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The Author Speaks

In Business for All

Interview with Muhammad Yunus, author of Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs

Q. How could you get these ideas across to a big audience?

A. Maybe some moviemakers would make a movie of a whole city that has been transformed by social business, the first in the U.S. which does not have anybody on welfare. The movie may make people aware that they can create things that will change things in a big way—to start realizing that they are part of a bigger whole. Once we start looking at us this way, the locked-up part in us starts opening up.

Q. Give us a peek over the horizon. Are you developing other projects that could help achieve your goal of ending poverty?

A. I am concentrating on two things. I think technology is changing the whole world very fast. But all the power of technology is concentrated in the hands of businesses. Obviously they use this power for making more money. I’m looking for how technology can solve problems.

Q. For example?

A. Creating a digital Aladdin’s lamp. Every poor person will have easy access to it. A poor old woman in a Bangladeshi village will touch this lamp, and the digital genie will come out of it and say, “What can I do for you, ma’am?” The old lady says, “I want to sell the baskets that I have made, but I cannot find buyers.” The genie goes out and finds the buyers.

Q. Is this possible?

A. That technology is right here today! Look at the iPad, look at the iPhone—you touch it, and it happens. But that genie serves the privileged people like us. If I can use this same technology to teach the illiterate people around the globe how to read and write, how to connect with each other, how to send written messages, how to get health advice and so on, we can apply this technology to solve many of our problems.

Q. What else are you doing?

A. I am also focusing on the emerging new generation—how to prepare them to become the kind of people who will not remain obsessed with their own lives but will think of the problems of the world. Today’s generation is more interested in issues of other people and wants to make a difference in the world. They’re looking for a meaningful life. We can make them believe that each one of them has the capacity to change the whole world. Social business can help them find it.

Q. How could AARP members participate in social business as an organization?

A. An organization like AARP can provide opportunities for channeling energy. It can encourage creation of five-member, 10-member “social business clubs” to find solutions to problems. It can encourage creation of “social business centers” where 50 or more people can meet together and look for solutions for taking people out of welfare, or taking drug addicts out of addiction, or taking care of very old people who cannot care for themselves.

Q. How could AARP, or any organization, make this happen?

A. Hold a social business laboratory, so that our people can come and discuss what social business means and how to design a social business. It is already happening all over the world. You can join the network. We can connect you to people, and if you have questions, we can respond. Just write to us at the Yunus Centre, and we can connect you. You can also visit our website, www.yunuscentre.org.

Art Dalglish is an editor and writer from Maryland.

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