Closing the Gap – start with access to money

The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world …. all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them.   Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank.

Those born into poverty are like a bonsai tree- the seed they grow from is the same as ours but they are planted with so little soil they cannot reach their full potential. So says Muhammed Yunus, Nobel Laureate and altruist.

The child born into poverty has the same capacity as a child born to royalty, they just lack opportunity.

Last night I was privileged to hear this amazing man speak about his view of the world. Muhammad Yunus touched on his work supporting myriads of people to start their own businesses. He claimed that business need not be solely about making money. In fact he sees business as the answer to poverty.

Twenty years ago Muhammad Yunus chose to do something to make a more equitable world. He saw the need for the poor to get credit at a reasonable rate. The banks were closed to these people as they had no collateral so they were often exploited by loan sharks. He went on to tip banking on its head. Instead of loaning money to those who have wealth so they can make more, he loaned to those who had none so they could have some.

The Grameen Bank started with the cash he had in his pocket on that day. It did not start as a perfectly executed  plan but developed over years to where it is today. He made it up as he went along. His ignorance of banking allowed him to break and re-make the rules. Amongst other outcomes it has now given over 23 million people access to microloans.

Muhammad talked of how all children are entrepreneurs in the making. They have creativity they can harness to find a living. But children are trained to have a “job” mindset. They are taught they will either have a job or  be unemployed and idle. But isn’t life about filling your potential? Professor Yunus sees that by offering small loans to those who have little allows them to utilise their creativity in finding a way to support themselves and their families.

He advocates that a social business, like the Grameen Bank, has far more impact than charity. The money goes out – solves a problem – and then comes back to be used again.

This opportunity to hear a great and inspiring speaker only reinforces my plan to always look to the impact of my giving.

written by Anna Wade

Muhammad Yunus was a guest of The Funding Network at MFCo. One of the social enterprises looking for funding was The Kokoda Track Foundation that we have supported.

The Intrepid Foundation currently supports these social enterprises: Pollinate Energy in India, The Starfish Project in Cambodia, and Bicycles for Humanity in Namibia.

The Intrepid Group is a business with a Purpose Beyond Profit.

Check out this article in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Growing inequality is a ‘ticking time-bomb’, Nobel prize-winner Muhammad Yunus warns Australia