On the Turmoil at Grameen

As Nobel Prize-winning microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus struggles to hang on to the top post at Grameen Bank, we can’t help but hope that his original vision for lending to the poor and his call to create “social business” don’t get lost in the dust-up.

Yunus is under pressure from the Central Bank of Bangladesh to step down as managing director of Grameen in what Yunus supporters are characterizing as a politically motivated attack.

Our own sense is that Yunus is being unfairly targeted. But no matter what happens to the man, what’s most important is that his ideas don’t get dragged down with him. As we’ve discussed, we think that Peter Drucker would have been in synch with Yunus’s push to foster a whole class of companies capable of competing in the marketplace but whose primary aim is to meet a clear social need, not to maximize profits.

“An organization is not like an animal, an end in itself, and successful by the mere act of perpetuating the species,” Drucker wrote. “An organization is an organ of society and fulfills itself by the contribution it makes to the outside environment.”

[EXPAND More]Underlying Yunus’s philosophy is the belief that people are motivated by a variety of impulses—not simply a desire to get rich. The existing system, Yunus has written, has “created a one-dimensional human being to play the role of business leader.… We’ve insulated him from the rest of life, the religious, emotional, political and social. He is dedicated to one mission only—maximize profit.”

Drucker took a similar view, once noting that his work is rooted in the notion that “people are diverse, often unpredictable, always multidimensional.”

What do you think: Can “social business” ever find its way to the mainstream of the marketplace, or will it always be relegated to the fringes? [/EXPAND]

Muhammad Yunus