Pioneers Post

Video interview: Yunus calm despite 'aggressive attacks'

25 May 2011
Picture of Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus addressing the crowd at the NESTA offices.

Photographer: Bill Parry

Professor Muhammad Yunus is a Nobel Peace Laureate, globally recognised social entrepreneur, and one of the pioneers of microfinance.

Tim West met with Yunus in London, days after he was forced to stand down from his most well known social venture, the Grameen Bank, on 12 May.

This is an edit of the full interview, which can be found below.

Professor Muhammad Yunus remains calm and upbeat despite the 'aggressive attacks' upon him by the Bangladeshi government, he revealed in a video interview with

Yunus was forced to stand down on 12 May from the mircro-finance institute Grameen Bank after sustained attacks from the Bangladeshi government.

The majority owners of the bank with a 97% share are the 8 million women who access the tiny loans it provides. The Bangladeshi government forced him to quit, stating that at 71 he is too old to run a state bank. The remaining 3% shares of Grameen Bank are government owned.

It was reported on 18 May that the government is now in the process of nationalising the bank and will remove the nine women board members who represent the borrowers.

Yunus expressed concern that the government is now turning its attention to the other social businesses he has founded in Bangladesh, which include the largest telecoms firm in the country and the Grameen-Danone partnership which produces the yoghurt, 'Shakti Toi'.

The meeting with came after an interview with Liam Black, co-founder of Wavelength and the Friends of Grameen initiative, at the offices of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). This interview was broadcast live online and is available to watch in full now.

Despite the sustained pressure Yunus has come under, he remained optimistic and upbeat in both interviews. He spoke enthusiastically about the UK government's Big Society Bank plans to release unclaimed assets to social enterprises, and suggested that dormant patents could be utilised in the same way.

He cited the example of major corporations buying up hundreds of patents to protect their business from rivals, and claimed that these could be licensed to social businesses for use for social purposes.

Yunus also asserted that social business should protect against mission drift by operating with 'complete transparency' and being run as non-profits. He argued for an annual certification programme that social business should submit to, an idea not dissimilar to another UK initiative, the Social Enterprise Mark.

Watch the full interview:

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The 'bottom line' of Grameen Danone as the number of children removed from poverty is something I've often referred to as an example of economics calibrated in human terms and it's good to learn that progress is being monitored.

In our own work as a non-dividend distributing business we've also focussed on malnutrition and in our activism discovered a case for action. In this case, a consequence of a corrupt childcare infrastructure in which children were and are still being 'farmed' for government funding.

From the report, one may see a social business approach develop in public view over the next few months.

One of the recommendations made to government in the final paper was for a social fund of 1.5 billion dollars which "should be placed as a social-benefit fund under oversight of an independent board of directors, particularly including representatives from grassroots level Ukraine citizens action groups, networks, and human rights leaders."

The wider objective of this activity was to make the case for homes for all children. Now recognised as an urgent need by major childcare organisations which include Everychild and a coalition for Ukraine without orphans.

Jeff Mowatt
People-Centered Economic Development