Everyone A Changemaker: Social Enterprise Conference with Muhammad Yunus.

“If we don’t do it, noboday else will.” Muhammad Yunus’ words echoed over a captivated crowd of students, professionals, and social entrepreneurs. Yunus opened as the keynote speaker for the conference honoring the 2008 Tech Laureates, for “Technology Benefiting Humanity” at Santa Clara University. Muhammad Yunus opened, explaining that his work started with a “simple idea, and a simple action.” Yunus founded the Grameen Bank (http://www.grameen-info.org), a bank dedicated to serving the poor. The Grameen Bank went from one village, to now having over 7 million borrowers. Yunus has since expanded the Grameen initiatives into IT, education, irrigation and health.

Yunus emphasized the importance of mindset; of how we make our minds. As we grow, we need to set our minds to lead us in the right direction, to help, to empathize and to believe. Many people told him his ideas could not be done; their minds were set in a different way. Yunus had confidence in people, he believes every human is an entrepreneur, given their chance. He explains, sitting down with a beggar and understanding their story, gives him confidence that they can work out of it. Grameen is owned by the poor; he puts the bank in the hands of his lenders. His confidence in the poor may seem risky; to that he explains, “just because I don’t know, doesn’t mean I can’t try.”

He talked at length about the idea of social business. He explained business solely driven off of profit, assumes people are very one-dimensional; but they’re not. Social business allows people to express they’re selfless side in they’re work. He defines social business as a non loss, non dividend venture with a social objective. His visions for the future include a social stock market, a social wall street journal; where investors and entrepreneurs are motivated by their return on social impact.  It may seem crazy to some, but it poses many interesting ideas. Why aren’t we concerned more with our gain on social impact when valuing a business? Some  controversial points in his views, are whether a social business should be profitable; Does it limit the talent and motivations necessary for driving social business forward?

Bill Drayton, the founder and CEO of Ashoka (http://ashoka.org), was the next speaker. Ashoka builds an amazing community and network of powerful social entrepreneurs to collaborate across the world to make a holistic change. He talked about the difference between business as usual and social enterprise. He argues that there should be a difference in the type of management, measurements, etc and that we shouldn’t try and mold social enterprise into standard business. Which makes me wonder… social enterprise thrives because they implement a lot of the practices that make business successful. So where is the line; how close can social enterprise really come to competitive business models without losing what makes them unique and powerful in the first place…?

Drayton emphasized the need for people to “give themselves permission”. He described an Ashoka fellow as giving himself persmision to change the world. It’s amazing how much things can change when people believe they can make a difference.


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