Keynote speech by Professor Muhammad Yunus at 129th session of International Olympic Committee at Rio

Last Updated : 6th November, 2016


Introduction by Thomas Bach, President, International Olympic Committee:

Good morning,  dear friends and colleagues for this second day of our working session! I hope you have recovered well from

yesterdays long meeting, but as I told you it will not be less today and I can already ask you to be as precise as possible today in all the intervention so that we can manage our session well. But first of all I have the great honor and pleasure  to welcome on behalf of all of you Prof Muhammad Yunus. Please give him a very warm  welcome.

Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus is the father of both the microcredit and social business; he is the founder of Grameen Bank and of more than fifty other companies in Bangladesh. Professor Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2006 for his groundbreaking work on microcredit for demonstrating that by empowering the poorest of the poor- their lives can be transformed.

He pioneered another concept at the same time -- the concept of social business. Social business is a business dedicated to benefit people and the planet in a sustainable way by using business practices. Appreciation for his work is truly global.

Professor Muhammad Yunus is a recipient of 59 honorary degrees from universities across 20 countries. He has received 112 awards from 26 countries. Social business is what connects the world of sports and athletics with Professor Yunus's work. Our mission is to make the world a better place through sports.

Our commercial success allows us to redistribute more than 90 percent of all our revenue of the sporting movement, benefiting athletes and communities around the world. In this context, Professor Yunus, we welcome you very warmly and we are looking forward to getting advice from you how we can enhance our cooperation, how we can improve our performance and how we can contribute together to make this world a better place for everybody.

We welcome you to the 129th session of IOC. Please,  the floor is yours, Professor Yunus.

Key note speech by Professor Muhammad Yunus:

Thank you Mr. President and Good morning! I am thrilled to be here this morning. And, thank you for your generous introduction.

I am thrilled because I never dreamed that I will be addressing the top people of the world who energize the entire world of the athletics and the sports. I always looked at this world with awe. What an enormous power it has over the whole world. It holds the breathless attention of billions of people from all corners of the this planet.  Nobody else but the Olympic organization can take this massive number of people to this height of emotions and aspirations. This gives the Olympic organization almost limitless power.

I thought there existed  an unbreakable glass wall between our two separate worlds; from our two worlds we see each other

but do not feel any urge to participating in each other's activities. I never felt that I was part of their world. I admired it from a distance, but never thought there is a way to break that glass wall. Mr. President, you have  invited me to address the distinguished  members of IOC because you thought even if that wall existed it should go.  Both our worlds will be stronger if we  work together. The whole world will be stronger if we work together. Instead of dividing up our world into the sports world and the social world we can be one world lived by human beings of various orientations and excellence.  We can act as total human beings rather than fragmented ones. 

This is what I would like to share with you today.

To me sport is something which is an integral part of a human being. Human life begins with sports.  Every child in the world, no matter where he or she is born, starts his life with games, and sports. Nobody teaches them, there is no coach, there is no training, most of the time it is self-designed. They find  friends and make up their own rules and games,  impose their own discipline, and have unlimited fun doing that.

As children  grow up some of them stay with sports, some of them move away from it. But the spirit remains. Most often we do not recognize it but deep in our hearts it continues to energize us.  

Sports and games are effective vehicles for peace. They are about competition, team spirit, and friendship through confrontation. I look at peace this way --  peace is not absence of war. That is not what peace is all about. It’s not absence of armed conflict, peace is about living together.  It is harmony in diversity. That’s what the peace is all about. But I see that peace is terribly threatened through  everyday work that we engage ourselves in. I want to share with you how I feel about it, why I came to the conclusion that peace is threatened by our own work every day everywhere in the world.

I started  lending money to poor women in Bangladesh back in 1976. Lending tiny little money, that’s not what I was planning to do in my life. But, because of the circumstances, because of the compulsion I felt, I that's what I did. It was the experience of ugly loan sharking that was going on in the village that got me into it. The village was next door to the university  where I was teaching. I was trying to see if I could make myself useful in some way to the poor of the village. From almost daily visits to the village I was exposed to a horrible thing that was going on  in the village, the loan sharking.   All of the little possessions of the poor people are taken away by people who have little bit of money to lend to them.

When you meet the victims you cannot but feel  excruciating pain. You wonder why nobody does something about it. Why loan sharking continues without any intervention all over the world. Should I give up and accept the fact that nothing can be done about it?  I felt helpless. Then one day I felt  of course I can do something. Why don't I lend the money myself, for completely different reason, to save the people from the loan sharks. If I lend money to people to help them, not to exploit them, they'll come to me, won't go to the loan shark. The whole problem of loan sharking will be over.

I started to lend money immediately. I took money from my own pocket and gave this as loans to the poor, to protect them from loan-sharks. It worked. It became very popular. Later I created a bank for the poor, called Grameen Bank, or village bank. It spread over the whole country in the following years. These tiny  loans for poor people became known as microcredit or microfinance and spread all over the world.

Grameen Bank now has 9 million borrowers, 97 percent of them are women. Borrowers are the owners of the bank.  With Grameen Bank loans poor women start a business to earn a livelihood. She finds herself a life of dignity, and  self-reliance.  She can start her own life, producing something, selling something, earning something.

Currently Grameen Bank lends out over one and a half billion US dollars each year. With the financial services from Grameen Bank borrowers move out of poverty step by step. Microcredit programs now operates in both high income and low income countries. It is needed in all varieties of countries because existing banking system does not work for the bulk of the population of the world.

I was invited to set up a Grameen microcredit program in the USA. I started it in New York in 2008. We called it Grameen America. We lend money to the poor women in New York city who will not get a penny from anybody. No bank, no financial institution will ever entertain their request for money. Grameen America provides them loans without any collateral, without any introduction. Most of them are undocumented women. Now our program works through 18 branches in 11 cities, NY, Los Angeles, Charlotte, NC, Indianapolis, Omaha, Nebraska and so on. We have over 85,000 borrowers, hundred percent women. They maintain over 99 percent repayment rate.  

I draw some broad conclusions from my experience with the poor. When I ask myself why are people poor? My conclusion is now very clear--  poverty is not created by the poor, poverty is created by the institutions we built,   and concepts that we designed. Poverty is caused by the system.

In my work I have challenged the institutions, particularly financial institution. That challenge came through Grameen Bank. Everything conventional banks do, Grameen Bank does the opposite. And it works. That's how it could deliver the services to the people who are bypassed by conventional banks. They go to the rich, we go to the poor, they ask for collateral, we are collateral-free, they are owned by rich people, our bank is owned by the poor women. They make their clients to come to their office, our rule is -- people should not come to the bank, the bank should go to the people. You can make a list as long as you wish, it goes on.

We built a system on trust. The  whole global microcredit system is based on trust. There is no legal paper, there is no lawyer. Grameen Bank is the only lawyer-free bank in the whole world. And as we were doing microcredit, we got interested in other things: health care, housing, energy, education etc.

If you are poor, you are poor in health too. They go together. Particularly for women. Health condition of the poor was  terrible. The more I came close to poor women the more I realised how much they suffered from health problems. That led me to create a healthcare service for the villagers, based on an insurance program built alongside Grameen Bank.

Grameen bank borrowers could  pay 4 dollars a year to get  the whole family under insurance coverage -- all your health needs are attended by qualified doctors, supported by clinics with health workers, pathological labs. It worked. Later we created eye care hospitals for cataract operation, so that people don't have to remain nearly blind because some little surgery was not available.  We made the cataract surgery very cheap, at the same time made the hospital financially sustainable.

The first  eye-care hospital we built with a capacity of ten thousand surgery a year,  came to operational sustainability in four years. We were very happy that we could make it. Then we  built a second one in another part of the country. It came to operational sustainability in three years. Then we built a third one in another part of the country.  Fourth one is under construction. 

Through all these we were actually creating a new category of business which is different from the conventional business. I was raising a question: why we always have to do business in the conventional way and  make money. Does business mean  you have to make money for yourself all the time? I came up with my answer-- no. We can take out personal money-making from business and create a new version of business. We can create business solely for the purpose solving human problems, without any intention of making personal money.  I went ahead and created this type  of businesses, business to solve human problems, such as, eye care hospitals, health insurance, and many others. These are all sustainable businesses but with no intention of making personal money out of it. And I gave a name to this new kind of business, called it social business.  I defined it as, non-dividend company to solve human problems. I continued to build this type of businesses one after another. This business can work side by side with money-making business. The same person can do both types of business.

From the beginning of Grameen Bank we got involved with the healthcare of children. Many years later I learnt that this is a basic problem in any country, rich country, or poor country doesn't matter. Children are either malnourished or obese. Obesity is a major problem in rich countries. In Bangladesh at the very early stage of Grameen Bank  we were confronted with night-blindness. among children. We encouraged the mothers to grow vegetables to feed their children so that they can get vitamin A  from their food. We did it in a business way, social business way. We started selling vegetable seeds at a very low price to make vegetable growing popular and easy. It worked. Over time we became the 

largest vegetable seed retailer in the country. Night blindness which was a common disease among the poor children in the villages of Bangladesh 40 years back, disappeared from the country.

We saw that we didn't need doctor to solve all the health problems, we just took the responsibility and created a business idea to popularize vegetable cultivation. We still have the  major problem of child malnutrition in Bangladesh. Almost half of the children are malnourished. An opportunity arose in 2005 to tie up with a global company, Danone,  to address this problem in a social business way. We created a joint venture with Danone to create a special fortified yogurt and sell it at a low price to the poor families..

It became a very popular social business. Danon doesn't want to take profit out of it, we don't want to take any profit out if it. As a social business both investors can take back the investment money, nothing more than that.  

Another social business we created in the healthcare sector is Grameen Caledonian College of Nursing. I am very happy to report that Her a Royal Highness Princess Anne, who is present here in this meeting today, actually inaugurated the college when she visited Bangladesh.  This college is a joint venture between us and Glasgow Caledonian University in Glasgow. We started it in 2009, and today it is the top nursing college in the country.

We have set up a social business in water, as a joint venture with another French company Veolia.  Water is a big problem all over the world, but particularly so in Bangladesh. Our surface water is polluted and our ground water is arsenic contaminated. Our social business joint venture with Veolia is an experiment to see if we can bring safe drinking water in the villages at a cheap price affordable to all people while making the company financially sustainable.

Grameen Bank was launched as an attempt to  creating an  alternative financial system which is is an absolute necessity to overcome poverty and unemployment all over the world. We created alternative type business, social business  to address all problems, not just financial. This makes it all encompassing and complete.

These two changes are enormously important in the context of what is happening in the world. I'll mention two major issues. One of them is population explosion in the coming years. Another is wealth concentration, which is consistently getting worse. 

We know that the world population has reached 7 billion mark in 2011. It took over one million years for the world population to reach one million. It took another 15 thousand years or so to go from one million to one billion people on the planet.  First billion was reached pretty recently, in 1804. It took only 123 years to reach the second billion, 33 years to reach third billion. Now we are adding a billion people to the planet every 12 so years. Population size will grow into 8 billion in 2022, six years from now. By 2050 it would be around 10 billion. Along with population explosion many other demographic changes will also take place.

By 2050, population of Africa will be two and a half billion, doubling the present number.  Indian population and Chinese population will be equal by 2050. African population will be equal to Asian population by end of this century. Along with population explosion another worrying issue is wealth explosion at the top. When these two explosions take place simultaneously we get a very troublesome world ahead of us.

Under the current economic system wealth has a tendency to bunch up at the top. It is a continuous process. Fewer and fewer people end up with higher and higher percentage of global wealth.   One percent of people gets virtually everything , 99 percent gets only the crumb. That 99 percent becomes enormous number each day as the world moves from 7 billion to 10 billion or more very fast. One percent of population owning 99 percent of the wealth is a ticking time bomb. Now 62 people own more wealth than the wealth of the bottom half of population. This is not a situation that will make the world  socially and economically sustainable. It gets worse because more than 80 percent of the new wealth generated each year goes to the top one percent. When people see prosperity is  taking place in the country  and they don't get any share of it they blame  immigrants, people of different religion or language, or culture, or colour. They get angry. It leads to Brexit. It leads to Trump upsurge.

We have to address this ticking time bomb. This has to be addressed  with all seriousness.  IOC can contribute significantly in generating the commitment to do it, and setting the direction to diffuse the problem and keeping the world away from this problem in future. IOC has the power to attract global attention through its own work. It can set the tone for many others to follow. 

Its first step would be to  break the glass-wall by getting involved in social issues which may be designed as a natural outgrowth of their own central activities.

As the Olympic organization  already enjoys an emotional tie with people, when it adds thin layers of social dimension into its everyday work, it  can start making things happen.

It can be done in many ways. Just take the case of celebrity endorsement and promotion. You have celebrities in your system,  and you keep on producing  celebrities all the time.  If these celebrities occasionally say things with social contents that will generate enormous  curiosity and even active interest among millions of their fans.  For example if the celebrities say “I love social business”, "This is my social business, I love it".  "Would you like to try a social business? It is a business to solve the problems that make us feel sad. But they can be solved. Let's talk about it".  Things like that. Its impact will be limitless.  Immediately young people will become very interested in them.

Sports is the celebration of youth. You have direct access to the minds of the present youth as well as the past youth. You attract  them all. What you do, what you say can make such an impression on them. What you promote they take it very seriously

Sports defines human physical capability.  Every year through your competitions you keep on pushing out the frontier of  human physical capability. Individuals who accomplish this feat become instant global heroes.  Their names become part of history. You create global heroes, national heroes, local heroes through your process. Nobody pays attention to where these individuals are coming from,  from which class, which unheard of community,  which creed, what religion, which colour of skin, what political orientation. These are anybody's concern.  To the world he or she is a global hero. Our hero. That's the power of sports. Sports enables the world to go beyond diversity to celebrate  unity.  

Social orientation of IOC can take many shades, with various intensities. Important thing is that it is all voluntary, it happens through inspiration, not by any compulsion. As an example let us take  Rio, which is the host city for Olympic 2016. As  a part of its legacy programme can say, okay, we'll do some social business to address the health problems of the poor of Rio, address the unemployment problem of the youth and  many such things. And they can get into action.  This can be done at every  level, federation level, country level, club level, so on. At each level they can think about, say, energy, waste management, healthcare, education, anything which is convenient to them. Each one can be a very small initiative. Size of the initiative is not important.  Starting small is always a very good strategy. Each national committee can have its own social business programs. If any one wants to find out how it is done, we'll be happy to work with you to share experiences with you. It is a very exciting experience that I can tell you. It gives you great joy. I usually tell people who wonder what makes social business attractive to people, that making money is happiness, making other people happy is super happiness.  That's the magic of social business. You can find it out when you go through it. I invite IOC and its global network to have a  taste of it. You'll love it.


Thank you






Questions and Answers Followed by  Professor Muhammad Yunus's Keynote Speech at IOC

Meeting in Rio in July, 2016



Thank you very much Professor Yunus. The first question is coming from Mr. Pengilly, who is also an athlete representative.


Adam Pengilly

Thank you Mr. President. Ah! Professor Yunus, thank you. It hawk been fascinating and inspiring and also very challenging for us I believe. You highlighted promotion as one of the things that we can do, and both at the IOC level and at the broader Olympic movement level, and also you touched on perhaps candidate cities and successful host cities, getting involved with social business. What concrete steps do you think we could take for building it up as a movement both nationally and  internationally, for attracting more people to social business? Thank you.

Professor Muhammad Yunus:

First very important step to have a general understanding of what I mean by social business, how this can fit into your work. Have some general orientation of how this can work within your structure. Then follow it up in smaller group meetings, in national level meetings, at  club level, and at  other levels in-between. At each level it may have 10 people, 20 people, 30 people. Together, we can go deeper, day-long program in explaining, answering questions in designing things and so on.

Social business is not a rocket science; it’s a very simple thing. Social Businesses may  start very small. And I always remind  people to start small, and then build it up. Build it up step by step, and make it big. I give the example of Grameen Bank. We started in one village, with $27. Now it’s a multibillion dollar bank, owned by poor people, working  in all of the 80,000 villages of Bangladesh. Becoming big was not a problem once the working module is developed and refined.  Soon it became a global phenomenon. Idea is the seed. But we have to germinate it. Once we germinate it, it can grow into a big tree. If the idea is right it will become global. 

To get it going we may form a team to work out the details of the steps we need to take, who does what at each level, how the coordination can be handled. 

We need to build a team to facilitate this,  co-ordinate within the system and co-ordinate with the experts. This facility may be located at IOC headquarters at Lausanne.

We should have regional structure too, and have regional group meetings and so on. And another thing will be helpful - visits to actually operating social businesses on the ground in various countries to get the feel of these enterprises. Seeing makes it easier to grasp. There are social businesses in Bangladesh, Germany, France, Haiti, Albania, Colombia, India, Tunisia and many other countries. Visits may be designed to see specific aspect of social business to understand what this is all about, and to  talk to the joint venture partners. May meet the top executives of Veolia, and  Danone to ask them why are they doing this. What made them to decide to invest in a social business.  What is their rationale for doing this. How did they decide that this should be done? What is the importance of it to their business? Are they trying to build image for their companies by trying to look good?  Or are there some inner meanings to it? This can be done  through club level, individual level, group level. Each club can set up a social business. It doesn’t have to pay its own money. They can find money to do that. They can have special games to raise the capital.

For sportsmen active sports life is a very short life. They worry what can they can do for the rest of the life? We can create social business to keep them busy and make them productive and creative after their sports life is over.  A successful sportsman becomes the centre of attention of his city, country, or even the whole world. He has access to many people of various abilities. He can use his contacts and celebrity status to build up support for a cause around which a social business can be built. He himself can get involved in this social business in managerial and promotional capacity. He can devote rest of his life in this role. People may remember him as a sports celebrity who devoted his life for changing the world. He'll be happy to see that he could use his star power to bring changes in people's life.

We can initiate social businesses at various levels and various categories. At each level or category it can produce a different kind of competition.  An informal competition may be introduced on who is doing better than others in contributing to the society. Competition among cities, among clubs, among national committees, among individual sportspersons. I have done this, we have done this, ours is more innovative than yours,  we are moving faster than yours, our idea is being replicated by more clubs than yours, etc. This is fun too. In the process we keep    solving our problems within our own city, and within our own communities. 

This can be a life-long commitment. Unlike sports, nobody has to retire from this. Interesting thing is in terms of broad categories social problems around the world are only a handful in number,  such as healthcare, unemployment, housing, sanitation, income generation, education, training, old age, single mother, violence, drug, handicap people, homeless people, people in welfare, refugees, indigenous people, and so on.  All over the world basically same issues, with various magnitude of importance, and complications.

Once some one finds a way to solve any one of them, even if it is unimportant in coverage, everybody else comes to learn from him. They come and learn from him because the need is so pressing. No need to reinvent the wheel. Once one finds a way out, it immediately becomes a global example. If you improve on one, again everybody rushes out adopt this innovation. That's how efficiency comes, speed comes, and in the process, we solve the problems of the world. Thank you.


Thank you Mr. Yunus. The next question is coming from Mr. Morariu? He’s IOC Member from Romania

Mr. Octvian Morariu:

Thank you Mr. President. Professor Yunus, I was really impressed with your presentation and I think that your voice should be heard by more and more people, as many as possible. In an ideal world what would be the proportion between Social Business and, I’ll say, normal business? Do you think they can co-exist? Do you think that may be one day normal business would disappear and will be replaced by Social Business?  We all know added value is needed for development, including development for all? Where will this come from if we have only social business?

Professor Muhammad Yunus:

I’m glad you raised that question, and I remembered one example.  Sometime back I was invited to Danone’s annual general meeting in Paris. They have more than 300,000 shareholders. I was happy to notice that they were happy with the social business they do in Bangladesh, which produces Danone yoghurt to address the problem of malnutrition among children. Danone executives reported to the shareholders about social business in Bangladesh because shareholders are independently owners of that company in Bangladesh, as shareholders of that company. It was not owned through Danone, but independently, shareholders as direct investors. So they wanted to get a separate report from Danone. During the discussion on this Danone Chairman, Franck Riboud said, “I’m so proud of this business that we run in Bangladesh,  I’m so excited about its possibilities and the pleasure that I get out of it,  I hope some day we can convert the entire Danone into a social business.

So such things can happen. It has to come from within. Now the question you ask, will all businesses someday become social business? The answer is in our hearts, we'll do whatever makes us happy. It will not depend on any external pressure. It will depend on our internal desire. How much we want to solve the problem of the world? How much wealth we want to accumulate for ourselves. This question has to be answered by our collective choice.

I try to address this issue with a broad brush. Some times I propose that may be we should divide our lives in two segments putting the 50 years of age as the dividing point. First 50 years of my life will be devoted to taking care of myself. I should build up enough to take care of myself. Rest of my life will be devoted to solving the problems of the world in social business ways. You can do at 60 years or at 40 years. It is your choice on the basis your circumstances and intensity of your desire.

Alternatively you may decide to split your economic activities all your life in a half and half way, fifty percent of your resources would be devoted to personal gains, fifty percent of it will be devoted to social businesses. Whatever you’re doing for personal business or money-making business, same amount of resources, time and energy you'll put in social business. It’s your personal decision. It’s not about government making a law about it. It’s not  IOC making a declaration about it. Nothing! It’s about what you, me, and my children and my grandchildren will do. I have done my part. What my children will do? I have left them enough to take care of themselves. Should they work for enriching themselves, or make sure that the bottom 1 percent does not stay too far away from the top 1 percent. This is a personal issue.

On creating surplus in the economy to ensure growth, social business is fully behind it. Social business is not a surplus-less business. Only restriction social business has is that surplus cannot be enjoyed by the investors, It has to be ploughed back as  investment.  This way social business has more growth potential than conventional business where surpluses can be diverted to consumption.


Thank you very much. The next question is coming from His Highness Sheikh Ahmad Ali Sabah he’s the IOC member from  Kuwait, and at the same time he’s the President of the Association of all the 2016 National Olympic Committees in the world.

His Highness Sheikh Ahmad Ali Sabah:

Thank you sir, Mr. President. Thank you Professor Muhammad Yunus, for the excellent presentation and sharing your experience with us. And I would like to congratulate you for your  success, because it is a very difficult work. We have suffered a lot  in  making success story like this. Instead of doing this as charity, if we do this as social business it will be a big social help for small business.

Lots of countries, not individuals, have put a lot of money for this experience.  I would like to congratulate you for the success of your experience. We will invest, with your participation with us, Professor, in the sport movement through a lot of my colleagues here, especially the athletes. We have very special athletes, who retire as stars. And some of them, although they were trying to continue, have been retired from the sport, because of age, or because of lack of energy. And this is one of our many problems which all the athletes have to face. A lot of my colleagues here start projects to help them. How we can bring them back as active members of the society, how can we provide them secure lives for their future.

Do you see through your experience and with your mechanism, how we can build a model for them? They will be benefitted from the social business that you are proposing for stars. And at the same time, we are here concerned with our retired athletes, to find them secure lives.  Do you think that through sharing your experiences, we can build a model for those retired athletes to give them sustainable future?

Thank you Professor, thank you Mr. President


Thank you Professor Yunus. Slowly I am getting worried about your popularity seeing the number of colleagues who are asking for the floor. So, may be you wait with your questions before you could forward more questions and benefit from the opportunity of  listening to Professor Yunus answer first. You may find that  your questions is already  answered. If we do not do that, and we continue non-stop,  we may have to postpone  the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games,  and I don’t think if it will be well appreciated.

Professor Yunus:

We don’t want to do that.


The next question is from Mr. Pound     the IOC member from Canada. 

Mr. Pound:

Professor, it’s nice to see you again. I represent one of the 59 universities, Mcgill University. We had an early connection in Canada and I met you several times in the past

My question is: have you had any receptivity from the top  one percent? You know after you have your first billion dollars, you probably don’t have to worry about feeding yourself. But do they understand that? Do they have the power and desire to affect the system?


Professor Yunus:


It’s very interesting. I am always welcomed among those billionaires. I attend conferences with them. I sit down with them for conversations. I appear in the cover  of the Forbes magazine along with the Warren Buffett,( ?)Bill Gates, me sitting together. I communicate with them. They  appreciate what I do. All these happen. But they still have not gone far enough to adopt what I am proposing. I work better among the second generation in their families.  I must say, on their own some of them have taken some very significant steps even before I am proposing the concept of social business. They created trusts, foundations, even a  movement for the rich people to donate half of  their wealth before they pass away. This is definitely a commendable initiative.

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and more than 180 billionaires of the world signed the 'Giving Pledge"  to donate half their wealth before they die. While I appreciate it,  I tell them that donating the wealth is fine but if you make a little change in it that will make it enormously powerful and sustainable. I ask them to put the donated money into a social business fund, so that it can be invested in social businesses.

I keep reminding them that charity is a wonderful idea, it has been helping the poor over centuries. I point out that charity has one limitation. Charity money goes out, solves  problems, but the money never comes back. So you have only one time use of the charity money. I suggest to them to use the money to create social business. In social business, money goes out, does the work, and then it comes back in full, even with a surplus.  In social business money has endless use of the same money, it never disappears. It even grows. It creates entities which have their own lives, they grow over time. It becomes extremely powerful.

I draw attention of the rich and the super-rich people to think about their foundations, think about their money that they want to give away for charity, think about their  corporate social responsibility money. Instead of giving away as charity, to think about creating social business or create a social business fund.

This way their money will keep working non-stop for solving  social problems.  Take the case of getting unemployed young people out of unemployment by turning them into entrepreneurs through social business. After you have done it, your money comes back. Now you reinvest  this money to take out more unemployed youth out of unemployment. And so on. So you can use the same money again and again. I ask them why don’t we do that. On charity part their understanding is very clear. But on social business they are not clear. That's where IOC role comes in. They can make it clear to them by creating examples.

The super-rich people that I meet are very friendly people, well-meaning people. I tell them about getting away from the life dedicated to self-interest driven businesses, to put a deadline to it. After 50 or 60 years of age to move into a life dedicated to changing the world through social businesses. No more for-me-only any more, I devote myself entirely for the rest of the world.

I take the position that human beings never 'retire'. The word 'retirement' is not an appropriate word for human beings. Human beings cannot be moth-balled. They remain as active beings, and creative beings until the last breath. Why put a break in that creativity by naming a phase of life as retired life? Bring the experience of the first phase your life to contribute during the second phase of your life in creating the world you always dreamt about.

These are the kind of ideas I try to promote with them. If any one of them come up with a joint venture proposal, we feel very happy. If not I tell them to create a small social business along side their mega business as an experiment, to get a feel for it.

These are the kind of messages I try to exchange with them.     



The next question is coming from Mrs. Cojuangco Jaworski who is the IOC member from the Philippines.


Mrs. Cojuangco Jaworski:

Thank you Mr. President.  Hello Professor Yunus,  thank you for being here today. I will try to be precise but it's making me nervous seeing how to be precise. The actual question is short

but there are some explanations. In 2009 the corruption level in our country was extremely oppressive and it was very difficult to see that there were more people who were complaining rather than trying to think of how they could be part of the solution and I was part of a group that was  politically very  helpless and disconnected and none of us were business people. We had no idea of how to run a business. And we knew we couldn't go into the communities to try to teach business because we can't teach what we don't know about. But we felt very strongly that the

problem that we were facing was commercialism and materialism. It was changing the values of society and priorities and human relations. So we had this idea and put together a group to discuss  which means what in your life.

We decided that we would turn the skill into the currency in the communities meaning that if you are a carpenter or a doctor or plumber or teacher or a sports coach, you would be offering your services in exchange for the services of someone else,  a sort of barter system. We wanted to do this to show to people that we are interdependent and we are accountable to each other because as human beings we are meant to be connected. But greed makes us blind. Unknowingly we take things away from each other without even knowing it and destroy trust and relationships and no money to go around anyway.

In 2009 we started this group. We discontinued it  in 2010 because we were suddenly called to a different mission. But now we want to revive the initiative.

My question is that do you think this is naïve? Do you think this is something that could grow into a giant tree or is this something that would not be sustainable in the long run? Thank you Professor Yunus.

Professor Muhammad Yunus:

Thank you. Many questions passed through my mind when you described your project. These are mostly related the problems of barter system at individual level. But just because I could not get it from your brief description that does not mean it cannot be done. In this era of technology many things are possible today which were not possible any time before. Important thing is to design it and put it into the practice. Practice will bring up all the issues, and you'll have find solutions for them. The answer is yes, of course. Again, the design, and the early stage are the most important parts. If you're designing it as a social business you have to have certain characteristics to it.

Everybody has to understand that this is a business. It people get the idea that this is a charity work, it is very difficult to turn it around into business because the mentality of charity gets rooted  into  the work. Then it is difficult to change into business.

Basic element in social business, just like conventional business, is that at the end of the year I have to look at my book and see how much money I have earned and how much money I spent. Is there a deficit, is there a surplus? Even if in year 1 there is a big deficit, that's fine, all businesses have that. But in the second year the deficit should become smaller. That's the test. In the third year if the deficit becomes smaller than in the previous year, then you are in the right path. You can hope that someday your revenue and the expenses will be even and you'll arrive at the break even point. From this stage on you have entered the real business world. Every business has to go through this path.

In business everything is measured in terms of money.  But your social goal has to be very clear in social business.  Once you state it clearly, build it into the business plan, make everybody involved in the business understand your goal very clearly. It has to be in everybody's mind. 

When you design the first prototype of your business, it is usually designed as a small stand-alone unit. Once you find it successful you fine-tune it to start replicating it. Replication takes you to do it over and over again.

In the repetitive process you learn from each experience and

make it more efficient. And ultimately you see that you have done it not only within your country, it is spilling over everywhere because your solution is not a local solution alone. Your solution is a global solution. As I said,  problems that you face, are the same problems that everybody else faces every where else.

Essential part of it is always the same. So when you find a solution, immediately the whole world will be coming at your door to see how you have done that.


Thank you Professor Yunus,  and now we come to the last question. We can accept this knowing that Mrs. Szewinska can be extremely precise. If she wants to.  Mrs. Szewinska is the IOC member from Poland and a gold medalist.  

Mrs. Szewinska:

Thank you Mr. President. Professor Yunus, I am absolutely impressed by your presentation and I would like to congratulate  you on what are you doing. I read about this before, so it is a big  honour for me to meet you personally here. My question is very short and simple I think. I am very interested to know what is going on with the people who started social business after 10 years 20, 30 years since the beginning. Are they and their families happy about what they have been doing?

Some of them, I assume,  are successful people to begin with. I just I want to know how this works out in their lives.

Is the design of the business the most important thing in social business ?

Professor Muhammad Yunus:

First of all we don't have many social business owned individually but having a history of operation for ten years or more.  Grameen Bank has the longest history, a history of 40 years,  as a social business. It is owned by 9 million borrowers. They are very proud to own the bank. They changed their own lives with the help of the bank. Most of the social businesses created in Bangladesh are owned by non-profit organizations. Joint ventures are owned by multi-national companies and non-profits. We have many examples of individually owned social businesses , but they do not have long history.

Is the design of the business the most important thing in social business ?

Yes, it is. This is where the real work of social businesses begins.  We know that the objective of a social business is to solve human problems. But in real social business it needs to defined precisely, because the entire business will be designed according to this objective. This is not a problem in conventional business, because the objective is same in every conventional business. It is to get the highest return on investment. Businesses are different, but objective is the same.

Not so in social business. It varies from business to business. That's why defining the objective is so important. It is just like objective of a charity. When you take the objective of a charity and put a business engine behind it, you turn this into a social business. Suddenly it becomes very powerful. Defining the objective is very critical part of social business. Then comes the design of the business. This has to be appropriate to achieve the objective.

After the design is done then most of social business is like conventional business. It needs a space, it hires people, it hires plumbers,  mechanics, engineers, accountants, sales persons, operational people, IT people . They are just regular persons looking for jobs or working in another business, conventional business or social business. They do the job they are trained for.

But the person who is designing the social business has to be a very specialised person. Most important of it all he has to be trained as a social business designer. That's very important qualification. Much of the social business look like conventional business, nuts and bolts are same, but it is engineered to achieve a completely different goal. 

Since social problems are different,  design of social business is also different. Designing needs enormous creative power. Most  of the time the designer is designing something which was never designed before. It needs enormous creativity. You are producing a product which was never produced before, at least in the way you are doing now. It demands a lot of creativity, that's why it is so exciting.

Once you are successful as a designer you don't want to quit. You  want to design another one more powerful than what you have done before, because it's so exciting. It grabs you.  It is intoxicating.  It is very difficult to walk away from socialbusiness once you have done it. It is all about discovering your creative power. You are exploring yourself in the process, You are defining yourself who you are.


Thank you very much. Thank you very much professor Yunus.  I think you have achieved 100% of your objectives. You made us super happy. With your really inspiring speech which gave us a lot of food for thought. And I can already warn you that we will call you in the near future to discuss some ideas you gave us today during this presentation which was really inspirational and can help us a lot in addressing  the social challenges we have in the world of sports. So thank you very much again and now that you have broken the glass wall you are always welcome in the olympic family and here at the IOC from today on we consider you to be one of us. Thank you very much. 



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