Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rural Innovation Plenary at 2008 Clinton Global Initiative Meeting

Plenary Session on Poverty & Rural Innovation
2008 Clinton Global Initiative Meeting
New York
September 26, 2008

[Left to Right]

Steve Gunderson
[President and CEO, Council on Foundations]

Muhammad Yunus
[Founder and Managing Director, Grameen Bank]

Rick Warren
[Pastor, Saddleback Church]

My Notes on the Plenary Session:

Elsie Meeks said that she believed she was the only representative on the panel who spoke for poverty within the United States, specifically Native American poverty which often goes unseen by those who do not visit tribal reservations. Her words, "If we can't do this [alleviate poverty] in the US, how can we do it in any other nation?"

Muhammad Yunus told the audience at the Sheraton Towers that, in the 1990s, he recalled a Governor named Clinton and the First Lady of Arkansas [Hillary] inviting him to the United States to become involved on the issue of alleviating poverty in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Looking toward Elsie Meeks, he marveled about their presence on the panel together and their common work within the United States, "We've gone from Pine Bluff to Pine Ridge."

Dr. Yunus spoke about another current social business of his in the United States. Grameen Queens [NY] is an extension of his ever-growing list of Grameen businesses. He said, "New York provides banking for the whole world. What about its own neighbors?"

Speaking about the nature of social business, Dr. Yunus explained how, once the business is created, it can be duplicated many times. He feels that Philanthropy, as we've come to understand it, must be "reinterpreted...expanded." He recommended getting out of the Charity business and, instead, to give people real use our creativity to make a meaningful and lasting change. He believes that once a charity dollar is given, the subject of good intention is given the benefit once. When social business is created, however, he believes that the benefits don't end because investment continues to be made. He used the example of Group Danone [the yogurt company] which, in 2007, promised to invest $500,000 in a joint venture with Grameen to nourish children in Bangladesh. The way it works is that, in the future, Danone would expect to take back their initial investment and keep putting the rest of the profits back into the joint social business venture.

Wangari Muta Maathai, explaining her view that of all the Millennium Development goals, Sustainability [currently listed as Number-Seven] should be Number-One in priority, went a step further to say that those who are trying to alleviate poverty must never lose touch with the grass-roots in developing countries. Without grassroots-based concentration on Sustainability, no other Millennium goal can be realistically achieved. Poverty exists at that grass-roots level and the people who work the soil and suffer with the effects of climate change must be met where they are. She cited the Land, the Soil, the Water, and the Forests all as opportunity areas for management solutions. She said that the issue of Climate Change is tied in with the alleviation of poverty and, since she was speaking to a group of potential investors, added that a great opportunity for successful investment exists in all matters surround that issue. One example she used was investment in carbon credits, which she feels will help keep tropical forests standing in places along the Amazon and in Southeast Asia. She stressed her hopes that the United States government would "get on board" with Copenhagen 2009 [a major Climate Conference in Copenhagen].

Jacques Aigrain, CEO of SwissRe added that commercial solutions are being found to be at the core of successful civil outcomes when targeting "poverty traps" (as Muhammad Yunus calls them). Mr. Aigrain explained that what is happening today with social business is not your classic philanthropy. He believes free-market solutions will develop more effective sustainability...more quickly.

Toward the end of the session, Steve Gunderson asked the philosophical question: "Ten years from now, what will we wish we'd done today?" I think it was as good a closing question as there could've been.

Wangari Muta Maathai, Founder, Green Belt Movement in Kenya, 2004 Nobel Laureate
The Green Belt Movement, Professor Maathai, and their compelling stories are featured in several publications including her autobiography, Unbowed(2006), The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience (Wangari Maathai, 2002), Speak Truth to Power (Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, 2000), Women Pioneers for the Environment (Mary Joy Breton, 1998), Hopes Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet (Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, 2002), Una Sola Terra: Donna I Medi Ambient Despres de Rio (Brice Lalonde et al., 1998), and Land Ist Leben (Bedrohte Volker, 1993).[..]Professor Maathai serves on the boards of several organizations, including the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), World Learning (USA), Green Cross International, Environment Liaison Centre International, the WorldWIDE Network of Women in Environmental Work, and the National Council of Women of Kenya.

See "Nobel Peace Laureates Al Gore and Wangari Maathai Warn of Threat to National Security and Stability without U.S. Leadership on Deforestation"

Muhammad Yunus [Founder and Managing Director, Grameen Bank]
Muhammad Yunus, nicknamed "banker to the poor," won the Nobel [Peace Prize] in 2006 for inspiring a global microfinance movement that has lifted millions out of poverty by granting tiny loans. Started 30 years ago with a $27 loan to women in Bangladesh, his Grameen Bank has mushroomed by providing credit to poor people who do not have access to mainstream banking.[..]Unlike Wall Street, which is reeling from a flood of loans that may never be paid back, Grameen bank has a recovery rate of more than 98 percent.[..]"Today, if we are prepared, we could buy some of those falling banks in the United States, no problem, it's possible," Yunus said semi-seriously at former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit, the Clinton Global Initiative. [Source: Reuters]

Rick Warren [Pastor, Saddleback Church]
Pastor Rick Warren told former US President Bill Clinton’s global summit on Friday not to overlook the contribution that millions of people of faith around the world play in tackling some of today’s biggest challenges. "If we take the people of faith off the agenda, we've ruled out most of the world because most of the world has some faith," Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of the southern Californian Saddleback Church, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "There's already an army ready to be mobilised, an army of compassion." [Source: Christian Today]

Elsie Meeks, President and CEO of the Oweesta Corporation
Elsie Meeks is a champion and leader for creating sustainable asset building strategies for Native communities across the country. Through its training and technical assistance services, Ms. Meeks' organization is at the forefront of the movement to increase the number of Native community development financial institutions (CDFI) serving Native peoples. These institutions and their programs are the foundation of any successful economic development strategy. [source:]

Jacques Aigrain, CEO and Member of the Executive Committee, Swiss Re
[No photo available]