Unemployment is a global problem as it concerns millions of people. But Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus believes social business can help address the problem, even if a social enterprise can hire just five workers.
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“A social business can hire just five people. You have to bring it down to the smallest size,” he said at last week’s conference on “Social Business: New Business Model for the Millennium” hosted by the Asian Institute of Technology, AIT’s Yunus Centre and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.
To the Bangladeshi micro-credit pioneer, social business can help eradicate poverty and unemployment, and with creative ideas it is easy to start one. To begin with, problems in certain areas should be in focus and then business models applied to address the problems.
In a section of Georgia, USA, where he attended a meeting of non-governmental organisations and business people, Yunus was impressed with an idea for trucks to be modified into mobile grocery shops, which would give better access to the poor who have no car to go to the nearest grocery store. He was more impressed when an investor raised a hand, informing all that he was ready to finance the scheme.
In Japan, after the great earthquake and tsunami, in the designing stage is a social business to address the old age problem.
Dialogue in the Dark, the German operator of a museum-like venue where people with normal eyesight can experience the pitch-dark world, is commended for its effort to help create a career for the blind.
Witnessing problems from drugs, alcohol and immigrant workers, a city near Frankfurt recently declared itself a social business centre. Under this scheme, all the 3,000 businesses are urged to come up with their own social business schemes.
“Anybody can do it – banks, businessmen or the government. You can establish Bangkok Fund or Thailand Fund. It could be a loan fund or an equity fund, which can start with small investment,” he said.
He commended French bank Credit Agricole for its efforts to set up a social business fund. He urged members of the Thailand Management Association who attended the conference to come up with similar schemes.
At the conference, Vichien Pongsathorn, CEO of the Premier Group of Companies agreed. With their resources – money, human resources and marketing skills – businesses need to get involved in making investments for society to make it stronger.