Yunus to youth: Create your own future


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“What are you waiting for?  Get out there and create your future”.  This conveys the spirit of Mohammed Yunus’ lecture last week at the World Bank. His messages on social business and entrepreneurship raised a number of questions as to how we think about education, skills, employment and the future prospects of youth in the world.

In fact, it was one of those weeks, when the cosmic tumblers of synchronicity happened to open this theme of an entrepreneurial mindset everywhere I looked. 

But first, about Prof. Yunus -- who is the founder of Grameen Bank and the father of micro-finance – loaning 97% of Grameen resources to women and lending US$1.5 billion last year.   The main themes of the lecture can be summarized below:

We are all entrepreneurs

By our nature, humans are curious problem solvers.  The true nature of an entrepreneur is to solve problems.  Not to make money but to solve problems.  The problem and the quest for the solution drive the human spirit.  As entrepreneurs we see problems, think about solutions, take action, learn, fail, and try again.

Every problem is a business opportunity

Mohammed Yunus creates companies to solve problems.  From his perspective, companies are the best way to perpetuate the use of scare resources.  A charity gives money once and it is finished, gone.  In a business, the money must be repaid, can be used again and grow.  The money comes back.

Social Businesses as problem solving engines.  

He calls his businesses social businesses.  Personal profit is not what gets us up in the morning and the economic theory of self-interest limits the potential of business to do good.  Social businesses may not make a profit but they are sustainable.   Too many view business as vehicles for the selfish pursuit of money and not for the selfless pursuit of solutions.  He creates the latter including Danone solving malnutrition, Sustainable Forestry in Haiti, and Nursing Education, etc.  In all of the above cases, those who receive money are expected to act and repay that initial principle – sustaining the next investment, hence, perpetuating growth.

Growth is what all humans need

Youth should be trained to change the world, not find a job.  Being trained to find a job is an obsolete idea.  We need more job creators than job seekers.  Humans are not born to work for someone else but have natural capacity to solve their own problems.  We have unlimited potential for creativity.  Young people should be inspired to use that creativity to solve problems and change the world (and not limited to learning quadratic equations).

Get moving. 

Why are young people sitting around?  Unemployed.  That is by choice.  What are they waiting for?  With 40% youth unemployment in Spain, why are youth not being productive?  Why does someone need to give them a job to convey value?  Prof. Yunus’ vision of the future is one with no unemployment.  In Yunus’ future, young people will look back and ask why were youth unemployed?  “Were they sick?” they will ask.  Why didn’t they create their own future?

Invest in social business funds

What can the World Bank do to support young entrepreneurs?  Create social business funds with our clients.  Provide capital to help young people start to address global challenges.  Invest in ideas and creativity.
As with any provocative lecture, more questions than answers emerge.  How should curriculum change to support entrepreneurship?  What are the nudges that young people need to find their passion?  Can you train entrepreneurs?  Should you even try?  What would be the perfect multiple choice question to measure entrepreneurship?

Yunus’ vision presumes that the youth of today have the skills and motivation to go forth into the world and conquer.  Which brings us back to the fundamental questions of what are these skills and how can they be cultivated?  What are the nudges and social capital that will motivate youth?

As the week passed more themes of entrepreneurship and education emerged (with more questions).  I have listed some of them here:

White House and Department of Education exploring plan to support alternative training –– with 16,000 students expected to graduate from bootcamps this year, the government wants to figure out how to support non-traditional institutions in providing competency based education and personalized learning models.  Is there a non-traditional model for supporting young people to be entrepreneurs and create social businesses? 

Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya.  President Obama spoke at this summit on July 25, 2015, recognizing the innovations coming out of Kenya – Ushahidi, M-PESA, and Icow   – encouraging young people to “go out there and start something”.  What is the role of an organization like I-Hub in providing information training and social capital for youth?

World Bank study on entrepreneurship education and training.  This same week, my colleagues here at the World Bank shared this report on findings from 230 entrepreneurial education and training programs from around the world that show positive impacts on developing entrepreneurial mindsets – changes to socio-emotional skills, entrepreneurial capabilities, entrepreneurial status and performance.   They also published this nice infographicCan you teach entrepreneurship or support young people to be entrepreneurs?  What can be replicated from these lessons?

Innovation Mindset.  Finally, I read Tom Vander Ark’s blog on developing an innovation mindset.  Mindsets seem to be all the rage these days with Carol Dweck’s Growth mindset .  In this blog, the innovation mindset is defined as “being prepared to create one’s own job and the curiosity, self-direction and commitment to add value in every circumstance”.  How do you change education systems to inculcate an innovation mindset?
This last blog has a great line that could guide how we think about changing education systems to foster more entrepreneurial and problem solving skills – “what matters is championing curiosity over certainty and iteration over perfection”.
Let’s get moving and start creating the future.

Follow the World Bank Group Education team on Twitter @wbg_education


Robert Hawkins

Sr. Education Specialist

August 03, 2015

Great and inspiring blog I must say, Sir.Unfortunately some of us (youths) don't have this mindset.It got me thinking again-I have been priviledged to school and work in the United Kingdom but had to relocate back to Nigeria fopr closer proximity to my spouse.My paradigm was intact when I got back from the UK but overtime, matters like doing a demotivating non-performance role has seemed to "limit" me. I founded an Initiative called the After School Talent Development Initiative(ASTDi) to help young children discover their talents, develop their gifts and deploy the GENUIS in them . Sadly, i have had to fund the initiative from my meagre FG salary job monthly. There is a huge I need to fill and reading this article has given me more energy and inspired me to follow my dream to set-up the Initiative to a proper After School where the extra enlightenment and education needs of young children is addressed while career/upwardly mobile parents are at work and can get more involved in parenting.I developed five Modules and I will not stop _ I will GO FOR IT and be a Positive Change maker and Entrepreneur!Thank you Sir.

Robert Hawkins
August 10, 2015

Joy, thanks for your comments.  Great to hear that you have renewed energy to pursue your passion.  If the After School Talent Development Initiative is what you think about when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night, don't give up on it.  Im sure you are having an impact in ways that you don't even realize.  Keep going for it.

Abrahim konneh
August 03, 2015

Who can the youth of today solve problems when they are not in the safety need level...can youth like myself solve problems of the world when we solely need to survive...

Robert Hawkins
August 10, 2015

Abrahim, great question.  Everyone needs to determine their own tolerance for risk and the potential rewards and costs of taking that risk.  Generally however the time to take these risks are when you are young and have lots of years to learn and adapt from your experiences – both positive and negative.  Yes, you need to take care of food and shelter, but beyond these essentials you should think about your time and how you want to spend it to realize your dreams and passions and begin solving the problems you see in the world.  As Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in the world”.

King K. Sarfo
August 06, 2015

Muhammed Yunus has remained a celebrated character in the area of social entrepreneurship and microfinance. It is interesting how he shares his enthusiasm and advises the youth in pursuing social entrepreneurship. We must learn from his piece that Prof. Yunus is not asking the youth to do any particular line of business but to engage in a problem solving venture which can be sustainable and keep the youth not only in employment but socially responsible. When we begin to think about our society and people in business, we don't only grow and earn income but we contribute directly or indirectly to addressing development challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation, health challenges,etc. The dollar budgeted to address these challenges can then be channelled to creating a more sustainable working environment for people to think,initiate,develop and grow their businesses. We need to read his lecture piece with a trained mind and we will understand that the message is not one of the well constructed information that the media seeks to disseminate,but a a useful message for today's you and for today's business.

Sherine Genevieve
August 07, 2015

Yes it’s high time that youth entrepreneurship is encouraged and well supported with the provision of affordable start-up capital to them, which however, should be very cautiously monitored and not allowed to be taken for granted and misused.
Every human being has a special talent/skill which can be developed to make available a product or service that can be used by others; it could be even a total new invention. Through the very affordable “micro forwards” program that I started via Givers League International, I have been already encouraging village youth in certain impoverished communities to start something on their own to break the chains of poverty which would otherwise continue for generations to come.
If larger funding organizations are able to offer an affordable program similar to the “micro forwards” that I introduced, youth will be encouraged to start thinking differently and pursue entrepreneurship rather than always look for employment under others.

August 08, 2015

The Youth should open their eyes and see that the conventional educational system is actually obsolete.There needs to be a change.

Ismaila Onoruoiza Dauda
August 08, 2015

The condition of the youth around the world varies putting into consideration the econom,government policies and security in our respective Nations. Nigeria for instance, is country where majority of the youth are wallowing in abject poverty and lack of affordable access to quality education,here there are so many socioeconomic challenges facing the youth.I believe that the World Bank and all the relevant international NGOs still have a lot to do in Africa particularly Nigeria,especially now that we have a trustworthy President.I have benefited from this paper and I believe that many youth around the glob will surely make good use of it.Leaders in all Nations should as matter of necessity gird their loins,roll up their sleeves and do the needful to empower the teeming unengaged youth every where under the sky.