Energy Trailblazers with Holly RansomEnergy Trailblazers with Holly Ransom

Trailblazer 01: Professor Muhammad Yunus Microfinance Crusader

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Professor Muhammad Yunus is a leader who transforms visionary ideas into practical actions which benefit millions of people around the world. He is a social entrepreneur, banker, economist, civil society leader and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, globally recognised for pioneering the game-changing concepts of microcredit and microfinance.   His revolutionary microloan system, designed to empower entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans, won Yunus and the Grameen Bank a joint Nobel Peace Prize for their ground-breaking contribution to economic and social development. 

Following a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University, Yunus returned to Bangladesh to head the economics department at Chittagong University.  However, after observing the Bangladesh famine of 1974 Yunus found his true calling and became driven by his passion for impacting the poverty he witnessed. In 1976, during visits to the poorest households in the village of Jobra, he hypothesised small loans could make an exponential difference to those who would not qualify at traditional banks. Fueled by the belief that credit is a fundamental human right, Yunus secured a personal loan to lend to entrepreneurs in Jobra.  By July 2007, Grameen had issued US$6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers and today the Grameen Bank has advanced to the forefront of a flourishing world movement eradicating poverty through microlending.

The success of the Grameen microfinance model has inspired equivalent organisations in almost every nation in the world, in developing and developed countries alike. Many microcredit projects retain Grameen's focus on lending to women who typically suffer disproportionately from poverty but are renowned for their natural entrepreneurialism and ability to pay back loans at record rates.  Currently, the Grameen Bank has nine million borrowers, 97% of which are women. 

For his ground-breaking contribution to social development, Professor Muhammad Yunus is one of only seven people to have received the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is also the recipient of numerous international awards for his ideas and endeavors, including the Mohamed Shabdeen Award for Science (1993), Sri Lanka; Humanitarian Award (1993), CARE, USA; World Food Prize (1994), World Food Prize Foundation, USA; lndependence Day Award (1987), Bangladesh’s highest award; King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Award (2000), King Hussien Foundation, Jordan; Volvo Environment Prize (2003), Volvo Environment Prize Foundation, Sweden; Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth (2004), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan; Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom Award (2006), Roosevelt Institute of The Netherlands; and the Seoul Peace Prize (2006), Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation, Seoul, Korea.

Yunus's visionary ideas and trailblazing fearlessness have been inspirational to countless people and have led to new systems and programs devoted to social causes all over the world.  Yunus was named among the most desired thinkers the world should listen to by the FP 100, one of 12 greatest entrepreneurs of the current era by Fortune Magazine, one of Forbes “10 Most Influential Business Gurus” and is one of the most followed people on social media worldwide.

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Our Favourite Quotes:

“Young people have to know about it. They should learn that there are two kinds of businesses in the world. One is a business which makes money, and the other solves the problems of the world. It’s an academic exercise and what they do with that in real life will depend on them.”

“I was feeling terrible that here I teach elegant theories of economics, and those theories are of no use at the moment with the people who are going hungry. So I wanted to see if as a person, as a human being, I could be of some use to some people.”

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