Global Social Summit, November 5, 2010
Muhammad Yunus, Founder Grameen Bank
I’m encouraging young people to become social business entrepreneurs and contribute to the world, rather than just making money. Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun.
Poor people are a like bonsai tree, a little tree. You pick the seed of the tallest tree in the forest and take the best seed out of it, and plant it in a flower pot. You get a tiny little tree, we call it a bonsai. Nothing wrong with the seed, you’ve got the best seed possible. Nothing wrong with the tree, because you actually picked the tallest tree in the forest. But actually it grows this far… why? Because we put them in the flower pot. The base. Society is the base. And society is so stingy it doesn’t give the poor people the space to grow. So I say, change the base! If you change the base, anybody will be as tall as anybody else! My belief is poverty is not caused by poor people. Poverty is caused by the system. Poverty is caused by the policies that we pursue.
People can change their own lives, provided they have the right kind of institutional support. They’re not asking for charity, charity is no solution to poverty.
We have created a society that does not allow opportunities for people to take care of themselves because we have denied them those opportunities.
I was teaching in one of the universities while the country was suffering from a severe famine. People were dying of hunger, and I felt very helpless. As an economist, I had no tool in my tool box to fix that kind of situation. I went to the bank and proposed that they lend money to the poor people. The bankers almost fell over. They explained to me that the bank cannot lend money to poor people because these people are not creditworthy.