By Erine Carlyle
Published on: 17th Nov, 2013
When Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus accepted the inaugural Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship, shortly before Buffett received his honor, he called it “a Cinderella moment.” And he didn’t squander the opportunity. “Making money is a happiness,” he told the audience, which collectively represented almost one-third of a trillion dollars in personal net worth. “Making other people happy is a superhappiness.”
He should know. Yunus pioneered the concept of microcredit; his Grameen Bank lent money to poor women when no one else would. Today such women own 97% of the bank.
Yunus told the story of a pilot project, in which beggars got loans of $5 to offer merchandise like cookies and candies, in addition to begging. Yunus expected 1,000 beggars to participate. But over 100,000 joined. “Within two years, more than 25,000 beggars stopped begging completely. Because they become such a successful door-to-door salesperson,” Yunus recalled, with gusto. “And my colleagues were saying, ‘How long do we have to wait for the others?’ I said, ‘Don’t push them. You don’t push them to change their core business overnight.’
“So you see, you give people a chance, they bring out their own ability. So that’s the message here,” he concluded, before imploring the audience to help others help themselves. And with that, a room of billionaires stood for the son of poor Bangladeshi peasants and cheered wildly.