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  Volume 6 | Issue 27 | July 08, 2012 |


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Youth Empowerment

Worm's Eye View:
Social Business Day 2012

Saad Adnan Khan

The winning team of the Social Business Competition. Photo: Amran Hossain

In the darkness, the Nobel Laureate was the only person visible. Countless video cameras cast somber light on him. As the power went off during the Social Business Day, Professor Mohammad Yunus looked like a surreal figure. He stood on the stage, with his hands placed behind him, a smile on his face, waiting for the generator to be switched on. He faced the audience, ready to offer not only dreams and hopes, but also solutions. The lights came back, along with the droning of the generator. The summit was entrenched in the realities of a third world nation, where dreamers, visionaries and activists from all over the world had gathered, to talk about how the world can be a made a just and better place.

The third annual Social Business Day, held on June 28, 2012 at Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Savar, kicked off with a skit performed by underprivileged children. It brought in the very idea of 'participation', which is a core requirement to carry out development projects for sustainable solutions. Social business, not a relatively new concept, is trying to make its way amidst youth in a very corporate driven world. Professor Yunus, the promoter of the concept, asked “Are we close to the point of no return?” given the imbalances and social problems that are taking place all over the world. Social business is not Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or charity. Very much like business, its aim is to make profit, but so that the profit can be reinvested in the projects again, for the benefit of the people. It promotes business with a humane interest, and not personal profit, because so far the latter has only led to the increased disparities between the rich and the poor (not only people, but countries too). The idea is to encourage young people of the country to start social business and work to restore imbalances in small ways.

Jannatul Habib, a Master's student of International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, is carrying out a project titled 'Sonar Bandarban'. He is trying to facilitate the craftworks of ethnic women in the hilly Bandarban areas who do not have any market access.

“We want to help them preserve their cultural traits, and by employing them, we hope they get empowered too,” says Habib. The project is funded by Rokia Rahman, Chairperson, MediaWorld Ltd Bangladesh.

Astronaut Ron Garan speaking at the Daily Star Centre. Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo

The programme was attended by over 800 national and 125 international guests and delegates, along with 600 students. The panel presentations dispelled the idea that business has to be money and profit centric, because in these dangerous times, if human beings do not think about fellow human beings, the doom is inevitable. There were discussions on how technology and youth power can be used to bring positive social changes, on health and nutrition, how disabled individuals can be integrated in the mainstream and many more. A letter written by Kofi Annan to Professor Yunus was shown on the screen.

The event also took place at North South University the next day, where students flocked to know and discuss about ways and solutions to change the system. Monica Islam, a student of Business Administration shares her experience, “Social Business Forum was an event that definitely raised the status of Bangladesh as a host country. It was well-organised, informative, and engaging. Professor Yunus did not fail to amaze me by delivering insightful lectures with the same gusto and humble persona that I witnessed when I first met him few years back. During the event, I also had the opportunity to experience awe-inspiring presentations titled 'Youth and Social Business' by Musa Ibrahim, the first Bangladeshi to reach the summit of Mount Everest, and Niaz Patwary, who successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and who also happens to be a teacher at North South University. NASA astronaut Ron Garan enthralled the audience with breath-taking images of our fragile oasis, the Earth, from space. He concluded his presentation with just one thought-provoking question, which also forms the basis of his project Fragile Oasis: What kind of world do you want?”

Ron Garan conducted a session titled 'Planet and Life in Space: an orbital perspective' at The Daily Star office earlier the same day. He stressed on the words 'Nothing is Impossible' and spoke on how technology is a crucial component for social changes. Students present at the seminar asked him questions regarding his decision to become an astronaut and the kind of academic and physical training he had to go through before going to the outer space.

Professor Yunus uses the term 'Worm's Eye View' to explain how it is important to dive down to the grass roots level in order to understand the imbalances and social problems. For social business, it is necessary that one adjusts the looking glass to notice and understand the apparent small things.


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