Muhammad Yunus On How to End Poverty

Last Updated Jun 5, 2008 11:20 PM EDT

The third section of Creating a World Without Poverty details Muhammad Yunus' vision for creating social businesses and how they will eliminate poverty.

Yunus recaps some of the hoops that had to be jumped through before Grameen Danone could start making high-nutrition, low-cost yogurt in Bangladesh. Capital markets and regulators aren't set up to finance social businesses or to tax them (or exempt them from taxes, as may be the case), and Group Danone had to do yeoman's work with shareholders and regulators, including creating a social mutual fund that did not promise to maximize returns first and foremost. His goal is to expand market capitalism by making the unconventional conventional, working in an idea for a Social Dow Jones Index, Social MBAs and other ideas for increasing the visibility â€" and viability -- of such businesses.

He also has high expectations for turning information technology as an engine for eliminating poverty. His experiences in Bangladesh suggest that the digital divide is not inevitable, and where it exists it does not need to be permanent. He cites the One Laptop Per Child and Intel Classmate PC projects as examples, and throws out a few other ideas that he hopes someone will pursue.

Yunus' vision will either inspire or irritate, because it is an outsized vision â€" a world with no poverty, a capitalism that doesn't weigh only profits â€" that stands outside today's reality. It will make many business people uncomfortable, and many others disdainful. By the end of the book, when he discusses the consumer society and whether it can and should be sustained, and says not in its current form, he will be preaching to a choir, and also to converts. They will all nod their heads in agreement when he writes

"Doing the right thing is no longer merely a matter of making ourselves feel good; it's a matter of survival, for ourselves and for generations to come."

UPDATE: Here is my post Summing up Muhammad Yunus, Creating a World Without Poverty.

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.