THE BLOG

An Upbeat Reflection: There are More Solutions than Problems

Muhammad Yunus' ideas for new ways of doing business are creating a snowball effect, a revolution of the best kind.
11/20/2007 01:08pm ET | Updated November 17, 2011
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It may seem to be a bit naïve to focus on solutions as opposed to problems, but my initial blog is meant to do a number of things. Firstly, stop for a moment and think about the kind of country you want to live in, where you will be happy to raise your children. This would surely be a place without fear, without poverty and crime, a democratic nation where justice functions (as do voting machines!) and there is true equality, employment for all.

When I first left to study in Europe at the age of nineteen, I discovered much of what I felt was disappearing in the United States. I experienced democracies which functioned in ways which deeply supported families, provided health care, good public transportation and safe schools, daycare and cultural benefits, and where being an "intellectual" did not automatically label someone as a left wing hyper-liberal. There were also problems in Europe, more unemployment, strikes, and overcrowding. But when I returned to live in the U.S., I brought these ideas back with me, and became very socially and politically active while a graduate student, teacher and non-profit worker in Seattle. And my deep love for film began to have a more important goal, to use the power of the big (and small) screen, to help show solutions to problems.

But as you stop and imagine the America you want to live in, also think of what we can learn from others about how to do things better. And some ideas may come from places one would not expect, from parts of the world where they have nothing left to lose so they are being truly creative. Some of the most innovative new ways of solving problems are coming from countries which are leapfrogging the West in terms of technology and growth. Who would have thought wealthy America would have something to learn from the developing world? Two people saw the light early on, Bill and Hillary Clinton, while he was still Governor of Arkansas, brought a special person to their state to see how he could help alleviate poverty through microlending. President Clinton then nominated this man for the Nobel peace prize again and again until, in 2006, he finally won.

I am working on a feature film project based on the life of this special human being, the Nobel Peace prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen bank for the Poor. Over thirty years ago Professor Yunus did something remarkable. As an Economics professor, he taught "elegant theories" in the classroom, but then when a severe famine struck his native country of Bangladesh, he walked out of the classroom and into the villages where people were starving to death and decided to start helping people help themselves. His microloans, given mostly to women, were a huge success and helped people leave poverty behind. And unlike many loans given out in the US, over 98% of these loans are paid back. Dr. Yunus deeply believes that this kind of Social Business is much more effective and creates more sustainability than charity. It also allows for the evolution towards a multi-generational self-respect, which is evident in the eyes of the borrowers as they look directly at you, full of pride. They have created something.

Professor Yunus is now working with huge international corporations to create more Social Business models and projects around the world. Companies such as Intel, Danone, and Whole Foods are already onboard. His ideas about how to make health care a Social Business are being studied by governments and private entities, as well as NGOs. His ideas for new ways of doing business are creating a snowball effect, a revolution of the best kind. He won the Nobel peace Prize, not the Economics Prize, because some wise people up there in Norway, understood that, we will never have true peace , while there is still so much suffering from poverty on this planet.