May His Tribe Increase and Multiply for the Common Good

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Every time the term social entrepreneurship comes up in a discussion, the image of the smiling and confident Muhammad Yunus flashes on my mind-screen. Founder of the Grameen Bank network in Bangladesh, and the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2006, based on the success of the pioneering Grameen experiment, Yunus, now 75, embodies all that is noble and scalable in the immense domain of social entrepreneurship.

The concept of the Grameen Bank itself, the joint Nobel winner with its founder, is synonymous with the upliftment of the lower and middle class segments in ‘basket case’ countries, too poor to provide social security and too divided economically, with the rich getting richer, and the poor, poorer.

While microloans and microcredits are what distinguish the Yunus initiative from the usual commercial banking practices, the world sat up and took notice as people, mainly women, from the downtrodden and the dispossessed segments of the Bangladeshi populace availed the opportunity to access microloans ranging in value from 1000 Takas to 5000 Takas to launch new ventures of their own, or to reignite the existing ones.

Again, those in the know of the perils of lending watched in amazement, as the impoverished Bangladeshis, beneficiaries of the Grameen microloan facility, queued up at bank counters to repay installments every month without fail, often closing the account ahead of schedule to avail more funds to expand their already thriving micro enterprises.

Nearer home, the entire financial community of India was equally impressed and amazed as Kerala launched its now-renowned Kudumbashree experiment, mainly aiming at the womenfolk, with a view to promote their entrepreneurial instincts, and make them owners, instead of employees in production and service units that fit their aspirations. Kudumbashree, which initially had lukewarm start and response, woke up from the slumber and blossomed into a global model for social entrepreneurship and female empowerment when T K Jose, a young Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, took charge as its Director and sent out the clarion call: downtrodden of the State, unite; you have nothing to lose but your poverty!

I still vividly remember the meeting with T K Jose in his Kudumbashree office, way back in 2004. Confidence personified, and determination exuding from his body language, the energetic officer had this to say of the success saga of Kudumbashree. ‘‘This is just the beginning. Salvation of the deprived in India can be ensured only through such schemes that promote social entrepreneurship.’’

Kudumbashree became a household name and a global referral point for ‘how to’ in social upliftment, as the time came for Jose to move on and move up the service ladder.

My fervent prayer is: may his tribe increase and multiply so that the elite cadre he belongs to can effectively champion social inclusion as a means to transform our society and nation.