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Posts Tagged ‘Muhammad Yunus’

President Obama will present the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 recipients tomorrow, Wednesday, August 12. Three of this year’s awardees were speakers at the World Affairs Council and the Global Philanthropy Forum in 2008: former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Muhammad Yunus.

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In opening the Annual Conference three days ago, Her Majesty Queen Rania eloquently noted, “when the sky is darkest, that’s when we see the stars.” We ended our three-day engagement in conversation with one of the brightest stars in economic development: Muhammad Yunus, the “father of microfinance,” the founder of the Grameen Bank.

Yunus urged GPF members to think of the current financial crisis as an opportunity for sweeping change. Rather than simply extricating ourselves from the crisis, we also should be asking about the new systems that would best serve humanity going forward. Do we really want to return to the pre-crises status quo?

Any new system should be based on the fact that “human beings are multi-dimensional, not simply profit-making machines…The current financial system does a remarkable job of tapping into the selfishness that human beings share. Let us re-orient our thinking to also tap into the selflessness of human beings; why not tap that commonality to pave the way for social businesses that create opportunities for others?” In recognition that millions of Americans have also been excluded from traditional banking systems, the Grameen Group launched Grameen America, which extends an entire suite of credit, savings and insurance services in the US as well as the developing world. Yunus spoke of the exogenous forces of poverty, asserting that it is imposed on them by the system they’re born into.

System change was the theme of an earlier panel on the innovations of those working within – and outside – broken education systems. The dynamic Geoffrey Canada of the groundbreaking Harlem Children’s Zone and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, now have decades of experience re-inventing education systems in the most disadvantaged areas of the United States. These panelists with domestic experience were joined by former USAID Administrator, Henrietta Fore, who shared her global perspective on providing quality education. Wendy spoke of a sea change in attitudes. “No one, even in academia, used to think that it was really possible to overcome the effects of severe poverty in schools,” she said. “Even committed teachers face a tremendous struggle with low expectations that pervade disadvantaged schools – and it’s taken decades to build a counter-culture among TFA teachers that is strong enough to overcome those attitudes. Teachers have now made the transition from ‘survival mode’ to an expectation that their efforts bear significant fruit in the form of high-achieving students.”

(To read the full post, click here)

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A Wall Street Journal article today ties back to our Friday post highlighting MicroPlaces’ new Global Poverty Note.  The WSJ piece focuses on some of the big online giving sites, such as Kiva.org, and notes that  “Credit markets world-wide are tight, and charitable donations are down.  But Web sites that specialize in “microlending” — small loans mainly to the working poor — say they’re thriving as they address both issues.”

Our CEO & President, Jane Wales, had an op-ed in the SF Chronicle back in November on this same idea.

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Jane Wales in conversation with Muhammad Yunus.

Tonight, the World Affairs Council of Northern California honors Nobel Peace Prize recipient Professor Muhammad Yunus at our 2008 Awards Dinner held at the Ritz Carlton. We celebrate the progress the microfinance industry has made in eradicating global poverty by honoring the roots it as has grown in Northern California. We recognize three local companies representative of these efforts: Kiva, MicroCredit Enterprises and MicroPlace. As part of our gift of thanks to Professor Yunus, the musical group Talisman will give a live performance.

In preparation for the event, World Affairs Council CEO & President Jane Wales published an op-ed on how tested microfinance strategies from the developing world can be applied here at home. Read the op-ed as it appeared in last Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle.

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