DCU has honoured Nobel Peace Laureate and social entrepreneur, Professor Muhammad Yunus, with an honorary Doctor of Philosophy. Professor Yunus, often referred to as the ‘banker to the poor’, is recognised globally for his transformational leadership as a social entrepreneur working to eradicate global poverty.
Professor Yunus’ work began in a newly independent Bangladesh struggling to recover from war, the economy in ruins and poverty widespread. He launched a research project to examine the possibility of designing a credit delivery system to provide banking services targeted at the rural poor. By 1983, the initiative took formal shape as the Grameen Bank which now has over 8.4 million members and has lent over US$12.5 billion to date. Through his work with the Grameen Bank, Professor Yunus has empowered millions of people, mostly women, to seek out opportunities to work with respect and with dignity. In 2006, their extraordinary achievements were recognised by the Norwegian Nobel Committee when Professor Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Peace 'for their efforts to create economic and social development from below'.
Accepting his honorary degree, Professor Yunus thanked DCU for the great honour,
“My work was a work of desperation. When someone is in a desperate situation, you do things without thinking about it because something needs to be done. I created a bank which is owned by poor people, not only are they poor people, they are poor women. One thing I come back to again and again is that poverty is not created by poor people, it is created by the system we have created ourselves. Poor people are like the Bonsai tree - there is nothing wrong with their seeds; simply society didn’t give them space to grow.”
Professor Yunus spoke of the entrepreneurial capacity in everyone,
“To me, everyone is entrepreneurial; it’s in the human DNA. Conventional entrepreneurial activity is about making money. Human beings are not born just to chase money, human beings are born to change the world, to express their creative power. We can use this idea of social business in healthcare. Today’s technology is available in such a way that healthcare could be released to the remotest person, to the poorest person, almost without cost. The power of technology has transformed the entire thing so I am very happy to hear that this University is working on it and we will be very happy to work together as this is something that can be done immediately. The world is changing very fast and we all can be part of it - it’s a very close ambition.”
Professor Yunus continues to spread and implement the concept of Social Business, a business model that aims to solve social problems while staying financially self-sustainable. To date, there are more than 50 social businesses in operation in Bangladesh alone. Professor Yunus chairs the Yunus Centre, a one-stop resource centre for all Grameen social business-related activities in Bangladesh and around the world.
Speaking at the conferral ceremony in The Helix, Dr Martin McAleese, Chancellor of DCU said,
“Muhammad Yunus is an uncompromising advocate of the right of every single human being to respect for their dignity, access to education, work and a reasonable standard of living for themselves and their children, and importantly the right not to depend on charity or handouts for any of these things. In short, the opportunity to realise their potential and to achieve a fulfilled life.
“Muhammad simply gave practical expression to these rights. Through the founding of the Grameen Bank, affectionately known as the village bank, he created the opportunity and the means to vindicate these rights. The Grameen Bank provides small loans to impoverished borrowers who lack collateral security, steady employment or a verifiable credit history. These borrowers would never be considered as potential customers by the conventional banking system. But the microloans provided by the Grameen Bank enable poor people, particularly women, to work their way out of poverty bringing dignity, hope and opportunity of advancement in their lives as well as the chance of an education for their children.”
Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU said,
“The conferring of an honorary degree is the highest award that this University can bestow and, through it, we recognise exceptional individuals who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship in their profession, in services to the community, to the arts, literature and culture, or in outstanding to the University. The award is a public statement of the values that this University cherishes and it serves to inspire our students, faculty and the wider DCU community. We are pleased to pay tribute to Muhammad Yunus in recognition of his transformational leadership through social entrepreneurship and through his outstanding humanitarian efforts in working to eradicate poverty.”