Monday, December 11, 2006

Nobel winner calls for new 'social business' legal category

Muhammad Yunus, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner and micro-credit pioneer, proposed a new legal category in his acceptance speech over the weekend: the social business. Could something like this be adopted as a model for newspaper and other media ownership?

Here's the key passage from the New York Times' coverage of the speech:
He called for legal recognition of a new category of corporation that would be neither profit-maximizing nor nonprofit. It would be a “social business,” like Grameen Bank, the Dhaka-based microcredit institution he started 30 years ago. The bank has lent nearly $6 billion to help some of the poorest people on earth to start businesses, build shelters and go to school.

Grameen Bank — with which Dr. Yunus shared the prize today — is an interest-charging, profit-making business with more than 2,200 branches. But it is owned primarily by its poor clients and run for their benefit. Similarly structured institutions, he said, could bring health care, information technology, education and energy to the poor without requiring infusions of aid.

“By defining ‘entrepreneur’ in a broader way, we can change the character of capitalism radically and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market,” he said.

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