Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Muhammad Yunus Gives Commencement Speech at MIT

"Poverty is not created by the poor. It is created by the system.

Poverty is an artificial imposition on people.

Once you fall outside the system, it works against you.

It makes it very difficult to return to the system.

How do we change this?
Where do we begin?"

- Professor Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, speaking at the 2008 MIT commencement ceremony.

In his best-selling book, "Banker to the Poor", Nobel Peace Prize-winner Professor Muhammad Yunus talks about the role of business in promoting social reform. He was head of the Rural Economics Program at the University of Chittagong when he began to feel that the words included in his teachings seemed empty when he saw people in his nation of Bangladesh starving all around him. He consciously decided to take time away from teaching, launching an action research project while living among rural villagers. Taking all he'd learned about the way they lived and understanding how the existing economic/power structure held them back and kept them from being able to meet their basic needs, Professor Yunus created innovative business model that blended the power of the free markets with a humane, egalitarian set of ideas that helped alleviate poverty, inequality, and other social problems...particularly among women in his country. He designed a credit delivery system to provide banking services targeted to specifically benefit the rural poor. Starting his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Professor Yunus wished to show that a goal of prosperity and lasting peace can't be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is the means by which Profeesor Yunus has proven, through his great caring, economic expertise, and ingenuity, that not only does microlending help once-destitute people rise to be able to feed their families and succeed in building better communities, but also that development from the grassroots up will serve to advance democracy and human rights.

He recently told a group of graduating students at MIT that the choices those grads make about their careers will decide the fate of mankind, even though they are not actually aware of it. He asked them, rather than simply committing themselves to being creative when thinking about their future careers, that the students decide be a socially conscious creative generation.

An Excerpt from the Commencement speech:

[...] Your generation can bring a breakthrough in changing the course of the world. You can be the socially-conscious creative generation that the world is waiting for. You can bring your creativity to design brilliant social businesses to overcome poverty, disease, environmental degradation, food crisis, depletion of non-renewable resources, etc. Each one of you is capable of changing the world. To make a start all that each one of you has to do is to design a business plan for a social business. Each prototype of a social business can be a cute little business. But if it works out, the whole world can be changed by replicating it in thousands of locations.

Prototype development is the key. In designing a prototype all we need is a socially-oriented creative mind. That could be each one of you. No matter what you do in your life, make it a point to design or be involved with at least one social business to address one problem that depresses you the most. If you have the design and the money, go ahead and put it into action. [...]

The Commencement speech can be seen here [MIT.edu]

You can read the transcript of the speech at: Commencement address by Muhammad Yunus, "Each of you has the power to change the world"

Yunus draws record numbers at MIT commencement [Indepedent Bangladesh]

Yunus tells MIT grads they can 'change the world' [MIT News]..


Intel, Nobel Laureate to Bridge Tech, Finance Divides [Andrew Burger, E-Commerce Times]..

Professor Muhammad Yunus and The Green Children to Open First Grameen Eye Hospital in Bangladesh on May 12, 2008

A Google interview video featuring Professor Yunus from January, 2008: