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Introduction

The intention of this paper is to observe the aspect of social entrepreneurship. What does social entrepreneurship mean? How is it different from business entrepreneurship and what does it entail? This paper goes a long way in explaining the meaning of social entrepreneurship and further gives examples of key personalities, who began and are running viable social programs that have made tremendous impacts in some parts of the world. One of them is Dr. Mohammed Yunus, a Bangladeshi, running Grameen Bank, a bank which has been instrumental in alleviating poverty in rural parts of the country.

This paper examines the challenges, costs as well as the impact of the organization in rural Bangladesh, especially in the lives of poor women in the villages. The paper also highlights the views of critics on the activities of Grameen Bank. Apart from Grameen Bank, the paper also evaluates the activities of Water for People, an organization run by Ned Breslin. The main aim of Water for People is to provide the underprivileged people with access to clean drinking water. This paper also examines some of the concerns as well as what critics have to say concerning the organizations. This is because some people argue that some of programs, such as Grameen Bank are not viable, and are just misnomers.

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Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is all about making out or recognizing societal challenges and making use of the entrepreneurial ethics to organize, create, and manage a social venture in order to realize a desired social change. Social entrepreneurship is one of the key drivers of growth in the world today (Mair & Marti, 2005). In many ways, social entrepreneurship is vital in driving innovation, as well as progress in the society.

In the business world, it largely acts as an engine of growth, in which opportunity and innovation are harnessed, in the quest to stimulate fiscal expansion. Social entrepreneurship goes a long way in tapping inspiration and creativity, courage, and fortitude and takes hold of opportunities that challenge and forever alter the essentially unjust systems (Mair & Marti, 2005). 

By and large, the intension of a social entrepreneur is to bring about value through transformational change. This is all aimed at benefiting underprivileged communities, as well as the society at large (Mair & Marti, 2005). They are mostly involved in pioneering innovative and systematic approaches, which are meant to benefit the marginalized, the deprived and the disenfranchised. These are mainly populations which lack political clout or financial means to realize a lasting financial benefit on their own (Mair & Marti, 2005).

Additionally, social entrepreneurship advocates for an extensive societal, cultural, and ecological goals. It is commonly associated with the voluntary as well as not-for-profit sectors of financial systems. However, there are times in which profit can be a consideration for these companies or other enterprises.

It ought to be noted that a social entrepreneur identifies and gets to the bottom of social tribulations on a large scale. While business entrepreneurs generate and transform entire industries, social entrepreneurs, on the other hand, act as agents of change for the societies at large. This is due to the fact that they take hold of opportunities to augment systems, invent and propagate new approaches as well as advance sustainable solutions that generate societal significance.

In most cases, these social entrepreneurs go a long way in seeking to generate social value rather than profits. However, distinct from most of the non-profit organizations in the world today, social entrepreneurs work towards achieving far-reaching long-standing change. Social entrepreneurs are also adept at identifying resources where people only see challenges. They view people as solutions and not passive beneficiaries. In most cases, social entrepreneurs commence with the assumption of proficiency and eventually let loose resources in the community they serve.

The work of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a section of the society undergoes difficulties. Consequently, they invent innovative ways of getting things unstuck. He/she does this by finding out what is not working and solving problems by changing the status quo, spreading the solutions as well as convincing the whole society to take new leaps. It is worth noting that identifying and solving large-scale societal challenges requires an individual, who is committed to a vision as well as determination to persists and change the intimidating odds.

Additionally, social entrepreneurs are usually driven to come up with quantifiable ways of launching new conduits for the less privileged. This is vital in unlocking the society’s full potential in order to realize social change.

The Grameen Group’s Funding Program

One of the greatest social entrepreneurs in the world today is Mohammed Yunus. He is one of the heroes in the world of social entrepreneurship especially after he created the Grameen Bank, an organization that has greatly transformed the micro-credit movement in Bangladesh. As a matter of fact, Yunus has been practically canonized by the social entrepreneur movement. In many ways, Yunus has been able to draw resources to finance an assortment of communally run enterprises in Bangladesh (Mair & Marti, 2005).

One of the organization’s initiatives is GrameenPhone. This a not-for-profit telecom outfit that provides bulk airtime for village phones, which are largely built from simple handsets, as well as solar chargers. It is funded by loans for women, with its systems functioning as pay phones in a number of rural areas in Bangladesh (Mair & Marti, 2005). Today, the whole idea has been taken up in some parts of Asia and Africa as a way of lifting the lives of poor women in the rural parts of Africa, as well as Asia. It gives an opportunity to the local entrepreneurs by providing them with associated services using low-cost, high tech systems.

Mohammed Yunus also has another enterprise by the name Grameen Shakti. This initiative sells approximately 1,500 home solar panel systems every month to all rural areas in Bangladesh. It grows at approximately 15% per annum without any significant financial support. By and large, throughout all his efforts, the Grameen Group works hard to ensure charity is rejected as a solution to poverty (Mair & Marti, 2005). On the other hand, it strives to provide financially viable enterprises, which are owned by the less privileged themselves. It is mainly based on high-volume, low-margin products as well as services. 

Grameen Bank

One of the well-known initiatives by Yunus is the Grameen Bank. It is mainly famous because of its innovative banking to the rural poor, who are excluded from conventional banking otherwise, due to their lack of collateral like land or buildings other real estate. The bank is mostly involved in the provision of collateral free lending (Mair & Marti, 2005). As an alternative, it relies on peer supervision as well as peer pressure as a way to put in force all the loan contracts. The bank is also involved in the provision of social development inputs like health as well as nutrition training. This makes the poor both individually as well as socially accountable for their actions.

The ultimate aim of Grameen Bank is to provide the rural poor with access to financial services. This goes a long way in helping them to be self-employed and be in a position of generating income, thus freeing themselves from abject poverty (Mair & Marti, 2005). Based on Grameen’s point of view, the biggest limitation of the rural poor is their lack of access to credit facilities.

However, with proper support, they can be productively be engaged in income generating activities. This includes a number of activities like transportation, storage, manufacturing, and farming. According to Grameen Bank, if the underprivileged are given access to credit, they can be in a position of judging themselves how best to increase their incomes.

Benefits/Costs to Grameen Group and Stakeholders

Setting up a program like Grameen Bank is definitely not cheap. The economic cost of the program, which also includes what it recovers from interest, as well as investment income, is the cost of placing the program. It is estimated that it costs approximately US$10 to gather together funds as well as lend to a new member. By and large, the cost value of the whole program can be evaluated simply by the impact it creates in its quest to alleviate poverty. On average, it takes approximately 10 years for a regular borrower to get his/her family out of the excruciating poverty. This makes the cost of alleviating poverty per individual to be approximately $100.

In many ways, the cost of generating income through self-employment is not an easy task. This calls for entrepreneurship (Mair & Marti, 2005). However, not everyone has the potential to execute this endeavour. Consequently, it is vital to incorporate other measures which include programs like employment guarantee scheme, food price subsidy, food-for-work, and income transfer. It is also vital for the administration to take part in an efficient task in designing and put into practice non-targeted credit measure.

By and large, the cost of financial as well as social intermediation is greatly reduced through the rule of self-selection. It is worth noting that, at Grameen Bank, membership cost is the biggest component of the total cost (Mair & Marti, 2005).

Expansion Constraints

As much as it is not an easy task, the bank has to do all it can to expand its activities, in order to be cost effective. This is because it has to depend more on the market than the donor to fund its lending program (Mair & Marti, 2005). However, there is likely to be a decrease on the returns in its activities due to the demand on the constraints, due to the big number of people joining to undertake similar productive activities. Consequently, it is vital to include more growth oriented activities in its loan portfolio. This is vital if the bank has to achieve cost efficiency.

The Impact of Grameen Group

One of the greatest impacts of the Grameen Group is the aspect of financial intermediaries in rural Bangladesh. By and large, credit has greatly assisted rural residents to augment their income. Additionally, the banks as well as other financial intermediaries have greatly benefitted from the initiative since they have been in a position of recovering expenses and making profits. This has been possible through attracting deposits and giving loans (Beard, 2012).

It is also important to note that there has been an effective credit process that allows lenders as well as borrowers to prosper. By and large, as a bank, Grameen has been able to generate enough revenue from lending to cover the cost of funds that they mobilize. In turn, the borrowers, most of whom are poor rural women, repay the principal and the interest, thus generating income to the bank.

The other major impact of the Grameen Bank as a social entrepreneurship project is the way it has effectively availed money to the rural poor. Even though, the amount of money required to by the rural poor may not be much, it is, however, usually difficult for them to gather it. This is mainly a result of their low levels of personal income.

To be precise, the state of affairs is usually aggravated by the fact that the rural poor are mostly low income farmers, who also lack collateral assets. This basically excludes them from formal finance. As a result, these poor people always turn to the unscrupulous moneylenders who exploit their desperate situation. Most of these moneylenders set very high interest rates and make it hard for the poor to accumulate any meaningful savings. Since it began, Grameen Bank has played the key role of being the bank of the poor in Bangladesh.

One of the strengths of the bank has been to encourage the borrowers to develop the habit of savings. It has become an integral part of its financial process. As a result, members of the bank have greatly improved individual savings accounts. The bank has also been instrumental in educating the children of members since it has a children’s welfare fund, which provides education for members’ children in education institutions run by the Grameen Group. The group also offers protection for debts in case a member dies or against loss as well as destruction of a member’s property (Beard, 2012).

Grameen Bank has also been instrumental in mobilizing rural funds for spread to other sectors of Bangladesh financial system. Most of these come from surplus deposits that arise over the total advances. In as much as the bank is largely a provider of funds for the rural community, it has significantly increased its lending. This definitely entails risk. However, the bank has responded to the increase in demand carefully and conscientiously.

All through the history of mankind, it has been observed that most of the rural populations greatly depend on bartering for trade. As a result, banking facilities are usually very few, with monetary transactions becoming very attractive (Beard, 2012). Therefore, the initiatives Grameen Bank have been instrumental in opening up the rural area s in Bangladesh to more efficient banking facilities since they have helped to popularize currency as a means of transactions, thus replacing barter trade.

By and large, the initiatives established by Grameen Bank have greatly encouraged the monetization of fiscal activities. As a matter of fact, money ha become more popular in rural Bangladesh since the bank took its services to the rural areas. As a result, the high expansion of the banks services is largely as a result of the motivated endogenously by the rise in demand for money.

The Participation of Women

Women form the largest percentage of the least privileged groups in most Third World countries. In most cases, they are usually robbed of their civil liberties, such as participate in the productive activities of their countries (Kristoff, 2011). Over the years, women in Bangladesh have been subjugated to a number of social evils like excessive child bearing as well as early marriages. In this regard, one of the most incredible accomplishments of Grameen Bank has been to revolutionize the village people’s attitudes towards women in the country (Beard, 2012).

By granting credit facilities to women, Grameen Bank has proved to be one of the most successful organizations to have poor women participate in economic activities. Conventionally, poor rural women are usually neglected in the development process, in many countries. Consequently, Grameen Bank has been very influential in the emancipation of women in Bangladesh (Kristoff, 2011). This has led to a rise in the constructive and considerable consequence on women’s decision making power at household levels. The economic conditions of these women have also been greatly improved, along with their self-esteem and social status.

Social Development

Even though, the main reason why Grameen Bank was launched was to alleviate poverty through giving people access to credit facilities, it later came to be known that credit is not enough. This is due to the fact that the recipients did not have proper financial management skills, as well as the knowledge to manage their businesses (Beard, 2012).

Additionally, they lacked access to proper housing, health, as well as educational facilities. This made them very underprivileged in a competitive society. Consequently, the program established welfare services aimed at overcoming the challenges faced by the poor women. In this regard, the program provides members with social services such as housing, education, public health, and family planning (Kristoff, 2011).

The Impact of Water upon People

Water for People is an organization that partners with communities in the Third World countries to generate sustainable, locally-maintained drinking water solutions (Karani, 2012). It also ensures that market-driven sanitation solutions are facilitated. This includes programs like Sanitation as a Business. This organization is run by Ned Breslin, after having spent more than a decade in Africa working on water and sanitation programs (Breslin, 2012).

Even though, they do not incite protests or overthrow dictators, social entrepreneurs like Breslin have been instrumental in bringing about revolutions across their areas of operation. Even though, the international community has sunk millions of dollars in an effort to curb lack of access to clean water to billions of people in many parts of the world, people like Ned have learnt that solutions to sanitation, as well as clean drinking water, must be generated and sustained by the society.

In many ways, the organization has been instrumental in putting stakeholders in control of their own water systems. In this regard, they work in conjunction with the communities in order to design and build systems that offer full coverage. In its areas of jurisdiction, it works by insisting on standards. This goes a long way in securing safe drinking water as well as sanitation for each and every school, home, and clinic in the community. Organization also uses mobile phones, which are equipped with open source software, in order to document operations, as well as water points, which are subject to challenges.

Currently, the organization works in ten nations across the globe. In some of the areas where it operates, Water for People has been able to reach every school, family and clinic with clean drinking water. This has been possible in Chinda, Hoduras. The organization has also mobilized several volunteers to serve the needs of local communities (Karani, 2012).

One of the places that Water for People has made great impacts is Malawi. This is because it turned around a mess that had caused failed water supply in an area called Nkolokoti-Kachere, Blantyre. In this low-income community with well over 25,000 residents, unpaid water bills had piled up to US$ 11,000, which was beyond the reach of this slum in Malawi. As a result, water had stopped flowing, with no one ready to help (Breslin, 2012).

To further worsen the situation, the volunteer-managed water kiosks had an excess of wrecked water pipes. According to the United Nations joint monitoring program, this area had been confirmed covered. However, the reality on the ground portrayed a different picture all together. This is because the residents were already forced to collect water from unprotected sources, failing hand pumps and vendors selling water at exorbitant prices (Breslin, 2012).

Through the assistance of Water for People, better water systems have been set up, with everyone set to solve the water challenges in the local community. The local communities also saw the need of investing the money collected from tariffs, with the purpose to augment the water provision service and also reach out to more people (Breslin, 2012). By and large, the storage tanks have been instrumental in augmenting water supplies to families in and around the slum.

Consequently, the over 25,000 residents of Nkolokoti-Kachere now have access to clean drinking water not far from where they live, which is approximately 250 meters. This proximity is in accordance with the government-prescribed distance to clean water (Breslin, 2012). Additionally, the government prescribed quality standards are also met, with the quick fixing of leaks (Breslin, 2012).

Ethics Concerns/Criticisms

Even though, Grameen Bank has done an impressive job, it has heavily relied on subsidized resources as well as concessionary funds. Consequently, it is not possible for the initiative be an independent and financially viable institution (Hassan, 2007). As a matter of fact, as a result of its external resource dependence, it surely will have to undergo external influence (Kristoff, 2011). It is vital for it to avoid becoming a conduit for credit delivery. To counter this challenge, it has to resort to internal resource mobilization from local markets (Hassan, 2007).

It is also worth noting that the fact that the program has a level of financial viability is a little bit misleading. This is because it draws a large chunk of its resources from grants as well as concessionary funds (Hassan, 2007). This goes a long way in raising its cost of resources for on-lending as well as development of the institution. In many ways, as it is, the operational efficiency of the organization is not truly reflected. This is because a program can only be said to be financially viable if it can meet the fiscal cost of the funds (Hassan, 2007).

Additionally, Grameen Bank’s model of operation is only limited to assisting to redistribute instead of adding to the village income. This means that the program does not significantly contribute to the enhancement of the villages’ total welfare (Hassan, 2007). On the social front, Grameen Bank has been instrumental in the increased use of contraceptives among its members, who are mostly poor rural women in Bangladesh. This has resulted in a spill out impact on the placement of the bank (Hassan, 2007).

According to many critics, Grameen bank is actually a misnomer (Hassan, 2007). This is because deposits from members only account for a small percentage of its possessions. They argue that the bank operates as an agent for huge grants from governments as well as donor agencies. The same aid is then used as the basis of credit pyramiding scheme. Critics argue that the program provides micro-loans aimed at advocating for a feminist agenda, meant for fighting against the institution of marriage and children (Hassan, 2007).

By and large, Grameen Bank receives money at rates that are usually below the market from donor agencies. This money is then deposited in fixed-term and short-term accounts in commercial banks, who in turn pay high rates. Eventually, Grameen can make colossal profits in this way (Hassan, 2007).

Critics also claim that the bank pretends to be a private institution, simply because borrowers are required to purchase a share of stock. However, the disgusting thing is that the owners of the stock are not at liberty to put up their stock for sale further (Hassan, 2007). Furthermore, critics also claim that the bank makes a profit by investing in other commercial banks at market interest rates, yet they use money which is borrowed at subsidized rates (Hassan, 2007). In their view, the reputation of Grameen Bank is a consequence of its leftist socialist agenda, and not its fiscal accomplishments.

However, in spite of its detractors, Grameen Bank has been instrumental in alleviating poverty, using an efficient program that has greatly reduced poverty levels in rural parts of Bangladesh. The program has been effective in providing credit facilities to augment the physical productive capacities of the rural poor.

Additionally, it has gone a long way in providing the disadvantaged with human growth inputs that are instrumental in improving the overall productive, as well as livelihood standards. It is also worth noting that the same critics do not provide any significant alternative solutions to lessening paucity in Third World countries (Hassan, 2007).

Conclusion

By and large, the purpose of this paper has been to examine the experiences of social entrepreneurial programs critically. In this regard, the purpose is to appreciate the vital fundamentals of their operations as well as the factors that have enabled both Grameen Bank and Water for People to reach out to the poor. Both organizations have fairly tried to establish their credentials as institutions that aim at improving the lives of the least privileged groups in developing countries.

In many ways, this paper uncovers the core of social entrepreneurship. It gives a picture of the essence of social entrepreneurship as a trend which is gradually gaining acceptance in the 21st century. It has greatly provided an exceptional opportunity to address the societal needs in such a way that it is not dominated by direct fiscal benefits for the entrepreneurs. 

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