide medical services, educational content, diagnoses via technology at a distance and improve quality of life in many very poor countries.
Now there is a generation of students, who in the past would have attended top business schools such as Harvard, HEC, INSEAD, and LSE, who are looking for more from their careers than simply bringing home a large paycheck. They want to give back from the start. To serve this optimistic and engaged young community is a series of business schools, such as HEC, which has a Muhammad Yunus Chair for Social Business, and the new ENS Global Social Business MBA program, which is launching in both Bolivia and Chile in the not too distant future.
These young MBAs are not the cynical business students who ended up in the City or on Wall Street and became part sadly of what has turned out to be an unsustainable business model that is based on greed. As Dr. Yunus says, every human being has a selfish and an unselfish side. The selfish side can always go make a profit somewhere (hopefully that side will do so ethically) but it should not try to profit off the poorest of the poor, who are often women. The unselfish side, which also needs to be fed, searches for ways to give back. This is where social business fits in. Helping the poorest to both finds jobs, and increase their families' overall well-being, is part of the goal of social business. These companies are run in such a way that the initial investment is paid back and can thus be used again and again to expand this idea exponentially. Unlike with charitable giving, where the funds must be raised over and over again, this is the way to move forward in a world where sustainability is not only more practical, it is the only way we are human beings will come out ahead.
One man, who has been inspired by this model, is helping to make the dream of social business MBA programs throughout parts of Bolivia and Chile a reality.
Dr. Javalquinto is an economist "working at the 'Centre for Latin American Research & Development' (CIDTEL) -- one of his greatest achievements. CIDTEL is a Technological Park foundation and Social Business School, dedicated to the creation of knowledge and human perfection, via research, development, innovation, entrepreneurship, which is based on the social business model by Nobel Peace Prize winner -- Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh.
He published at the OECD, University of Viña del Mar, and is a columnist for several newspapers. Dr. Javalquinto is currently working on his books: The Business Model of Chile and The Myth of the Chicago Boys and structural adjustment loans from the World Bank in Chile."
I was asked to serve as an Honorary Board Member for these programs and to help design courses, which would teach these students about how we can also create social businesses in the media. Just as Grameen Phone was originally a social business idea, these telecoms will now be the content distribution networks and educational conduits for remote and poor regions of the world. There are all kinds of social business projects which can take traditional media and with the help of technology, expand in ways we have never imagined.
The exciting thing is that in many of these countries, the technology has already and will continue to lead to leap-frog advances from which we in wealthier parts of the world will benefit. We can also imagine the bottom billion being owners and operators of these communications networks, as they already are the living micro-distribution system for so much in their respective communities. Often these living networks are women-based.
How exciting to think of a truly democratic media, where the people, not a concentrated few, allow for authenticity and truth, as well as entertainment and education, to be distributed by and to the majority. The curators of this content can also be local, thus a celebration of true diversity and respect for other cultures can allow for all of us everywhere to learn that, you do the best business, by also doing good in business.