Meeting with Microfinance Guru Muhammad Yunus

Yunus and Wei

Global Advances Group executive Zheng Wei had the honorable opportunity to meet Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus during the Celebrity Forum at the International Poverty Reduction Center (IPRCC) in Beijing, China. The event was hosted by the State Council Leading Group for China’s Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

Yunus shared his story about how he began loaning his own pocket money to groups of women in his home country of Bangladesh, and how he successfully grew his operation into to the world-renowned Grameen Bank today. Using his own credit he assumed the role of a guarantor for these groups of women to borrow money from local banks for their entrepreneurial activities. Yunus discovered the tremendous impact that small loans could make on poor communities and as the loans became larger and larger, banks refused to lend any more. Consequently, Yunus had the idea of establishing a totally new type of bank to specifically server the poor and help them escape the poverty trap. He succeeded enormously by reaching over 8 million poor people. Today the Grameen Bank not only offers microfinance solutions, but also offers pension fund services, loan insurance, and an education fund to meet the poor’s needs. Conventional banks are owned by the rich; however, the Grameen Bank is founded by the poor, works for the poor, and is also owned by the poor. Presently the Bank has over 7.7 million clients (borrowers), and most of the borrowers are also shareholders, with yearly dividends ranging from 20% to 50%.

Referring to the state of Social Entrepreneurship in China, he advised young people in China:

“When you wake up every day, take a look at yourself through the mirror, and say to yourself: ‘You are a job-giver, not a job-seeker!’ “

He noted that this specific mindset is what differentiates entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs. Yunus encourages youth aspiring to become entrepreneurs to think like a job-giver, not a job-seeker. Entrepreneurs think proactively and actively get involved in creating things, both for themselves and others; when more people choose to create rather than wait passively for things to happen the entire society benefits.

A very inspirational and exciting speech indeed!

Africa Featured in Time’s 10 Ideas Changing The World

Today Time Magazine released an article featuring “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now” in 2009. Idea number six specifically highlighted Africa as a prime business destination.

Source - Time Magazine
The article discusses that the perception of Africa has long been attributed to despair, war, diseases, corruption and famine. As a consequence of this view, a misconception exists concerning Africa’s growth opportunities; that they must all surely be related to suffering, aid programs, and donations.

The article quickly dispels this myth with strong evidence that “aid is no longer Africa’s main source of foreign income. Africa is becoming a business destination.” This reinforces what was said earlier in an article by the Washington Post stating that we should “respect Africa by investing, rather than trying to ‘save’ it.” This is exactly the reason why China has developed a deep fascination with Africa; with trade having grown about 30% over the past decade between the two regions. Dambisa Moyo, who wrote Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, emphasized their important relationship by stating that “if you back China, you’re backing Africa.” Furthermore, overall foreign investment has quadrupled since 2000 as Africa advisors to President Obama declared the continent has having “the world’s highest rate of return on investment.”

According to IMF statistics, countries such as Rwanda, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania have enjoyed impressive annual growth rates of 6% and above (See image above for details).

Let’s invest in Africa and keep welcoming her to the business world!

Web 2.0 Concepts Key to Kiva’s Success

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Few microfinance-oriented organizations have garnered as much interest or enthusiasm as Kiva.org, the website which connects lenders and borrowers worldwide. Kiva’s success can be attributed to a number of factors, but during a recent talk in Seattle, WA, CEO and Co-Founder Matt Flannery highlighted the site’s use of key Web 2.0 concepts and explained how they help make the site “sticky.”

  1. Information is king

    One of the factors which sets Kiva apart from other online giving sites is its emphasis on real-time information. Kiva is committed to providing its users with as much information as possible, and the site is continuously updated with feedback on borrowers and their progress.

    In this way, Kiva goes far beyond merely connecting lenders and borrowers—it nurtures the establishment and growth of virtual relationships. Many lenders are as invested in their borrowers as they are in an out-of-state family member or friend, and this encourages lenders to log in frequently for updates.

    Repeat visits are also encouraged by the fact that the site is constantly changing. Kiva’s homepage is designed to feature different entrepreneurs and lenders on a regular basis, so there is always something new to see.

  2. Keeping it real

    Things don’t always go according to plan, and while Kiva has an extraordinarily high success rate, there have been instances in which loans have been stolen or lost. When this occurs, Kiva informs its users (known as “Kivans”) right away.

    Kiva’s commitment to transparency is exemplary, but it is also becoming par for the course in this day and age. Web 2.0 has introduced us to the good, the bad and the ugly—increased user participation means that information travels across the internet at lightning speed, and nothing remains hidden for long. Not only do users appreciate transparency, they have also come to expect it—and largely prefer to frequent sites which are committed to telling the truth.

  3. Socialization around a higher cause

    One of the hallmarks of Web 2.0 is community creation. Networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn capitalize on this by allowing users to create and join dedicated groups based upon their likes, dislikes, political or religious views, occupation or hobbies.

    Kiva attracts people who are interested in alleviating poverty, and judging from the activity on Kiva Friends, it is clear that Kivans enjoy interacting with one another. While many conversation threads address poverty and loan-making, Kivans also discuss their hobbies and professions, which aren’t always related to the goals and activities of the site. According to Matt, Kiva Friends is a sort of “social marketplace,” where users come to network around a higher cause.

In his book Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, Dr. Muhammad Yunus writes about the need to “recognize the real human being and his or her multi-faceted desires.” Human beings, he says, are not solely devoted to their own interests—they are inclined to do good, and will welcome the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of others. The success of sites like Kiva can serve as an example of how the savvy utilization of Web 2.0 concepts can both fuel and serve our desire to make a difference.

2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference

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The 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference will take place Sunday, April 26 through Tuesday, April 28 in San Francisco.

The NTC is THE place to engage around the technology issues that face the nonprofit sector. Nearly 1200 people will come together from across the country and around the world to connect with our peers, learn from our heroes, and change the world.

To learn more about the conference, please click here.

BusinessWeek’s Global Green Business Summit

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The 2009 BusinessWeek Global Green Business Summit will take place Sunday, June 7th through Monday, June 8th in Tianjin, China.
This summit will address the topic of “Green economics” and it’s potential to drive the global economy, the role of governments and corporation to steer our societies into sustainable development, and to discuss the opportunities that exist in this field. It’s all about how environmental issues must be considered in business plans or you will find yourself behind the curve. In Europe, mandatory carbon reduction emissions efforts are already the norm. In the U.S., President Barack Obama has put environmental issues on the top of his agenda with clean energy infrastructure development plans. World leaders are hopeful that he will endorse legislation that will lead to the U.S. being part of a post-Kyoto agreement expected to be reached in Copenhagen this December. In China, the government is also focusing on sustainable development as a path to continued growth and economic restructuring. It is already home to one-fourth of the world’s Clean Development Mechanism projects.

Conference participants will include over 400 decision-makers from government, green organizations, and from Chinese and multinational companies operating in China that are actively demonstrating a transformational, provable, improvement to China’s environment. Government Officials, Policy Makers, CEO’s, CFO’s, Business Executives who are involved in green business, CSR / Communications Executives, External Affairs Directors, Sustainability Officers, Green Organizations, Business Strategists & Consultants, Marketing/PR/Branding Professionals, Academics & Educators, Energy Experts and Investors. The Right Honorable Tony Blair, Special Envoy, Quartet on the Middle-East and Former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will also support BusinessWeek China’s Global Green Business Summit.
To learn more about the conference and for registration information, please click here.