Business With A Heart
Social Business Day brings back pleasant memories for me. On this day last year, I was introduced to a world of opportunities that I will cherish forever. It all began with a notice, circulated at my university, urging students to participate in an essay competition by writing on the relevance of social business to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The winners stood a chance to attend the third Global Social Business Summit (GSBS) in Vienna, Austria.
Monica Islam with Professor Muhammad Yunus. Photo Courtesy: Monica Islam
“What is social business?” I wondered. Back home, I carried out an extensive search on the web and I realised the concept was still very new and had yet to gain popularity in Bangladesh, given the political climate and the lack of knowledge on social business.
My findings inspired me to learn the concept from the pioneer, Professor Muhammad Yunus, himself. Despite academic pressure, not only did I participate, I came out as one of the two winners of the competition and was sponsored to attend the GSBS.
Yunus Centre organised a certification ceremony in Bangladesh to acknowledge the efforts of all the participants. Apart from receiving certificates, they had the chance to engage in a casual discussion with Professor Yunus regarding social business. Maruf Wali, Executive Member of South Asian Youth Society (SAYS), related how he was utilising SAYS as a platform to educate the masses on social business and the potential it holds for the society.
On November 8, 2011, the Bangladeshi delegation flew to Vienna. The next day started off with Young Challengers' Meeting. Social business ideas from around the world were explored. The meeting ended with separate brainstorming sessions.
I was part of the session focusing on environmental issues. After a brief introduction of each participant, we were all asked, “What animal would you like to be and why?” An answer which I would forever remember was, “Monkey, because just as one takes out the lice from the body of the other, I would want to ease the suffering of others.” We then came up with environmental problems, for instance, deforestation and global warming, and proposed solutions, such as using social media to raise awareness and creating social businesses to address a specific environmental problem.
On November 10, 2011, the first day of the Summit, representatives from 56 nations converged to discuss the impact of social business. The theme of the Summit was 'Yunus and Youth' or YY. The Summit began with an introductory speech by Professor Yunus, who aspired to attack unemployment through social business.
Next day the Summit turned into a serious dialogue. Other issues discussed were reverse accountability, whereby governments are held accountable like NGOs; 'innovation union', which reduces the disparity in innovation between the developed and the developing nations; and national dialogue where government listens to and implements recommendations from the civil society.
The Summit has been a fulfilling experience. Ever since, I have been a proponent of type 1 social business. Yunus Centre deserves credit for organising the competition and facilitating a smooth journey for the winners.