Earlier this month, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, visited Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation for a fireside chat. Dr. Yunus is known for his human centred approach to economics and finance. Originally from Bangladesh, Yunus was fuelled by the belief that credit is a fundamental human right and that loan sharks were making it next to impossible for anyone to get ahead. His objective was to assist the unhealthy people in his village by loaning them the money they needed directly. The belief was that these individuals could escape poverty if they were just provided with suitable loan terms and knew a few basic financial principles themselves. His intention was never to profit from these interactions, but to make personal finances more manageable.
Dr. Yunus’s efforts to create economic and social development from below quickly gained momentum. As an outgrowth of Dr. Yunus’s personal loans, he decided to transform his growing business into a bank specifically addressing the needs of the low-income majority in his country. In 1983, the Grameen Bank (meaning ‘village bank’) advanced to the forefront of a burgeoning global movement toward eradicating poverty through micro-lending. This innovation has transformed communities in developing and developed countries with similar banks established and modelled in more than 100 countries, all based on this humanitarian approach.
Dr. Yunus’s work has inspired many; in viewing social business as a means to meet the needs of the many, a genuine business can be formed, barriers can be broken down, and individuals can progress. Through innovative humanitarians such as Dr. Yunus, we can see how micro decisions can redesign the system in which we live. This is our call to reclaim our relationships with each other and reinforce what it means to be truly human.