Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has called for collective effort at both academic and practical levels to challenge conventional economic models and create openings through social business.
Unlike established economic models, social business believes that human beings are not inherently selfish and that everyone, irrespective of their age, education and background, has the capacity to be entrepreneurs, he said.
“We have to challenge the existing well-argued thinking and establish that all young people are entrepreneurs and should not be condemned to be mere job seekers,” he said in his speech at the second Global Social Business Summit Research Conference on Tuesday.
The event, which was a curtain-raiser for the sixth Global Social Business Summit, brought together researchers in the field of social business to share their findings.
Organised since 2009 by Grameen Creative Lab and Yunus Centre, the Global Social Business Summit is now the main platform for social businesses worldwide to foster discussions, actions and collaborations to develop effective solutions to the most pressing problems plaguing the world.
Held in Mexico this year from November 27 through to November 28, the summit will aim to expand the concept of social business to Latin America, especially Mexico, where the opportunity for bolstering the model is ripe, said speakers at the conference.
More than 750 participants from 60 countries will attend the event this year. In a panel discussion, Frederic Dalsace, chair of Social Business, Firm and Poverty at HEC Paris, asked Yunus if big firms, including multinational companies, should be encouraged to adopt an inclusive social business model in light of the fact that such a model can be highly successful for big businesses.
“It worries me when I hear the argument that social business will make companies more successful, because that is not the principle behind social business. You cannot go into social business wanting to make profit,” Yunus said in reply.
Highlighting the difference between corporate social responsibility and social business, the Grameen Bank founder said the former is akin to throwing money at the poor; it does not change the power structure.
Asked if social business practitioners should aim to get MNCs involved, he said as a matter of strategy, his target is the individual who works within the MNC, not necessarily the MNC itself.
The MNC became a 'monster' because of the task it was given, which is profit-maximisation at any cost.
If enough individuals can be imbued with the ideology of social business, then gradually the structure and philosophy of the MNC would change as well, the microcredit pioneer added. Natalie von Siemens, managing director of Siemens Stiftung, said academics and entrepreneurs are alike in that they are both risk-takers.
“Both ask the hard questions because had they been easy, others would have already answered them,” she said, adding that academics can play a crucial part in furthering the agenda of social business across the world.
On the sidelines of the conference, the GSBS Young Challengers Meeting was held, in which selected students and young professionals under the age of 30 got the opportunity to better understand the concept of social business, push the boundaries of existing social business ideas and practices and network with practitioners from across the world.
In his speech during the meeting, Yunus emphasised the crucial role of youth in developing and fostering an entrepreneurial society. Instead of becoming lifelong workers at the constant beck and call of others, he urged them to become entrepreneurs in charge of their own destinies, the Banker to the Poor added.