Recently I was fortunate enough to listen to Professor Muhammad Yunus in person at the Muhammad Yunus Business Lunch. It’s not every day you get to listen to a Nobel Peace Laureate and hear first-hand how he challenged perceptions of the poor and successfully implemented two of his innovative ideas; first with micro-finance and then with the social business model.
Many would be familiar with the work of Professor Yunus and those that have visited the SVA Sydney office would have probably met in the ‘Yunus’ meeting room. In 1976, Muhammad Yunus hedged his bets on the bankability of the poor by lending roughly $27 to 42 women in Bangladesh. This seemingly small gesture played a leading role in the scaling up of microcredit programs across the globe, with Yunus’ Grameen Bank emerging as the vanguard of the modern microfinance movement. The act of offering small loans to people who had traditionally been excluded from the banking system had a profound impact. During the lunch, Professor Yunus humbly described his approach as just one of the many tools in the toolbox now available to solve social issues.
One of his core messages during the event was the need for private capital to play a greater role in the sector to overcome entrenched poverty and disadvantage. It is clear that traditional non-profits and government services simply aren’t enough.
Professor Yunus’ story and philosophy resonates with me because he both talks the talk and walks the walk. He is an innovative leader who delved where others wouldn’t dare and not only articulated his idea to the world but acted on it. I’m proud to be part of a team that strives to do the same. The impact investing team is increasing the capital flow to the social sector through innovative instruments such as social impact bonds. Professor Yunus is a thought leader who has rolled up his sleeves time and again – we need more doers!