There are few people you meet in life that are inspirational, but I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few. I won’t namedrop, as most of them you won’t know, but many of the most inspirational business people I’ve met are in the innotribe stream.
Today, we were all a little starstruck therefore when even the whole innotribe team were finding themselves in the presence of Professor Muhammad Yunus, Chairman of the Yunus Centre and the founder of Grameen Bank.
He joined a panel discussion alongside:
- Julius O. Akinyemi, Entrepreneur-In-Residence, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Kartik Kaushik, Managing Director, Global Head of Business Development, Citi
- Carolyn Stephens, Professor (PhD, FFPH, IFRSM) , Universidad Nacional de Tucuman/UCL
in a session entitled: “The Future of Doing Good (Banks for a Better World)”.
Professor Yunus made many comments that were quotable. Here are a few:
“On microfinance, some people are critical of this, because some people are making money for themselves. When we created Grameen Bank, the whole idea was to help people and stop people being victims of loan sharks. Those people creating microfinance and making money from it are not doing it in the right way. I now have sixty such companies around the world and have to explain again and again that I do not get any money out of this. That was not my intention. My intention was to solve problems. That is what I do. These businesses are done for shareholders, and is focused upon solving problems. It’s a non-dividend company however, so the shareholders do not take any money out of it, but this is not charity. It’s a charitable project that we expect will repay. The problem with charity is that it goes out and it never comes back. We take the approach that it’s not charity, it’s business. Money goes out and, over time, it will come back. That’s our social business model. It takes out the focus of making money. The logic of profit is ridiculous. Instead we design our business to solve problems and know that, if you solve problems, eventually you get the money back.”
He continued later to talk about how to solve poverty:
“Poverty is not created by people, it's created by the system and banking is part of that system. You lend to the people who have money and don't lend to those people who have no money. Isn't that the wrong way around? You decide if people are worthy of credit. Shouldn't we ask instead if banks are worthy of people?”
The other panellists made some great input too, with Julius saying that: “social entrepreneurship is no different to normal business, except that it has passion, innovation and creativity. A social business is not a non-profit or a giveaway. Anything that does not have a value, means that people do not value it. Social businesses are rather businesses in the real sense. The reason why it fails in the private industry is due to the profit focus however. We can build social businesses on a profit platform, but it has to start with the right focus.
My favourite quote of the whole session came from Doctor and Professor Carolyn Stephens, who opened with the statement: “in medicine we also have the equivalent of investment bankers. They are called plastic surgeons.”
It got a big laugh and then it was opened to a lengthy debate about how to make banking work for the good of the planet.
That’s what innotribe is all about: looking for a positive future.
If you missed it, then you really missed out, not only on an inspirational week but also the chance to meet a great man.