Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mohammad Yunis and The Poverty Museum

I’m a big fan of the Nobel Prize Winning Economist Mohammad Yunis and have read every single one of his books most notably Development as Freedom and the subsequent books that built off the ideas of social entrepreneurship. Yunis has done yeomen’s work in attempting to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh and for that work alone, he should be celebrated and revered as a national hero, even if the ruling government there doesn’t think so. But one idea repeated throughout Yunis’ work has puzzled me for awhile now.

Mohammad Yunis speaks of social entrepreneurship as a road out of poverty and of wanting to create a global poverty museum, where poverty is a relic of the past like dinosaurs. As a committed Yunis supporter, I’m concerned that the progress he has made in the global poverty not just in Bangladesh, but around the world, will reverse itself in the choppy tides of the current economy.

Yunis never claimed his social entrepreneurship would make Wall Street esque millionaires. Just pay the bills and stem the tide of abject poverty. The idea isn’t that complex: use the unique talents inside every individual to create unique services within their community that people will pay a nominal fee for. The catch is keeping the prices low enough so that the often impoverished citizens can afford the services.

That’s what I worry about because in economic downturn, entrepreneurs may have to lower prices to avoid pricing themselves out of the market, decreasing their own revenue…leading to their own potential economic downturn. Then there’s material costs sure to increase with the rising food and durable good prices throughout the world. All could spell trouble for Yunis Poverty Museum as noble as the idea may be.

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