Thursday, 10 May 2007

Yunus's gilded splinters

Was reading a BBC online article the other day (nb: no. 1 waste of time... general news websites). Its about Yunus's political hopes, and his failure to present a viable opposition party because he
"discovered that I couldn't motivate enough people to put together a team powerful enough for such a daunting task"
(From Spiegel interview: "Ich habe festgestellt, dass ich nicht genügend Menschen motivieren kann, um ein schlagkräftiges Team für eine so große Aufgabe zusammenzustellen.")

Of course the news itself is sad. It looks as though Bangladesh could really do with some renewal in its politics to bring in trust and progressive learning.

But whilst reading the article something entirely else sprang to mind. I have been reading Banker to the Poor, his Autobiography (exceptionally easy read - story telling with nuggets). In it he mentions one particular episode, the opening ceremony of the newly independent Grameen Bank in a rural area, during which he:
"Looked out over all those women seated in their colorful red, green, ocher, and pink saris - a sea of saris - these hundreds of barefoot borrowers who joined our celebration. They had voted with their feet. There was no doubt about their commitment and their determination to break free from poverty. It was a beautiful spectacle"
Comparing this to a comment in the BBC article, which said that:
"Correspondents say that many people questioned whether he had over-estimated his popularity in rural areas, where his bank's high interest rates are disliked."
I wondered whether all was not rosy in the BOP/Microfinance space. Whether we are really listening deeply, or once again imposing conceptual solutions. Of course the history of Yunus's movement discredits this line of thought, being practical in origins. But can we really not do better than being the lesser evil?

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