a review in Peter unzipped

May 28, 2008

Following is the personal accounts on ‘Creating a world without poverty’ in Peter Unzipped:
Yesterday I finished Creating a World Without Poverty, a book by Muhammad Yunus that covers a lot of ground but mainly focuses on social business. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, a social business lies somewhere between a for-profit business and a charity. For the most part, a social business operates like a for-profit business except it does not pay dividends – it only returns the original investment to it’s investors, any profits are used to expand the business. Like a charity the goal of a social business is to meet a particular social need, but unlike a charity it seeks to be self-sustaining so that it does not have to rely on donors for cash.

While Dr. Yunus is clearly not a writer by trade, and occasionally gets a little pie-in-the-sky (no harm in that though), this is a very interesting read for those who want to learn more about this new paradigm for solving social problems. I know I have been writing a lot about microcredit, which is covered somewhat in this book, Grameen Bank is more the topic of Banker to the Poor, his earlier book. This book also covers a number of other Grameen business, of which Grameen Telecom was of particular interest to me. In my last class at school (Marketing Management), one of our projects was to come up with marketing idea for Nokia. While doing research, I learned a lot about how mobile phones can help transform developing economies by being used in novel ways. For example, in some countries mobile phones are used similarly to Western Unions to transfer money through prepaid phone cards. In many areas, mobile phone technology is being used to leapfrog landlines for telephone service and Internet connectivity. Grameen Telecom helped women from villagers (a.k.a. telephone ladies) to start their own microbusinesses by purchasing phones and selling use of their phone to people in and around their villages.

Much of the book is devoted to challenging a number of the assumptions of the current economic establishment, for example that poor people are not credit-worthy (Grameen Bank has a repayment rate of over 98% – which I’m guessing is much better than the repayment rates for most loans in the United States) or that the main engine for growth in developing countries has to be the creation of employment. Anyway it’s a great and inspirational read (there’s a reason he and Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize), and I would definitely recommend it. Unless you’re an asshat.

published on April 20, 2008 by Peter


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