I danced around the kitchen! Though alone at 6 a.m., I pumped my arms skyward again and again! "Yes! Yes! Yes!" (Susan finally came downstairs to find out what the hell was going on.)
Simple. Muhammad Yunus has just been declared the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Yunus is the father of microlending, one of the most potent tools of ours or any other times. Microlending was long dismissed by the powers that be (the World Bank among them) as being a peanuts idea. Big Loans for Big Projects was the ticket. Yup, big loans for big projects was the ticket for a few good things ... and an unimaginable amount of corruption.
Yunus started Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. A typical first loan is $15. After many a trial and many an error, Grameen ended up granting over 90% of its loans to women. (Women = Reliable. Men = Unreliable.) Lending primarily to women in a Muslim country was, to say the least, no mean feat. Yet Yunus persisted.
A few Yunusisms, from his marvelous 1999 book, Banker to the Poor:
"It's not people who aren't credit-worthy. It's banks that aren't people worthy."
"Conventional banks ask their clients to come to their office. It's a terrifying place for the poor and illiterate. ... The entire Grameen Bank system runs on the principle that people should not come to the bank, the bank should go to the people. ... If any staff member is seen in the office, it should be taken as a violation of the rules of the Grameen Bank. ... It is essential that [those setting up a new village Branch] have no office and no place to stay. The reason is to make us as different as possible from government officials."
"The Grameen loan is not simply cash. It becomes a kind of ticket to self-discovery and self-exploration."
And this from a Client's husband:
"There is one thing [I don't like about Grameen]. I used to enjoy beating my wife. But the Group came to me and argued with me and shouted at me. Who gave them the right to shout at me? The borrowing group threatened they will get really mean if I beat my wife again."
I stumbled across Yunus & Grameen about 5 years ago. I went bananas! The story, of course, is amazing. Moreover, it dovetails with all of my Primary Biases:
Small can be beautiful & powerful!
Giant forests from tiny seedlings!
Self/Small group management!
Banish the bureaucrats!
Keep it simple, stupid!
I poured over Yunus' book, Banker to the Poor; and also became immersed in David Bornstein's The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank (University of Chicago Press). As usual, I put together a wee slide show, which we include here as it was in 2001 (with slight 2006 additions).