Elon Microfinance Initiative has hosted many guest speakers in its 4+ years as a club at Elon University. Local business owners, entrepreneurs, and social business advocates have spoken to EMI members on the importance of microfinance in the 21st century. But EMI was honored to have a guest speaker on April 4, 2012 who travelled all the way from Bangladesh to speak at Elon. And he also had a Nobel Peace Prize.
World-renowned social entrepreneur and “father of microfinance” Muhammad Yunus visited Elon University two years ago today and captivated audiences with his humility and consideration for the poorest of the poor. Yunus, now 73, was born and raised in Chittachong, Bangladesh, and taught economics at both Middle Tennessee State University and Chittachong University. Yunus then discovered vast amounts of extreme poverty in his native country, and set out on a mission to help those who were not finding help.
He pioneered the concept of microcredit, providing very small financial loans to individuals (mainly women) and groups that could use the money to grow their own businesses. In effect, these small amounts of money could help these poor “lift themselves out of poverty”. Yunus started the Grameen Bank in the late 1970s by loaning $27 USD to a group of 42 families to use as start-up capital for businesses. “Social business is problem-solving,” he said. “You have to identify the problem first, not academically…. but just as a person.”
Grameen Bank has since given more than $11 billion USD in loans and has enjoyed a 96.67% repayment rate, better than that of most small American banks. Yunus and Grameen Bank earned the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to expand economic opportunity for women and the impoverished. In 2008, Yunus authored Creating a World Without Poverty, which described his model of social business as a means to end poverty worldwide. The book also served as the 2011 common reading novel for incoming Elon University students.
In April 2012, Elon University presented Yunus with the Medal for Entreprenurial Leadership, rewarding an individual who exemplifies the values of Elon University, including integrity, innovation and creativity. Yunus also held a private meeting with members of Elon Microfinance Initiative, including current VP of Finance Denis Dotson. “I remember his quiet demeanor, but he also displayed a dedication for the poor,” Dotson recalled. “It was like these people were his family and that it was his job to help them.” Yunus spoke to EMI about our mission, his views of microfinance, and how we could make an impact in our local community. “To have a Nobel Prize winner motivate you is an awesome experience,” Dotson added.
EMI thanks Muhammad Yunus for his kindness and wisdom during his visit two years ago, and we pledge to creating a better world for our future.
“When people say it can’t be done, you say ‘Yes, it can be done.’ If you feel passionate about it, stay on it; create new things and be defining. Don’t follow the dotted line. You create your own dots so others can follow.”