On June 28th 2014, over 1000 delegates including 275 international participants from over 31 different countries gathered in the Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel in Dhaka to celebrate and discover new ways to eradicate social problems on the occasion of Social Business Day.
This year at the 5th Social Business Day with the theme “We are not Job Seeker, We are Job Givers- Turning Unemployment into Entrepreneurship”, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, pledged to create a world where the word unemployment would be obsolete. Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus hosted the event and Ms. Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights joined as Keynote Speaker. Other eminent dignitaries from around the world included CEO of Grameen America Ms. Andrea Jung, honorable Ambassadors to Bangladesh of various countries such as USA, Australia, Republic of Korea and Egypt amongst others, spoke on the occasion. Delegations comprising of 46 members from China, 43 members Danone Communities from France, 15 members led by Grameen Credit Agricole, 30 members delegation from Taiwan, high-level representatives from NABARD, Tata Steel, Bajaj group from India, among many others also attended the event. Everyone had shared their views on the difficulties facing youth unemployment while agreeing that it is one of the greatest challenges even for the most developed nations. All these delegates gained valuable knowledge and insight by engaging in discussions, observing examples and opportunities to utilize the remarkable idea of social business and the ways it may be implemented in their country. Delegates from the host nation also learned about the activities Grameen has been engaged in the past decades addressing different social and economic challenges.
The Nobel Laureate lauded that “This year’s event has particularly targeted the unemployment issue as everybody is frustrated by the economic behavior as it teaches us to chase money for life and forces us to act like robots. These are toxic elements within businesses”. He also added that unemployment is a torture for the youth who want to work. He blamed the education system stating that the wrong system is creating an inhibited labor force; “We have made almost a culture of education that teaches the students to focus on a job with the best company. That is the life objective taught. It is a shame for the human being to be limited like that.” To create a solution for this ailment, a new type of social business has been introduced known as the “Nobin Udyokta” or New Entrepreneur program which teaches the jobless to become job givers as opposed to job seekers through engaging in entrepreneurial activities.
Currently every year two million new graduates enter the workforce under the official statistics and majority of them fail to secure a job and/or a sustainable source of income. Professor Yunus added that this project would make Bangladesh an example for the world to follow, as it will prove how the youth can be empowered to enhance the economic activity of the country as well as creating job opportunities for others to enjoy. Furthermore, on this day other social businesses that are addressing social and societal issues around the world from countries such as Uganda and Haiti have also been showcased to promote how this type of business can create a better world.
The Keynote Speaker, Human Rights activist Kerry Kennedy said that “while Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York has the statue of Liberty, and Cairo has the Pyramids, Bangladesh boasts not bricks but a man - a man admired by every country on earth, a man who has become synonymous with all that is admirable about Bangladesh, Dr. Muhammad Yunus”. Ms. Kennedy also added that “the idea behind social business is we are not in it for ourselves, but for our communities. Stopping poverty, assuring universal quality education, protecting and promoting healthcare, empowering women, stopping violations of human rights, that is social businesses”;
At the opening ceremony the Australian High Commissioner toBangladesh, Greg Wilcock declared to use a part of his official development assistance fund to promote the private sector as he commented “We will also support innovation and new ideas, and what better idea than that of social business?” The Ambassador to South Korea Lee Yun-Young added, “Social business day is not just an event for sharing information. It is a social movement, uniting people around the world”. As a passionate supporter of Professor Yunus and Social Business, the US ambassador Dan Mozena showed his support
and appreciation to this concept by commenting “I love the philosophy of Grameen Bank. I have visited centers of Grameen Bank in many villages. I have visited Grameen America. Everywhere I go I see the magic of Grameen”. It has taught people how to use resources and improve their livelihood, and the magic of social business will propel Yunus to greater heights”. Emmanuel Faber, Vice-Chairman of Danone (France) added that the government of France is working to make social business a part of their official development efforts. He added, “there have been many investors, economists, researchers, academics and students from all over the world who have also shown their deep appreciation and commitment to further expand social business initiatives”.
A social business design lab session was held during the event where social businesses projects from five countries were presented. These included:
- PalmisEnejí a social business dedicated in energy sector to give poor households of Haiti access to clean and cost efficient energy sources like cooking stoves and solar lamps.
- Green Bio Energy an energy social business with a focus of providing eco-friendly energy to the people of Uganda.
- Seniors House is a social business which offers elderly citizens of Albania high quality residential services for tenants, leading to more independence, a better quality of life, and more dignity for the elderly.
- Biomass power solutions and Fly Ash Bricks a social business in Bangladesh that uses biomass to create energy. The mission of the social business is to set up small independent power plants in rural areas of Bangladesh using rice husk as fuel.
- Meghna Carrom Board Factory is a social business led by Md. Yeasin of Chandpur of Bangladesh. He is a Nobin Udyokta (New Entrepreneur) He purchased the factory for making carrom board in 2009, and currently provides 4 people with stable employment.
There was a Social Business Marketplace showcasing social businesses from around the world. Many organizations took part in displaying their activities, products, services and solutions on the Market place. Grameen Telecom Trust (GTT) took part in the showcase, depicting products of its fashion brand “Poshra”, highlighting its social business initiatives and informing visitors of the holistic approach that the organization assumes in addressing social problems.
Grameen Telecom Trust currently engaged in various social business projects to uplift the social conditions prevailing in Bangladesh announced launching of three new social business projects. The projects included supplying pure drinking water (NGF) for the people in Shyamnagar, Shatkhira. Dairy foods business (LUSTRE) in Naogaon and a mushroom seed business (ASHIKA) based in the Chittagong Hill Tracks.
Highlight of the day was a special circus performance by Phare Social Business Circus from Cambodia which trains street children to become modern circus artists. They entertained the audience with an amazing performance.
There were six concurrent panel sessions in the breakaway discussion. This included "Academic World: What’s coming up next,” “Fighting Unemployment with Social Business: Nobin Udyokta Initiatives of Grameen Companies”, “Innovative Financing for Social Business: Example of Crowd Funding, Loan Guarantees and Others”, “Social Business Pedia”, “Introducing Some Interesting Social Business around the World” and “Social Business in Marketing”.
Managing Director of Grameen Telecom Trust Ms. Parveen Mahmud was part of the second panel discussion “Fighting Unemployment with Social Business: Nobin Udyokta(New Entrepreneurs) Initiatives of Grameen Companies”. Professor H I Latifee (Managing Director of Grameen Trust) was the moderator of the group. In the discussion Ms. Parveen Mahmud briefed the audience on Nobin Udyokta and the role of Grameen Telecom Trust in turning the Job-Seekers to Job Givers. She said that “although is a conventional business for the New Entrepreneurs however it was social business for the Grameen companies”. The other speakers in this panel were Ms. Saleha Begum, Managing Director, Grameen Byabosa Bikash, Ms. Nazneen Sultana, Managing Director, Grameen Communications, Mr. Imamus Sultan, Managing Director, Grameen Kalyan, Ms. Tahmina Akhter Parveen, Nobin Udyokta (New Entrepreneur), “Parveen Dairy Farm,” Mr. Jalal Uddin, Nobin Udyokta (New Entrepreneur), “Jalal Handmade Bags.” Many audiences participated in the panel discussion to have a clearer idea of the Nobin Udyokta model.
The closing plenary session moderated by Professor Yunus discussed the future goals and the next steps for social business. The speakers participating in the closing panel were Mr. Hans Reitz, Co-Founder, The Grameen Creative Lab, Germany, Ms. Chuan-Min Wang (Juno), Founder, Foundation for Yunus Social Business, Taiwan, Ms. Lamiya Morshed, Executive Director, Yunus Centre, Bangladesh, Mr. Masaharu Okada, Executive Director, Grameen Creative Lab at Kyushu University & Professor, Kyushu University, Japan, Mr. Jimmy CHIU, Chief Executive, Stewards Ltd, Hong Kong and Ms. Parveen Mahmud, Managing Director, Grameen Telecom Trust, Bangladesh.
Mr. Reitz said that they are now focusing on promoting social business in Germany, and so far have got a good response where Ms. Wang (Juno) added popularity of social business was growing in Taiwan, as the country faces unemployment and low wages. Ms. Lamiya Morshed mentioned that social business has so far got a good response in Bangladesh as many academicians and students are showing interest in the concept. Masaharu Okada, said the concept of social business is widely familiar in Japan as “it is the DNA in Japanese business.”
Ms. Parveen Mahmud said an important aspect of Social Business throughout the world would be the reporting and accountability framework. She also added much of the work has to be done on the field by ensuring proper operation management and good governance. She complemented Professor Yunus’s concern over the success of NU program by stating that, field offices and staffs have to be trained and equipped accordingly to ensure that the new entrepreneurs are succeeding in their businesses. As an example she chalked out the modalities and functionalities of GTT’s existing field operations.
his concluding message Dr. Yunus said that he considers himself lucky that he was born in a country like Bangladesh. He mentioned that any country without any problem is boring. Problems mean that one is going to face challenges and overcoming those challenges should be the goal. He emphasized that a human being should never stop, they should continuously come up with new ideas with commitment to solve a problem. Dr. Yunus concluded saying the word 'retirement' should retire. He added “nobody has the right to unplug me. I'm a human being and a complete fighter. Every day I come up with new and creative ideas. That is all about being a human being."