Nobel Peace Prize winner’s philosophy challenges the current economic system
By Lizzie Harkey
Muhammad Yunus thinks logically. “Why would you only give money to the people that already have it?” he asked at Elon University’s spring Convocation for Honors on Monday at 3:30 p.m.
This philosophy is Yunus’ prime motive in his efforts to create economic and social development among low-income villages through increasing their credibility with banks. He did this initially by investing his own money into businesses that the banks have denied support, but not claiming any shares of the company as it grows. In this way, he loses no money but cultivates the economy. His work with the Grameen village in Bangladesh won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. After investing a total of $27 American dollars and starting over 50 companies, his microfinance strategy has taken on the economic system.
He taught as a professor of economics from Middle Tennessee State University in 1965 however he makes a point to go against his discipline’s teaching. He believes poverty comes from a system that demands collateral and focuses on the rich. His investment strategy takes the opposite approach: “They go to the rich I go to the poor. They go to men I go to women. They go to city center I go to the villages.”
Yunus’ work with the Grameen Village in Bangladesh and the resulting Nobel Peace Prize gained him the notoriety with companies such as Danone and Adidas. Top executives at Adidas sought Yunus in 2009 for a campaign to improve their reputation after they were criticized on exploitation of the developing world. He proposed a small but drastic program to provide shoes to the poor by making product that would only cost one euro. The company’s shock that resulted is just another example of the one-dimensional system we are operating in; a system that only values monetary gain. This system can be fixed by programs such as the one Yunus proposed for Adidas, as long as we decide to stop at nothing to see them through.
Yunus’ ambition and life advice was well received at Convocation; especially since a special recognition of Elon seniors who will need his advice most had preceded his speech. The story he told to an audience of over 1,000 of his rise to fame was not focused on details and obstacles. His message was clear: if you want to do something, do it. “Always consider the logic behind your decisions and maintain what you think is right,” he added. “Human beings have unlimited creativity…If you believe that you can do it, it will happen.”