Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Creating a World Without Poverty (Yunus)

Title: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism
Author: Muhammad Yunus
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 248
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: Social Justice (July: poverty), Women Unbound, South Asian Author Challenge, POC
FTC Disclosure: My dad bought this book and I am going to donate it to my school library
Summary (from the inside flap): What if you could harness the power of the free market to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, and inequality? T some, it sounds impossible. But Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus is doing exactly that. As founder Grameen Bank, Yunus pioneered microcredit, the innovative banking program that provides poor people--mainly women--with small loans they use to launch businesses and lift their families out of poverty. In the past thirty years, microcredit has spread to every continent and benefited over 100 million families. But Yunus remained unsatisfied. Much more could be done, he believed, if the dynamics of capitalism could be applied to humanity's greatest challenges. Now, Yunus goes beyond microcredit to pioneer the idea of social business--a completely new way to use the creative vibrancy of business to tackle social programs from poverty and pollution to inadequate health care and lack of education. This book describes how Yunus--in partnership with some of the world's most visionary business leaders--has launched the world's first purposely designed social business. From collaborating with Danone to produce affordable, nutritious yogurt for malnourished children in Bangladesh to building eye care hospitals that will save thousands of poor people from blindness, this book offers a glimpse of the amazing future Yunus forecasts for a planet transformed by thousands of social businesses.

Review: This is powerful stuff! I had no intention of reading this book. Ever. But, my mom and I were cleaning out her office bookshelves and I found it. Sat down and read it. Wow. Yunus and his colleagues have such a giant task as their goal (eradicating poverty) and they have jumped in head first. And, they are so successful.

Microcredit is an awesome idea. People (mostly women) borrow money--often as little as $30, which is a lot in Bangladesh--and start a business. This small gesture turns out to be HUGE. They earn money to feed their families, send their children to school, and sometimes even hire other women to work for them. Their businesses tend to be in textiles, fruit selling, or raising animals, but some women are now "phone ladies" and "internet ladies" who set up solar powered kiosks along the road side and provide internet service and phone service to locals. How awesome is that?!

Yunus' company has started many social businesses: hospitals, clinics, schools, microcredit lenders, food producers (the one in this book is Dannon yogurt), and more. A social business is one that doesn't pay dividends to its investors. Investors get the money they lent back over a period of time with no extra. Any profit made stays in the company to expand or to do more for the poor. Social businesses also look to see how they can do businesses more economically and in a socially acceptable way.  For example, Grameen Danone is figuring out how to make edible yogurt containers (like an ice cream cone that is also a shipping package), thus eliminating trash and feeding the poor! Makes me want to go out and buy some Dannon products.

Now, I am not someone who usually reads economics books by any stretch of the imagination, but this book reads quite easily and is really interesting. Heck, I even got teary-eyed while reading it! It is inspirational, hopeful, and full of amazing ideas.

8 comments:

Darlyn said...

I dont really read non-fiction much, but i do read it sometimes. this one is kind of a very powerful read and when it's about woman, it's even more. Thanks for sharing!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Darlyn--I used to not read a ton of non-fiction, but lately (the last year) the mood hits and I find just the right one and I really enjoy it. I think you're right: when it's about something I care about (women, poverty, etc) it really helps

Alyce said...

That sounds great! I've read about micro-lending in a few other books and it is nice to see a big difference with just a small loan of money.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Alyce--My sister in law did some micro-lending work through a foundation and said the results were amazing. I especially like that they help women, since helping women seems to help the whole community (like in 3 Cups of Tea)

Notorious Spinks said...

I might have to check this book out.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Notorious--I think this one is really interesting and worth it. It gives great insight into a world I knew next to nothing about

Erin said...

I too believe this sort of empowering is the key to true help. The poor are not incapable, they just do not have the means and resources we have. One organization my heart is tied to does a lot of this sort of lending to build into the community, and the stories if change are inspiring! Thanks for the review. Here's to the SJC!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Erin--Empowerment is HUGE; I totally agree with what you said. Opportunity and resources, access to information, etc are sorely lacking in developing countries for the poor.