Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus

On Friday, we attended a talk, sponsored by the Seattle World Affairs Council, given by Professor Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Professor Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank and the pioneer of microcredit in his native Bangladesh.

I won’t recite statistics about the success of his program; they’re available at the links on this page. His accomplishments are breathtaking. 

As a professor of economics, he has a deep understanding of capitalism,  both its strengths and its weaknesses. He devised a system that addresses the latter while capitalizing – pardon the pun – on the former. Small loans to individuals, 97% of whom are women, address the needs of people to whom ordinary banks will not lend. Lending without collateral stands conventional banking on its head. In fact, Professor Yunus spoke about consciously doing the exact opposite of conventional banks when he formed Grameen. In light of the current subprime mortgage crisis which has wiped out so much of the banks’ capital, doing the opposite of what they do seems like sound financial advice.

At the same time, he’s created a system that harnesses the drive, creativity, entrepreneurship and desire for dignity of every human being. It’s an organic, bottoms-up approach that stands in marked contrast to the heavy handed efforts of the IMF and World Bank, and by the looks of it, far more successful too.

His latest book is Creating a World Without Poverty

Professor Yunus is a humble, soft-spoken, silver-haired, diminutive man, but what an impact he’s had!  He’s taken a simple idea, tested it, refined it, and applied it over 30 years and raised millions out of poverty.  Truly inspirational. 

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