Economist Mohammad Yunus: ‘social business’ in Haiti

Associated Press

Bangladesh's Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and founder of the microcredit Garmeen Bank, right, embraces a student during his visit to a technical school which received an 80,000 US dollar loan from Yunus' Garmeen Creative Lab to encourage the growth of social business in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Economist Mohammad Yunus was the consummate storyteller, a fount of ideas on how to change Haiti.

Visiting from his native Bangladesh, the Nobel peace laureate poured out tale after tale Friday of how his concept of “social business” could apply to Haiti, a nation rife with woes well before last year’s punishing earthquake.

Yunus told how he started his Grameen Foundation by lending $27 each to 42 illiterate women so they could pay off their debts, how a small yogurt business lessened malnutrition in Bangladesh and about the importance of creativity.

“There’s a business world. There’s a charity world,” he told a hotel conference room crowded with college students and development workers. “Why can’t we take those ideas and try to make money and also solve (social) problems?”

On Saturday, Yunus and his team planned to travel to Haiti’s Central Plateau to visit an office run by Fonkoze, a microcredit bank, and Partners in Health, a nonprofit group that provides health care to the poor.

He said he wants to encourage health-related “social businesses” in the countryside.

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