World Bank Internship and Lecture from Professor Mohammad Yunus by Ananda Paez

by tuftsigl
Aug 05

Interning at the World Bank is a dynamic learning experience, in many ways enhanced by the almost daily talks and “Brown Bag Lunches” that take place. My favorite has been the talk by Professor Mohammad Yunus on July 24th. Though I was familiar with Professor Yunus’ work, hearing him speak in person was a mind-blowing experience. Professor Yunus is a genius, there is no doubt about that, but his genius is not the mathematical or very complex kind. He is a genius because he has been able to take a step back from the world we live in, break schemes, and revolutionize economics using his own logic, not the one imposed to him by economic theory or society. It really struck me that there was nothing complicated about his talk –a middle school student could have understood it-, but it was so spectacular because it presented a simple yet entirely different way of approaching poverty.

Professor Yunus’ concept of a social business, for example, questions the very foundations of economics by stating that the desire to create solutions (instead of the desire to make profit) can drive a business and nurture its growth. Professor Yunus said that “profit has put a spell on you”, arguing that economic theory has misinterpreted human beings by assuming that we are selfish. Professor Yunus has started multiple business employing his social business model, and all of them have been a great success, proving that the model works and that profit is not the only driving force in the world. At the same time, Professor Yunus also explained that social businesses are a much more economically-efficient alternative to philanthropy, once again questioning the way we address poverty and need as a society. According to him, philanthropy only uses a certain amount of money once, and once it has been spent it is lost. In contrast, money invested in social businesses comes back, as a return to the investment, and can therefore be reinvested an endless amount of times. Thus, with the same money Yunus argues, social businesses can do so much more than philanthropy.

Another ground-breaking statement was that human beings are not meant to work for others. Professor Yunus claims that the solution to unemployment does not lie in creating more jobs, but in encouraging people to invest in their own businesses and thus create jobs for themselves. Referring to his experience at Grameen Bank, Professor Yunus argued that humans are entrepreneurial by nature and that that is the key to end poverty and unemployment. He also emphasized that “poverty is not in the person, it is in the system” and that “if you want to fight poverty don’t fight with the person, fight with the system you have created”. I believe that this concept has become widely accepted in the United States and at institutions like the World Bank where people are aware that there is nothing wrong with poor people, but rather that they are victims of unequal access to opportunities. However, coming from a developing country, I am aware that this concept is not universal and that in countries where poverty is still prevalent many do fault the poor for their fate. Stigmatization of the poor only reinforces the cycle of injustice that creates social inequality which is why Professor Yunus’ message remains highly relevant today. 

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