In 1974, I found it difficult to teach elegant theories of economics in the university classroom, in the backdrop of a terrible famine in Bangladesh. Suddenly, I felt the emptiness of those theories in the face of crushing hunger and poverty. I wanted to do something immediate to help people around me, even if it was just one human being, to get through another day with a little more ease. Thus begins the story of Mohammad Yunus, the 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In his Nobel lecture (watch the video and read the transcript here), he tells his story of how he came to found Grameen Bank and pioneer micro-lending to the poor.
The prevailing assumption of bankers and capitalists at that time was that the poor were not a good credit risk. Over the last 30 years, the Grameen (meaning village) Bank has given out loans totalling $6 Billion (US) to 7 million poor people, and the repayment rate has been 99%. Yunus proudly asserts that Grameen Bank routinely makes a profit, is self-reliant and has not accepted donor money since 1995.
And, according to an internal survey of borrowers, 58 per cent have crossed the poverty line. These results have say something about who we are as human beings, and what is possible for humanity going forward. Mohammad Unus sees a future where poverty only exists in museums! The path to get there lies, he sees, in questioning our assumptions about who we are as human beings and using free market principles to help the poor lift themselves from poverty.
I am in favor of strengthening the freedom of the market. At the same time, I am very unhappy about the conceptual restrictions imposed on the players in the market. This originates from the assumption that entrepreneurs are one-dimensional human beings, who are dedicated to one mission in their business lives - to maximize profit. Human beings are a wonderful creation embodied with limitless human qualities and capabilities. Our theoretical constructs should make room for the blossoming of those qualities, not assume them away. By defining "entrepreneur" in a broader way we can change the character of capitalism radically, and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market.
In his speech, Mohammad Yunus introduces the concept of a social business, as a free market solution to end poverty, and as a vehicle for young revolutionaries to change the world. Young people all around the world, particularly in rich countries, will find the concept of social business very appealing since it will give them a challenge to make a difference by using their creative talent. Many young people today feel frustrated because they cannot see any worthy challenge, which excites them, within the present capitalist world. Socialism gave them a dream to fight for. Young people dream about creating a perfect world of their own.
The FLOW Movement being started in Austin, Texas is forming an idealogical framework to provide a global context for tomorrow's young revolutionaries. Michael Strong, Co-Founder of FLOW, sees how these new ideas about human potential, entrepreneurship and free markets can ignite a spark in University students, giving them a viable way to literally change the world for the better. Mohammad Yunus says that we have poverty, because we accept it as part of the human condition. Once we raise our standards and refuse to accept it, we will easily find creative solutions to eliminate it altogether.
The human mind has incredible power to solve problems, but only the problems that we refuse to accept. We create the world in accordance with our mindset. We need to invent ways to change our perspective continually and reconfigure our mindset quickly as new knowledge emerges. We can reconfigure our world if we can reconfigure our mindset. Could the way Mohammad Yunus thinks be a model for human beings going forward? Not what he thinks, but how.
Could it be that the visionary mind of the future is one that evolves continually in ways that empower the individual to stand for more, see more as possible and create more? How can we all come to live and think as visionaries? For visionaries who stand for all of humanity are the new revolutionaries; and they shall create our future.
As founder of the Vision Force Academy, Michael Skye works with a new breed of impassioned change agents around the world, who are giving their lives to stand for all of humanity. Michael is best known for his transformational leadership trainings, based on his proprietary iStand technology. He authored the the Visionary Mind Shifts for VisionForce.com.