How each visit of Yunus to the country generates an expansion of awareness about impact and unfolds new possibilities for socio-environmental innovation
Yunus Social Business celebrates its 10th anniversary with the arrival of our beloved Prof. Yunus in Brazil, marking a powerful celebration of a beautiful journey in the country. Each visit gives us the chance to reflect on the evolution and development of our impact journey and the maturity of impact ecosystems.
1st Round — The Boldness of Imagining
Yunus’s social business vision was one of the first studies I invested in on my journey as an impact innovator/entrepreneur, alongside developing skills in facilitating dialogues. Almost simultaneously, I had my first experience with the Art of Hosting and took the Grameen Creative Lab in the first semester of 2012.
Both skills and mindsets helped me to be collectively useful and expand my learning capacity in networks, as it was through the HUB Rio that we had the first experience of a community of practice and the possibility of developing a facilitation vocation. An initiative aimed at bringing a coworking space focused on socio-environmental innovation to the city at a time of discussion about the potential legacies of the World Cup and Olympics for Rio.
This process and experimentation were important to realize that the balance of vocations is fundamental for a community of practice to flourish: consultants, entrepreneurs, facilitators, educators, and netweavers. The main impact strategy of a collective like this was the strengthening of the network in Rio and the improvement of mindsets and skills for generating impact.
“Everything the world needs is solidarity attitudes, promoting small gestures that tomorrow, with effort and determination, will become great initiatives for a fairer and more sustainable world,” Muhammad Yunus at #Rio+20.
In June 2012, we had the honor of welcoming him on his 1st visit to Rio, at an event held at the PARES Institute by the Buena Onda Movement and RIO+ with executives and those interested in Social Impact Investment at the space where the Hub Rio meetings took place.
We had a unique experience visiting Dona Marta and hearing him talk about the parallel challenges between Brazil and Bangladesh, his view on businesses as drivers for solving social problems and inequalities. But what impacted me most at that time was the presentation of a concept:
“To overcome poverty and the flaws of the economic crisis in our society, we need to imagine our social relationships. We must free our minds, imagine what has never happened before, and write this social fiction. We need to imagine things so that they happen. If you don’t imagine, it will never happen.”
Yunus argues that many of these conceptions and understandings of business are based on false or outdated premises, and therefore what we consider as paradigms are mere “fictions”. They can be limiting, perpetuating systems and structures that keep certain groups of people and segments of humanity at a disadvantage.
For example, one of the prevalent social fictions that Yunus highlights is the idea that certain groups of people (in a situation of vulnerability in many societies) are “non-credible”, “unreliable” or the “operation is too much work” to receive loans/investments. This belief led traditional banks to avoid providing microcredit to the poorest. Yunus challenged this social fiction by creating the Grameen Bank, proving that the poorest, when given an opportunity, can be as reliable and efficient as any other group or social stratum.
Challenging and rewriting these social fictions is a central provocation for Yunus’s work. He believes that by recognizing these fictions and working to change them, it’s possible to reshape society in a way that is fairer and more inclusive. For the master, social entrepreneurship is a powerful tool in this process of challenging and redefining established social fictions.
2nd Round — The Power of Networking in Entrepreneurship
The experience and co-construction at Goma also motivated us that every entrepreneur in our network aimed to prosper through their change theses and impact models, always with a collaborative perspective. This differential was responsible for the development of Goma’s “network entrepreneurship” quotient above average, quite different from the “copy-paste” approach of Silicon Valley where individualistic trajectories with elevator pitches, incubation, and VCs would catapult you to be the next unicorns.
In our ecosystem, it always made more sense to Live with the Rhinoceroses.
Goma developed the ability to experiment and anticipate market patterns and the attention to the next waves of innovation and trends related to what we now call ESG, triple impact, and engagement of multiple stakeholders.
A network entrepreneurship approach that highlighted the richness and diversity of knowledge, practices, and methodologies. This openness provided an enriching exchange with other collaborative spaces and impact ecosystems that were flourishing in Brazil at the time. Goma’s collective action not only boosted our reputation in the B ecosystem but also established us as the regional physical space with the largest concentration of B companies in Brazil (and in Latin America). We also had a strong presence in the “B Community Rio”, a union of the most engaged B companies in the country.
To learn more about the regional approach and influence on strengthening B Multipliers.
One of our emblematic projects at Goma was the Rio+B, which sought to encourage businesses and business networks to assess and become aware of their socio-environmental impact. The goal was to engage the private sector with a territorial perspective on a shared sustainability agenda for the city of Rio de Janeiro.
In 2015, as part of this initiative, we had the honor of hosting Prof. Yunus at our headquarters, facilitated by Tomás de Lara. On his return, Yunus’s message was forceful and clear, serving as a clear provocation for all of us:
EVERYONE CAN BE AN ENTREPRENEUR
Entrepreneurship is an intrinsic characteristic of all human beings, not something restricted to a select group of talented individuals. This innate inclination empowers us to identify and solve challenges, particularly those of a socio-environmental nature, through innovations that harmonize profit, social impact, and sustainability. By mobilizing local communities and forging alliances with various organizations, including NGOs and governments, entrepreneurs maximize their impact, ensuring solutions that are both relevant and revolutionary for society.
FISHBOWL METHODOLOGY AT AÇÃO DA CIDADANIA
In collaboration with Ação Cidadania, Up Line (shout out to Marcela Mugnaini and Renne Nunes), and Yunus Social Business, we organized an open event in downtown Rio de Janeiro, attracting more than 2,000 participants. We were honored and challenged to employ the fishbowl methodology, allowing deeper and open interaction with Yunus, going beyond the traditional question-and-answer format.
The fishbowl methodology is a group dialogue approach that is plural and democratic. Participations are structured in concentric formations. This configuration is not merely aesthetic: it is directly linked to the participatory essence of the method. In the center, a circle formed by five to eight chairs constitutes the “fishbowl”. Around it, other concentric circles are formed with chairs, whose number is flexible. The idea is to allow a fluid dialogue dynamic, where participants can listen and be heard equitably.
To this day, it’s our institutional record for facilitating dialogues ❤
3rd ROUND — 10 YEARS LATER — CHALLENGES FOR CHANGEMAKERS IN THE LAST DECADE
Yunus’s reflections during the event proved assertive and challenging, addressing structural issues with a sober and provocative elegance. He not only inspires from a motivational standpoint, influencing impact journeys of change agents globally through his books, talks, serene presence, and alignment of a monk. Yunus also brings deep critiques about the cultural maturity of businesses and the role of brands in society, especially in times of intense socio-environmental turbulence that we face as a civilization.
PERSPECTIVES THROUGH PANDEMIC CHALLENGES
He reinforced loudly and clearly how we missed an opportunity to rethink and design our value chains and business models from the challenges of the pandemic and continued to maintain models that thrive on deaths, disasters, and scarcity, “renting solutions” in a system based on profit maximization and building institutional reputations that are not genuinely engaged with structural changes.
He states that it’s time to admit that the capitalist engine is broken — that, in its current form, the system inevitably leads to rampant inequality, obsolescence and mass unemployment, and environmental destruction. We need a new economic system that awakens altruism, making it a creative force so powerful that it overcomes personal and institutional interests.
Health and Pharmaceuticals
His main argument addressed the patent war and the commercialization of Covid vaccines. Yunus questions the direction of our future theses, arguing that challenges of this magnitude should drive solutions geared towards the common good. In the context of vaccines, he advocates for a radical opening of formulas and production means. This would minimize the disparity in the fight against the pandemic among countries, reflecting a true commitment to solving problems as the main objective of businesses.
Inspired by the scenarios that are likely to emerge in the coming years, given that epidemics and pandemics are also consequences of climatic and environmental imbalances, they are launching a new unit dedicated to Pharmaceutical Social Business. This focused initiative aims to save lives and create businesses geared towards solving problems, especially those related to democratizing access and developing shared solutions in health.
Training New Change Agents, New References, and Aspirational Incentives
The way we inspire new entrepreneurs is still focused on profit/recognition and not on the challenges we can solve. He believes academia plays a role in fostering these stigmas and invites academic institutions to give more space and invest in the interest of solving challenges, sharing mindsets and approaches more aligned with the zeitgeist.
He also highlighted the work of the Academic Innovation Center, which has built a robust collaboration network. So far, 105 universities have established partnerships, obtained certifications, and are promoting Impact MBAs worldwide.
Sports as a Driver of Inclusion and Social Transformation
Continuing with his provocation about how to experiment with new ways to generate systemic impact, Yunus shared the case of the Yunus Sport HUB in collaboration with the French Olympic Committee. The project involves building functional Olympic villages with a strong inclination towards social inclusion. The infrastructure of these villages is not limited to the period of the games but focuses on real territorial transformations before and after the event. A notable feature of this project is the hiring of value chains and suppliers that include marginalized and vulnerable audiences, integrating them into the production chain over an Olympic cycle.
The next Winter Olympics in Milano-Cortina also invited the Yunus team to shape their edition based on the concept of social business. The proposal is to adopt a more sustainable and regenerative approach, rather than simply investing in Olympic facilities that are often abandoned after the event. The idea is to create legacies that have ongoing public utility and that drive territorial development, ensuring a lasting and positive impact in the region.
Insights on the Latest Book
Utopian dream? Not at all. Over the last decade, thousands of people and organizations have embraced Yunus’s concept for a new capitalist model and launched innovative social businesses, designed to meet human needs instead of just accumulating wealth.
They bring solar energy to millions of homes in Bangladesh; transform thousands of unemployed youth into entrepreneurs who receive investments; finance women-controlled companies in North American cities; bring mobility, housing, and various services to poor rural people in France; and create a global network that supports young entrepreneurs in starting up businesses with this vocation.
In “A World of Three Zeros,” published in Brazil by Voo (also a B company we greatly admire), Yunus describes the civilization derived from the economic experiments his work has inspired. He explains how global companies like McCain, Renault, Essilor, and Danone have engaged with the new economic model through their social action groups, details the ingenious financial tools that now finance social businesses, and offers an outline of the legal and regulatory changes necessary to spur the next wave of socially oriented innovations.
Reflections and Mirroring with the Moment of Decah
This time, neither I nor Marcos could attend the event in SP in person (we followed online), but Pedro Telles was present. An incredible addition to our team who takes on the role of Head of New Business, after having had important experiences within the Sistema B and as Head of Sustainability at MOVIDA (a publicly traded B company with a Movement Builder profile, as we call it in our ecosystem).
Professor Yunus’s provocations resonate with us an incredible feeling that we are following coherent paths and important segments. These are precisely the sectors where Yunus Social Business seeks to make a difference, which gives us the certainty that we are on the right track, exploring areas of significant impact and social transformation.
1- In recent years, projects related to Sports: the construction of the value proposition of Clube Laguna (the country’s first vegan soccer team) and facilitating Papus Globo Esporte, an initiative that addresses sport as a powerful platform for inclusion and social transformation.
2- Our integrated impact laboratory as a strengthening of ESG culture as a Business Driver that uses JOIAS: Journeys of Impact and Socio-Environmental Improvement, a methodology composed of frameworks that will assist in the diagnosis of processes and co-creation of ESG strategies and practices.
In 2024, we will significantly enhance JOIAS 2.0, integrating the most relevant national and international indicators and parameters. This update will expand the functionalities already present in BIA, incorporating recognized standards such as GRI, SASB, ISO, GHG, ISE, CSA, Circulytics, and SROI. This expansion will be especially beneficial for publicly traded companies or those in the process of launching IPOs, offering more robust and comprehensive tools and content.
We are uniting the integrated measurement of impact theses with the main assessments, using network learning as a key strategy to expand our impact and support continuous training.
3- Communities of practice as catalysts for personal/professional transformation
If everyone has the potential to become socio-environmental entrepreneurs, we need to ensure that more and more change agents can find experiences and support networks on this journey.
One approach in this regard that we are very proud of is the innovative curriculum design of the B Multipliers Formative Journey, incorporating not only a redesign and update of the curriculum but also facilitating and instrumentalizing our JOIAS methodology in the practical section of the program, the Impact Lab. In this lab, the Multipliers actively participate in the diagnosis and co-creation of strategies focused on impact and ESG. Since 2021, we have trained over 300 new multipliers and boosted 50 social businesses in the three most recent classes.
For 2024, we plan to significantly expand our collaborations, engaging in more partnerships with various impact ecosystems. Additionally, we will intensify the sharing of knowledge and experiences through our community of practice, aimed at impact strategists. This group will be especially focused on professionals who wish to replicate and professionally apply the JOIAS 2.0 methodology in their areas of practice.
Social Transformation in the Spotlight
The panel that touched me the most at the event was on social transformation (to see it in full) mediated by Greta Salvi (@gretasalvi) from Latimpacto (@Latimpacto) and with great reflections and incredible trajectories from Mafoane Odara (@mafoane) director of People, Culture and Transformation at ZAMP, Toni Marlon (@tonymarlon) creator of A Terceira Margem da Rua (@aterceiramargemdarua) and Jéssica Rios (@jessicasilvarios_) Member of the ESG Committee of @grupofleury, advisor of the Racial Equity Pact and cofounder of the Black Women Investment Network (@blkwin) the first platform in Brazil that supports black women to become angel investors.
When asked about what social transformation meant to each one, I heard responses that resonate a lot with our journey, values, and practices. And how good it is to see these understandings in the minds and hearts of several other change agents on this journey ❤
Mafoane synthesized in 3 very powerful perspectives: The first is collaboration, the second is that we need to learn to build dialogue with people who are very different from us, and the third has to do with our role and our co-responsibility and ended by quoting Jurema Werneck (@juremawerneck) who argues that activists are those people who put Hope in motion.
Marlon, a popular communicator with wonderful and imaginative lyrics (which my neurons celebrate), defined that expanding repertoires are fundamental functions of social transformation, but that Imaginative Leaps are the capacity and ability we have to make someone imagine 20 30 years ahead and reflected on how the capacity to create names and meanings to things, has this inventive and inspiring power ❤
For Jess, Social Transformation is about the possibility of occupying and democratizing spaces as an intentional practical exercise, a collective commitment so that we do not naturalize anomalies, injustices, poor distribution of opportunities, or the funneling of privileges around us.
It is enchanting to see how one of the main protagonists of Impact Investment in the country articulates reflections on inequities and the need for systemic provocations about the role of women within the entrepreneurial segment and how investments are distributed to founders of new businesses and startups.
At the end of her speech, Jess presented the launch of an unprecedented report from ICE and ANDE, developed by DIMA and Blackwin, which shows venture capital managers the potential of including the diversity lens in their calculations.
“This study mapped the main global references in smart investment strategies in diversity. And it brings together tools to be adopted by investors, as well as proposing reflections to stimulate the continuous commitment of managers” Jess states
“The guide aims to present a concept and a step-by-step reference for the integration of diversity and equity in investment managers. Starting from the concept of “gender lens investment”, defined by Investing in Women as “the deliberate incorporation of gender factors in the analysis and investment decisions to improve social and business outcomes.” And enhancing the adoption of an intersectional approach, especially in racial aspects, given the Brazilian sociodemographic context and other racially unequal countries, thus producing the concept of Diversity Smart Investing.”
Brazil, for example, is one of the 10 largest economies in the world and also on the list of the 10 most unequal. Where do we want to be in 10 years?
How is our ability to co-create futures and experience this collective construction? A challenge that, due to its complexity, will require the intersectionality of various agendas and common needs. This emergency demands an ambivalent vision/presence, focusing on the present and the sowing of more inclusive and regenerative futures.
Yunus has a unique ability to influence people and shape impactful trajectories through his books, speeches, cases, and profound reflections.
In celebrating the 10th anniversary of Yunus Social Business in Brazil, we celebrate not only the established institutional legacy but also the new seeds planted for future transitions. These seeds are new change agents who serve to inspire even more people and organizations so that they too can be nurtured and celebrated in life.
I take this opportunity to celebrate the leadership chain at Yunus Social Business BR and teams. Thank you very much, Rogério Oliveira, Taci Abreu, Victor Pucci, and especially Túlio Notini who currently holds this role and who opened the day with an initial speech of extreme generosity where he celebrated and valued that Prof Yunus’s legacy goes beyond institutionalities, and how the shared value generation of Prof Yunus belongs to all of us who have had the honor of being inspired by his journey.
As that Rappa song says: may our faith be our waist flexibility…