Muhammad Yunis says a job is an artificial thing. It is old-fashioned thinking. “A real human being,” Yunus told us, “is an entrepreneur. I’m not a job seeker; I’m a job creator.”
Nobel Laureate, founder of the Grameen Bank (Grameen Foundation), lifelong social entrepreneur and incredibly eloquent speaker Professor Muhammad Yunus graced the halls of the Oxford Union last week, as I humbly absorbed his every word from the front row.
Yunus spoke of his home in Bangladesh, a world where women were often illiterate, poverty was high and opportunity was low. However, the potential was unlimited. All they needed was a small foundation on which they could build. Endlessly. “We berate the poor for being poor,” he explained. “We deny them the doors to open. We don’t give them the space to grow and then blame them for it.”
Rather, he wishes to create a world in which “the word poor won’t exist.” Yunus’ Grameen Foundation exists to give the world’s poorest people this foundation by providing them with small loans with which they can start their own small businesses. He told us of a time he spoke with a group of young women from Bangladesh who had graduated from an institution of higher education and had recently returned home to their villages. These women returned to their mothers who had started businesses of their own so they could send their children to school. Their main concern, as was instilled in them during their education, was about finding a job.
“Why do you want a job?” Yunus asked them. “What good is your education if you’re not greater than your illiterate mother? You have seen the world. You have education she never had.” He urged them, instead, to think about creating jobs rather than working to find them.
Yunus then urged us to think in the same way. “You are young. You are lucky. I am envious. Young people should not start with a job, at the bottom. You should start at the top and use your creativity to change the world.”
He spoke in detail of his bank, the catalyst that sparked the micro-finance revolution. “I’m simply unleashing the capacity everyone has, which they’ve been denied.” The changes made by each loan are small. They affect individuals, even families. To Yunus, a social entrepreneur will not change the whole world. This will never happen. Rather, we can affect a small corner of the world – one, two, five people – and that is enough. The idea is that unlike straight philanthropy, social entrepreneurship is sustainable. It is renewable.
He spoke of the difference between young people today and young people even 10 or 20 years ago, highlighting the technology this generation has in our hands that there never was before. “Today, we are creating the genies in Alladin’s lamps.”
Before leaving us with a humorous story of a conversation between himself and the press, Yunus caused us to reflect, provoking, “What is the meaning of your life? Is it to make a lot of money? Making money is a happiness. Making other people money is a super happiness. Why should you compromise with just a happiness?”
This is, I believe, the reason I’m here. It’s important to break free from the world of finance and numbers, of office work and consulting interviews. It’s important to consider the other options that exist and the greater impact we can make. It’s important that we continue to think about how we can create.Back to top of article