I had the pleasure of hearing Muhummad Yunus at Elizabethtown College last evening.
The 77-year-old Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank spoke about what inspired him to launch microcredit in one of the poorest countries in the world. It feels impossible to recapture the essence of the evening or of the work of Grameen – but the things that inspired me included the willingness to try new things, to ask new questions, and a commitment to eliminating poverty through whatever means made sense. A few quotes from his talk:
“I started this work because I just wanted to be of use to other human beings in great need and suffering.”
“Banks have it all wrong – they lend money to people with money! They should be lending to people who need money!”
He spoke of a program in Bangladesh where beggars can get 0% loans to buy products to sell as they’re going door to door begging – and they’re paying loans back and getting out of abject poverty.
He asks – “What is the problem you want to solve? Then create a social business to address that issue in a way that doesn’t depend on charitable contributions to make it work.”
“As long as you wear the profit-maximizing glasses, you can’t see all of the possibilities, creativity, technology that you could use to help solve that social problem.”
In regard to limitations of the work of poverty eradication – “it is a question of creativity – human beings have unlimited creative power!”