A Change Gonna Come (Part One): The Instability of Our Economic System

In 1964, Sam Cooke set the strength of the civil rights movement to a catchy beat and sang about the experience of being a black man in America. Since the 60’s change has come, certainly. How far have we come on the civil rights front? That question is not for me to answer.

But like many before me, I do spend a great deal of time thinking about change. Climate change, systems change, economic change, it seems wherever I look, I see this weighty word.

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Muhammad Yunus at the Center for Social Innovation – Annex

Muhammad Yunus has been a driver of systems change since 1976 when he wanted to solve a problem in his local village in Bangladesh. By the simple act of lending money to a few local women who were being exploited by loan sharks, Yunus was launched on a course that would eventually lead him to win a Nobel Peace prize (2006).

As a member of the Centre for Social Innovation, I was lucky enough to get tickets to a fireside chat with Muhammad Yunus and Tonya Surman (founding CEO of CSI) about the economics of zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero carbon emissions.

“Human creativity can solve any problem.” – Muhammad Yunus

As they discussed mounting evidence for the need to re-imagine our economic system, from growing income disparity to environmental degradation, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of possibility and excitement at the prospect of change. Muhammad’s belief in the depth of human resilience and the breadth of human creativity is contagious.

Muhammad Yunus believes that the problem with capitalism is that it operates on a narrow interpretation of human nature. It leaves out of the equation some of the most meaningful experiences of our lives. It leaves the selfless nature of humanity to the charitable sector. But this selfish, profit-driven model has proven to be unsustainable.

In 2010, with an estimated 3.3 billion people on the planet, Oxfam reported that 388 people had more wealth than the bottom half of the population.

By 2017, how many of the richest people hold in their hands more wealth than 3.6 billion people?

EIGHT.

8 people.

3.6 billion people share the same amount of wealth as 8 people.

That is unsustainable. So we need to do something different. Yunus thinks the answer lies in social enterprises and he believes that we are all capable of entrepreneurship.

In Part Two of ‘A Change Gonna Come’, I will delve deeper into Yunus’ world of three zeros and explore examples of social enterprises that are popping up all over our city.

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