Prof. Yunus about Social Enterprise

Learning from the world’s leading social entrepreneur
By Danny den Hartog, Social Enterprise Solutions, 8th July 2015

It does not happen that often that you have the humbling experience to stand face to face with one of the greatest human beings of all time. It happened to me on 3rd of July, the day that I was blessed to hear Muhammad Yunus speaking during the Social Enterprise World Forum 2015 in Milan. I was there as one of the four Dutch representatives of the social enterprise movement.

Source: Dr. Yunus speaking at SEWF 2015

About Muhammad Yunus
Professor Yunus is probably the best known social entrepreneur in the world. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for founding the Grameen Bank and for pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. He was the first who, on a large scale, provided loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.
His first loan was USD 27 and now (40 years later), over one billion people have benefited from over USD 11bln in loans according to an interview with Yunus in Pioneers Post quarterly, Summer 2015 Issue #1.

Top take-aways from his speech:

  1. Our young generation is most powerful generation in human history’.

Access to technology and information is unparalleled. Young people have a tremendous opportunity to build their own world, a sharp departure from the previous generations.
Young people are ready and can be further encouraged to develop social enterprises, starting with identifying what problems they see around the world, understanding these problems. They should then imagine a world that they would like to create and imagine that they can really do it. It helps if this new desired reality is projected/ visualized by hanging it up on a piece of paper. His point is that ultimately if we do that, more and more people will think in this same direction and we will create this new reality.

In Yunus’ desired reality there are 3 zeros:

  • 0 poverty: “There will be poverty museums. Not a single person will be poor”.
  • 0 unemployment: There will be no unemployment, “the word unemployment will become unemployed”.
  • Nett 0 carbon emissions: hereby creating a safer planet for ourselves

The four strategies to make this happen are 1) youth (see above) as they will make it happen, 2) technology, enabling the youth to make it happen, 3) social business, us taking control of life, for the greater good and 4) good governance and human rights.

As human beings we have a lot of potential, but often we tend to forget that as we’re struggling to make ends meet in our 9-5 job. I have found my entrepreneurial journey to make the world a better place so far highly energizing and would love to see more youngsters working in a business with meaning/ purpose or start their own social enterprises.

  1. “The moment you don’t have clear definition of a concept, the risk is that someone will take advantage of the looseness of that concept”.

Although the concept of microcredit was originally very well intended and groundbreaking, gradually all kinds of people were rushing in as they saw that money could be made. At some point, even loan sharks started to say they were in microcredit this is not what the movement initially intended.

The same dangers now seem to be looming for the social enterprise movement. If the term is too loosely used and the ‘fake ones’ will be called social enterprise, the movement will lose credibility.

From discussions with many representatives worldwide in the social enterprise movement, it seems that the definition of social enterprise is still not clearly defined in many countries. In The Netherlands, at least there has recently been a breakthrough with our Social Economic Council’s (SER) May’15 advice Considering the learnings by Prod. Yunus, the workable definition produced in their report is a step in the right direction.

  1. Social enterprise is a credible alternative for traditional charity with a higher payoff, resources can be re-allocated to this movement.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I believe many traditional charities are doing the right thing and fill a vacuum that market forces could not fill. However there are also charities that keep people dependent on them by their work/ donations. You don’t change their circumstances by keeping people dependent.
Social enterprise aims to empower and the redirection of funds going from ineffective charities to social enterprises will increase effectiveness of spending.

  1. “Crowdfunding could be a great way to building clientele to mobilize money for social enterprise”.

There is an encouraging growth of the crowdfunding market worldwide and in The Netherlands according to latest report. Lendahand is an example of a social enterprise that uses crowdfunding to mobilize money for SME entrepreneurs in developing countries, hereby creating employment and reducing poverty They also used crowdfunding to fund the launch of their operations.
In The Netherlands, crowdfunding has been successfully used by social enterprises such as Snappcar, Waka Waka and many others.

About Social Enterprise Solutions

Social Enterprise Solutions also believes in Yunus’ three zeros and in the power of business to get there. We support social enterprises to scale for more impact. Do you want to know more about us? Please check